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CherryMX

Press vs. Players: Symbiotic intent, tenuous results.

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I thought I'd open up the floor while we're all enjoying a fine Sunday off (well, some of us anyway. I'm typing this from work) to a topic which has been lightly discussed and at varying intervals seems to fade in and out of sports sluglines.

It's no secret that some athletes don't like the media. We got a faceful of that from Marshawn Lynch on media day as he plainly repeated the same answer to every question: "I'm here so I don't get fined." Today another press-weary athlete, Kevin Durant, told the media that they "don't know :censored: ," and has accepted that he can't escape them so he's simply learning to live with it.

Are there legitimate gripes on behalf of the players? On the whole are the media too invasive, negative, and scrutinous? It's hard to say. I usually take the side of the player until the moment they say something they themselves know is stupid, such as:

  1. Your opinions are bogus because you're not a pro athlete like me
  2. You're all out to destroy me
  3. We all know your job is to be negative

I know that some really, really stupid people want the press to be this happy go lucky rah-rah entity, but that's thankfully the exception to the rule. Some coaches browbeat their players into creating an "Us vs. Them" mentality that breeds hostility regardless of the situation. It's stupid. Beat reporters generally aren't out to get people and their jobs require asking difficult questions. I also feel that professional athletes should have the self-awareness to accept their responsibilities that go along with their pay. Higher tiers of talent merit harder scrutiny and raised expectations. Deal with it.

There are absolutely terrible writers out there whose joy apparently derives from a scorched earth writing style, but they aren't the norm, in my opinion.

What happened? Sports media in yesteryear would often protect the players by not divulging the nasty truth they would often witness, wanting to paint them as heroes. Now it seems that the unyielding thirst to be first to a story coupled with a dying print medium that demands controversy to eke out another few years of existence has mated with social media to form an amorphous creature that drinks the blood of scandal.

...or is that a lot of crap and professional athletes need to keep their mouths shut?

What's your take?

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Beat reporters generally aren't out to get people and their jobs require asking difficult questions. I also feel that professional athletes should have the self-awareness to accept their responsibilities that go along with their pay. Higher tiers of talent merit harder scrutiny and raised expectations. Deal with it.

That's where I am.

It's not just about "responsibilities that go along with their pay"; press availability is actually in the CBA. You're literally paid to answer their questions, so answer their questions. Be as respectful to them as they are to you.

You can decline to answer some specifics, but you can't cash the check and then flatly refuse to do your job.

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What happened? IMO in sports, the baseball steroid scandal happened. Biggest story in baseball (that still drags along to this day) and the so-called experts missed it. Or were still in the protection mode you mentioned. Either way, they didn't do their jobs as reporters.

Add in social media, and the news cycle changed from day by day or hour by hour to second by second. And so the bar is lowered for "scoops."

Side notes: Rosenbloom will be crushed if he sees that, and since he likely googles his name regularly, he probably will. And how did I know that "stupid" link went to Beckman? :)

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Beat reporters generally aren't out to get people and their jobs require asking difficult questions.

Hopefully, this won't come across as a humblebrag because I don't mean it to be one. That said...

My experience covering beats (I guess?) is limited to Syracuse University football and basketball, the AAA Syracuse Chiefs, NY-Penn League short season A baseball, and the '99 Browns during the preseason. The only one of those in which there wasn't at least one beat writer who was out to get a player or players was the '99 Browns. I'm guessing that I never saw it with the Browns because our station was a small market station and our coverage wasn't extensive enough for me to really get to know any of the "big time" media people covering the team.

I'll get more into this tomorrow. I have some stories that I'd like to contribute to this conversation.

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Beat reporters generally aren't out to get people and their jobs require asking difficult questions.

Hopefully, this won't come across as a humblebrag because I don't mean it to be one. That said...

My experience covering beats (I guess?) is limited to Syracuse University football and basketball, the AAA Syracuse Chiefs, NY-Penn League short season A baseball, and the '99 Browns during the preseason. The only one of those in which there wasn't at least one beat writer who was out to get a player or players was the '99 Browns. I'm guessing that I never saw it with the Browns because our station was a small market station and our coverage wasn't extensive enough for me to really get to know any of the "big time" media people covering the team.

I'll get more into this tomorrow. I have some stories that I'd like to contribute to this conversation.

I was hoping you'd respond. I admittedly have no experience in this realm, but I staked my claim on the basic premise that most people are inherently good and that a choice few are cretins which ruin the image of many. I feel like it should take many layers for a reporter, a profession that often demands objectivity and research, to say screw it, I'm going to make myself by destroying this other person via the power of the pen.

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I think that's a very tiny minorty of sportswriters. Certainly not enough to justify the kind of petulance described in the original post.

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I think that's a very tiny minorty of sportswriters. Certainly not enough to justify the kind of petulance described in the original post.

That may be the case. My experience is pretty limited. I'm just saying that in three of my four "beats", there were writers who absolutely had it in for certain players or the entire team. (Conversely, there were some beat writers who may as well suited up and joined the cheerleaders.)

Here are two examples of what I saw.

SU Football - there was a writer for one of the Syracuse papers who made it his mission in life to make that football team look bad no matter what it did. From the minute he walked into the press box, this guy did nothing but bitch. The running joke about him was how can this guy write about a game when he never shuts up long enough to watch it. The best anyone could figure was that the Syracuse SI Dept. did something to piss off this writer.

Chiefs baseball: one of the beat writers made it very clear that he had no use for a Chiefs pitcher named Paul Spoljaric. I don't know if it's still the case, but back then one of the beat writers also served as the official scorer for the game. If Spoljaric was pitching and this writer was the scorer, Spoljairc was in trouble. There was a game when the immortal Chris Weinke was playing first for the Chiefs and Spoljaric was on the mound.

Long story short, Weinke made an error that resulted in three runs scoring. To the astonishment of everyone in the press box, this writer scored it a hit and Spoljaric was charged with the runs. It was so bad that Spoljaric actually came to the press box after the game and asked the rest of us if this guy purposely scored it a hit just to " :censored: him." There were 7 people in the press box (including some guy named Matt Vasgergian doing Chiefs radio) 6 of us said it was clearly an error.

Spoljaric tried to plead his case with the writer who scored it a hit but all he could get out of the writer was "it looked like a hit to me, Paul." What do you think was in the paper the next day? Yup, a nice little blurb about how Paul Spoljaric just might be too "high strung" to succeed at the Major League level coupled with a description of his "obsession with his own stats" and "prima donna" behavior after the game.

That's how it was described. What actually happened was a kid who was borderline MLB talent knew that adding three runs to his ERA might be the difference between playing in Syracuse instead of Toronto. Rumor had it that the reason this writer didn't like Spoljaric was because he was dating a girl the writer either used to date or wanted to date.

Who knows? Maybe it's just a Syracuse thing.

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