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Monday, August 24, 2009

Top 5 Things I Would Change About the Sports World

During a week away from writing my Week-in-Review to recharge my batteries for this blog while officially wrapping up a two-year contract with a non-profit to cross back into freelance country, I noticed a lot of things going on in sports that I didn’t like. So, I decided to kickoff my renewed effort to blog more frequently with a Top 5 list for sports.

This list is concerned more with the elements surrounding the games we love as opposed to the on-field issues. I tried to look at some of the less talked about problems instead of the over-evaluated issues of steroids, late starting times of World Series games, and so on.

Below is the Top 5 Things I Would Change About the Sports World:

Ban Discussions of Off-the-Field Issues. A week-plus of Michael Vick talk has reinforced the growing notion that I simply don’t need to hear another word about a player’s life off the field. With the issue of steroids, guys getting into legal troubles, and the TMZing of the sports world, off-the-field issues dominate sports coverage today. It’s so absurd that Brett Favre’s self-involved on again off again retirement passes for breaking news from more than a year now, and topics like Vick signing seem to linger long after any actual news has occurred.

I don’t need to hear about every time Vick goes to a club, or who Alex Rodriguez is dating, or two weeks straight of so-called expert opinion on what Favre’s latest hiccup means. The next reporter that proclaims “this is a story that isn’t going anywhere” should be fired. I’ve heard sports talk-show hosts proclaim how they are sick of talking about Vick, then proceed to do entire shows talking about nothing else. The media sets the tone on a lot, if not all, of the tabloid journalism passing for sports coverage these days. There was a story in the Inquirer over the weekend about how Vick was going to be the story this week because he could play on Thursday. Yet, it’s only going to be the story because the media is damn sure going to make it the story. If it’s not written about or discussed by talk-show hosts day after day, it goes away in a natural amount of time.

I don’t need these guys to be role models. I don’t give a damn what they do off the field. At best it should be a footnote in sports coverage if, and only if, the player is going to miss practice or game time because of it. Everything else is sensationalism, and teaches kids that the life of an athlete is the most important thing going on in the world. Ban it.

Bring Back Boxing. Thanks to a 3-month free trial included in my Verizon FiOS package, I was able to watch some decent HBO Boxing over the weekend. I couldn’t name a single fighter on the card, but it reminded me how much I enjoy the sport. In an era of the people who run sports doing their best to make their games less and less fan friendly, none have succeeded more than those who run boxing. Of course, the subject of who runs boxing is an issue too complicated to address here. Pay-per-view used to be reserved for the best of the best fights. Now, “rising stars” are headlining those cards, and fighters with potential can only be seen on HBO and Showtime, which somehow aren’t considered pay-per-view. Yet, people in boxing wonder why their sport is disappearing for a American sports fans’ psyche. Put the sport back on the networks, keep the best fighters for HBO and Showtime, and, if necessary, charge fans to see the premier heavyweight championship fights. Fans may actually care enough to fork over our hard earned cash if we’ve heard of guys that are fighting.

Keep handicappers accountable. In a couple weeks, the Brandon Langs of the world will be popping up all over sports shows giving eager listeners and viewers their thoughts on the weekly NFL odds to help them with their online betting, office pools, and survivor pool selection. I have no problem with that at all, and, in fact, will keep my ears open for my own reasons. However, if these guys are going to go on shows and stations that claim to be news oriented, I’d mandate that their records from the previous week always be mentioned – not just when they do well. No more coming on the air and screaming about going 5 and 0 . . . on Monday Night games . . . when it’s cloudy . . . and under 50 degrees at kickoff.

Eliminate Poker, Extreme Games, UFC, etc. from Sports Reporting. The fact that poker players and kids on skateboards have become “sports stars” is a joke. Twenty-four hour a day sports stations decided playing cards was a sport simply to add programming, which is pretty much the same reason the other junk passes for sports. Beating someone while they lay on the ground is not a sport. Bluffing your way to winning a hand at cards . . . often with sunglasses on . . . is not a sport. And, yes, X-game events involve athleticism, but when doing a flip or twist or whatever is a required part of a so-called race to a finish line, it’s exhibitionism not sport. Call them games, events, or entertainment, but do not call them sports.

Dismantle ESPN. When a guy like Frank Deford agrees that ESPN is a problem, I’m sticking to my convictions. I can’t write it as eloquently as the venerable sports writer, but the boys in Bristol are out of control. They are essentially a monopoly, so sports fans basically have to watch, but ESPN has without question lead to what sports are today. Everything is over analyzed. Guys with little talent become stars because they have “personality” or what the “world wide leader in sports” deems to be personality. Sports anchors have not only become stars in ESPN world, and becoming a star appears to be their goal as opposed to anything resembling journalism. Blow it up and start over.

As always feel free to add your list in the comments section.


P. Hilferty said...

Hi Josh,
I like the post. However, I disagree with what you said about "extreme" sports and MMA. I don't personally know any X-gamers or MMA fighters, but in my opinion, they are sports. MMA requires not only brute strength, but also many years of training in many fighting disciplines. As for "extreme" athletes, these individuals also require a lot of practice and training in their particular events. Both sports are very egalitarian, especially considering how much money it costs for football, hockey and baseball. Parents (millions of them around the country) spend billions, or at least millions of dollars on equipment, training camps and travel teams to make little Johnny the next Elway, Gretzky or Clemens. MMA on the other hand, can be learned by those in poor areas as long as they have dedication and discipline. Not all martial arts instructors cost a ton of money. Also, if MMA is just a game or an activity, shouldn't boxing be as well? As far as skateboarders and the like, some kids excel at doing those kinds of individual, creative sports as opposed to the regimented format of football, baseball, basketball or hockey. Also, in what other sport can a person in a wheelchair do a backflip and earn the true respect as his able-bodied peers?

Anonymous said...


I think ESPN's monopoly is coming to an end with the advent of the MLB, NFL, NBA networks and so on. Watching ESPN is akin to reading People magazine. It is awful.