The death of sports media, or the life after ESPN
I find myself at an interesting crossroads of my life as a sportswriter. On one hand, as I continue to delve deeper into the world of sports, the Xs and Os of how each game is played, the more impassioned I am to write about it.
On the other hand, each successive day I study modern sports media I continue to grapple with the somewhat existential question of “Is this really worth it anymore?”
Don’t worry, I’m not going to quit. Unless you want me to, in which case do worry because I’m not going anywhere.
I haven’t been doing mental loop-de-loops over sports writing because of the time commitment inherent to any sort of weekly extracurricular activity; that would be too easy an excuse. And besides, I thrive on doing way too much crap way too often.
No, it’s a far more complex problem and it’s something I’ve been thinking about more and more in the past six to eight months.
I am earnestly unsure if the world of sports journalism is a valid press anymore, if the duties and responsibilities that the pioneers of the industry set out to uphold decades ago are still being embodied in modern sportswriters.
Honestly, I don’t think they are, at all. Sports journalism has devolved into mud-slinging, power-jockeying sensationalism in which the issues on and off the court or field now take a backseat to the person hawking the story.
Sportswriters used to be committed to the programs and organizations they covered. This does not mean they spent their time universally praising a team in spite of a terrible record, locker room issues or awful coaching. It meant that they praised the good, bemoaned the bad and were always quick to identify areas of concern. And the teams understood that.
They knew that the press wasn’t there to massage their egos or to give them a false sense of accomplishment if they didn’t deserve it. But they understood that if you covered their team, it meant that you loved them, you supported them and that at the end of the day, you would die happy wearing their colors no matter how successful they were in any given season.
As I watched the NBA trade deadline approach on the Oregonian’s website, I saw what sports media is today.
It was Oregonian writers who’d covered the Blazers for years threatening to never go to a game again if they made an unfavorable move or didn’t turn the season around. It was a staff writer for a Blazers fan website saying the team wasn’t even worth watching or supporting anymore because of their 20-23 record. It was a Comcast Sports television personality gleefully re-tweeting every message he could find about fans cancelling their season tickets after only 43 games had gone by.
Portland prides itself on having the best fans, the best sports staff and the best city-wide love story in the NBA. As a fan and as a writer, I get this on a visceral level. I live and die on this team, but by God, I would never stop supporting them because of one off-season that isn’t even over yet.
I’m disgusted at these men who call themselves sports writers. They’re sensationalists at best and don’t deserve to cover sports for this city any longer.
Pointing out that the team has problems is one thing, but encouraging fans to stop going to games and supporting the franchise is entirely another. It makes me sick to my stomach.
This kind of so-called journalism has infected the entire world of sports, with ESPN being the chief offender carrying the banner in front of all other sources. If I hear Skip Bayless sit down on Outside the Lines and compare LeBron James’ “Decision” to one more free agent singing I just might put my foot through my television screen.
That’s not news. That’s not even good journalism. What are the comparative advantages and disadvantages to the new signing, Skip? How does it affect the player’s new team, Skip? I don’t give a damn what LeBron did almost two years ago, get over it.
You know there’s a problem with the sports media world when an hour-long episode of SportsCenter devotes roughly 70 percent to gossip, rumors and slander and 30 percent to actual sports and accomplishments.
Think I’m embellishing? Get a stopwatch and time an episode yourself.
Don’t think this doesn’t apply to you, Linfield. College sports are often worse because student athletes feel they are entitled to a glowing review every single issue just because the paper that writes about them is a part of the same institution they are. Guess what? You’re not. You’re no more above reproach for a poor season or poor play than are the Blazers or Timbers.
It would be poor press and an outright sham not to accurately portray what’s happening to a team, whether good or bad.
This sickening dichotomy is something I’m having a hard time getting past. It’s truly making me question if sports journalism is a valid institution anymore, and if it’s not, why keep contributing to it? Why on God’s green Earth would anyone want to contribute to what appears to be a cancerous mess? I guess the question, as I posed at the beginning of this piece, is really all it comes down to. Is this really worth it anymore? I don’t know. I’ll tell you when I figure it out.
Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.