Buzz Bissinger

This is Why They Hate Us

shameIt’s amazing to me how sports blogs continue to take one step forward then two steps back.

Residing in New England, the sports news this weekend was dominated by the struggles of the Red Sox and the PED swirl around David Ortiz.  It wasn’t until Sunday morning that I saw the story of Josh Hamilton.

Many know the story of how Hamilton overcame drug and alcohol addiction during his early professional career to become a star on the Texas Rangers.

It was revealed this weekend by a prominent sports blog that Hamilton had a relapse in January while preparing for the upcoming season in Arizona.  Along with the story was a series of photos taken of Hamilton at a bar fraternizing with young women.

The story was picked-up by many mainstream media outlets and Hamilton himself addressed the matter Saturday afternoon.

What Hamilton did was incredibly stupid.  Testing the limits of his sobriety could have resulted in the end of his career and, dare I say, even his life.  I have empathy for how Hamilton has been able to deal with his inner demons.   I hope he truly is back on the wagon. He has already faced his team, and more importantly, his family on his lapse in judgment and the issue has been dealt with accordingly.

The story that Hamilton relapsed can be debated as being newsworthy.  If it occurred during the regular season and Hamilton was forced to leave the team, a justification can be made to run the story.

Since the episode happened in the off season and it apparently did not impact his play on the field, or his relationship with his teammates, this episode may have been best kept in the realm of team scuttlebutt, not to be aired for public consumption.  There are dozens of these instances each year where teammates do things that never make the news.

But what was accomplished by publishing these pictures? Those in support of the move will say that, to many in Texas, Hamilton is a role model, and that by exposing his failings it shows the human side of their hero.   Are we still that naïve to believe that these sports figures don’t face the same problems we do as a nation?

Even if Hamilton were to suffer a relapse that forced him out of action during the season, I fail to see the journalistic benefit to publishing photos of him engaging in the behavior which led to his setback.  The story of his regression is enough.  Publishing such photos accomplishes nothing other than to potentially embarrass the subject.

Yes, Hamilton knew that photos were being taken and that they may some day surface in public.  Again, another stupid move on his part.  But the fact they exist does not mean we as journalists should not take a moment to think about how publishing the photos might impact all those involved.  I have said before that everyone, celebrities and sports stars included, deserve some level of privacy protection.

So many sports blogs are doing great work in contributing to the conversation of the players and teams they support.  The on-the-field discussions are more vibrant than ever.  Then when a stunt like what was pulled this weekend occurs, we all get lumped together as being purveyors of tabloid journalism..

Yes, it’s unfair.  But every time it happens I feel the need to share a hot dog and a beer with Buzz Bissinger.

Costas on the Ball

I know we are all tired of the Costas NOW program and the assertions of Buzz Bissinger and others about the state of sports media.   But please indulge me one more reference.

I happened to be listening to the radio early Saturday morning when I came upon Costas on the Radio, Bob Costas’ weekly radio venture.  He began the show by once again bringing up some points that he’s stated both on his HBO program and in other publications.  And the more I hear what he has to say the more I wholeheartedly agree.

He began by talking about how he was tuned into sports radio in St. Louis and the callers were viciously attacking Cardinals’ releiver Jason Isringhausen, to the point that the host said he was ashamed of the medium of sports talk radio.  That’s when Costas said the following:

“It’s not about the Internet or new technology or new media, it’s about this tone, and this approach wherever it’s found.  And it’s the tone of mindless, mean-spirited, ad homonym attacks and abuse, which more and more are part of general culture.  Politics we’ll talk about another time.  But in this case we’re talking about sports in particular.  You almost get the feeling with each passing day that sports is more and more the province of louts, bullies, cretins and creeps…that you can’t be a reasonable person and still be a sports fan.”

Costas then proceeded to talk about how youngsters, who become entrenched in team rivalries, get caught up in perpetrating the negative tone…

“It’s this atmosphere…you find it on sports talk radio, you find it, regrettably, along with all the good stuff, you find it regrettably on the blogs. You find it more and more in print because it’s seeped into the mainstream media.  This attitude not just of smarminess, but of flat-out abuse.  Where what’s fair or what’s true or what a reasonable person ought to want to say, either publically or privately, is right out the window.  And we just say anything we want… anyway we want… about anybody or anything.”  

Costas finally talked about the Sports Illustrated article dealing with abusive fans at sporting events and the comments about such by Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo.  He then finished his remarks…

“Is this really what we became sports fans for?  Is this really what it has to be?  Is it really just for louts, and creeps, and bullies and cretins?  I hope not.”

I could not have said it better myself.  And for those of you ready to jump down Costas’ throat, he did not say anything about infinging on people’s Freedom of Specch or that we should get rid of all blogs. 

As I have said already, despite Bissinger’s irrational tone, his point about how this type of content is the future of sports journalism troubles me…and possibly Costas, greatly.

You can hear Costas’ yourself from his May 24th-25th radio broadcast here.

Is Being First Really Worth It?

No one wants to admit when they’re wrong.  Especially members of the media.

But that’s what happened yesterday following NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s meeting with former Patriots’ videographer Matt Walsh in the Spygate case.

The Boston Herald did admit it erred in its report two days before the Super Bowl that the Pats had taped the Rams walk-through prior to Super Bowl XXXVI in New Orleans back in 2002.  We now know through Goodell that as far as the NFL’s investigation and Walsh’s comments are concerned, no taping ever took place.

There is some great local commentary on the Herald’s error by Bruce Allen at Boston Sports Media Watch and David Scott at Scott’s Shots.  Both are a must read.

The Herald will be facing much more deserved scrutiny in the days and weeks ahead over its apparent shoddy work.  What bothers me is that the practice of throwing out innuendo to see if it sticks is becoming more and more prevalent across all sports media platforms.

We are all to blame.  In the world of the 24/7 news cycle no one wants to be left behind.  The pressures are enormous.  The money involved more so.  There are more journalists (including bloggers) digging for stories for print, television, radio, and online sources. 

All of this leads to the mentality that any news, no matter the source or circumstances, must be reported, for fear that not doing so will result in less readers and loss in revenue.  I have never subscribed to this.  I guess that’s why I don’t get as many readers as others. (Check my BallHype rating in the right sidebar)  I pride myself in first attempting to be right, not necessarily first.  Heaven knows I am far from perfect.

We in the blogosphere should take some responsibility for this.  The Deadspins of the world have created this reality.  Ethics be damned.  It is what it is.  I still believe their content has an audience and should not be restricted.   But some of their work does not pass the credibility test, in my opinion. 

When those sources gain credibility, others in the media feel the need to match it.  That may have been the case with the Herald story.  The practice lessens the general quality of reporting.  Thankfully a good deal of those in the media still take their journalistic integrity seriously.  As that generation passes on, I fear the craft will suffer. 

Maybe Buzz Bissinger was right after all..