Somewhere in between making NASCAR and Football arguably the two most popular sports in America and embracing other macho competitions such as the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), our country’s sports media has become all fluff with little content. The same feeling of disgust I get every time I see some paparazzi-riddled feature on the E! Network, I have begun to get increasingly from watching ESPN.
Sports Illustrated used to be a weekly collection of terrific journalism composed almost exclusively of articles waxing poetic about the current events and issues of sports. However, this great journalism is becoming increasingly diluted by what I have previously referred to as fluff, worthy of People magazine. For example, they now have a weekly section called “the Pop Culture Grid” that shares fascinating tidbits about various athletes such as their secret TV obsessions and the ages they first kissed. I’m not kidding. ESPN Magazine is even worse. In the Feb. 26 issue, they spent half a page discussing how a hypothetical conversation between Mike Tyson and Lindsey Lohan in rehab might go. I can just envision the last minute discussion between the editors about whether they wanted to go with the piece about Lohan and Tyson in rehab or a feature on Tony Siragusa’s body waxing regiment.
Sports television isn’t any better. How many shows can these sports networks program where blowhards debate issues for points? ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption is admittedly very well done, but is it really necessary to schedule it back-to-back with another show where more stupid less articulate people argue about the same issues. Sports media, in my mind, is suffering from two major problems.
One, there is altogether too much media. There are too many stories that need to be written and television time slots to be filled, and thus there is definitely a quantity-over-quality approach to sports journalism these days. If you need proof, ask yourself why every sports outlet was putting time and energy into dissecting the subtleties of Alex Rodriguez is Derek Jeter’s friendship.
The second problem as much as it baffles me, must be that the fans enjoy this kind of coverage. I don’t doubt the
business acumen of the people at ESPN, Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, or any of the other major sports media outlets. And I can’t imagine that all the journalism majors and sports enthusiasts at these magazines really get their kicks from sections such as the “Ask a Third Grader,” one that appeared in the Feb. 12 ESPN Magazine. The question now is: is there any hope that the sports media actually starts covering sports in a way that emphasizes quality from both a journalistic and content standpoint? I say there is, though it may be slim. Over the last ten years, as the network television stations often compromised quality for what they thought the viewers wanted in programming, HBO developed a number of excellently produced television programs that were wildly successful. I’m hoping the sports media becomes inspired to do the same. Until then though, I’m just going to have to continue turning the page every time I see a blurb about the dating choices of my favorite athletes.