Jeff Pearlman

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Why do you hate us?

media-misspelling

If there’s one thing that’s obvious from running a blog and writing for websites that invite reader comments (ESPN.com and SI.com), it’s that you hate me.

You, being the reader.

Me, being representative of the sports media.

Why?

Seriously, why?

All I hear is “You guys suck ass” and “If you idiots were doing this and that …” but I’m at a loss. What have we done so poorly? No, we don’t nail every story. And yes, we make mistakes. But—and I’m being 100-percent serious—what do you want from us? Are we supposed to be die-hard blind loyalists to certain teams, much like many of the bloggers out there? Are we supposed to ignore issues like steroids and HGH, because you deem them unimportant? Do you want longer, more in-depth stories that run 5,000 words? (Because if you do, start subscribing to newspapers again) Do you want short, quick hits? (in my final days at Newsday, I was told we need fewer lengthy pieces, more 250-word hits on Jessica Simpson’s hair. For real) Do you want stuff like this? And this? And this? Because those items most certainly received tons upon tons of hits.

We’re ripped for asking the wrong questions; for taking things too far. We’re ripped for being incompetent. We’re ripped for not writing well; for writing about subjects nobody cares about; for sucking.

So I honestly want to know—what are you so angry with us about? And what does the sports media need to do to get it right?

Word.

PS: And how about saving me the “You’re an ass—that’s why we hate you” comments that will inevitably arrive. I’m being seriously—what’s your beef?

PPS: I thought this was very good, and on point. And this is classic.

  • Jeff, you’re right that much of the criticism of the sports media is unfair. For one thing, it isn’t a monolithic unit; for another, no media outlet can be everything to everyone. My biggest concern with many members of the mainstream media (not yourself) is the elitist attitude they seem to have towards bloggers; some of them seem to see sportswriting as a closed, exclusive club only open to them, and that can be annoying to the rest of us. The attitude that some people have where they seem to want to tell every fan what to think on a certain issue is also problematic (and one that shows up a lot in steroids pieces and such). Many mainstream media members are great, but there are some who could use a dose of humility. If some media members tried to reach out a little more and stopped instantly being so critical of everything they didn’t come up with first, I don’t think you’d see so many pieces bashing the MSM.

  • Well, I like you, Jeff. Despite the fact that we’d never see eye-to-eye on politics and probably a lot of other things in life, I find you to be talented and to actually care about what we think of you. That right there is commendable. That and the fact that you say/write what you think, with emotion, right here on a blog… and perhaps that’s because I write for one, too. And to that end, I’ll give you an example of just one fellow’s opinion of why a lot of us dislike the mainstream media — you have access. See my points here…

    http://www.boiledsports.com/2009/06/sammy-sosa-outrage-go.html

    Or don’t. And I promise not to call you an ass either way.

  • lunchboy

    Maybe I am one of the few, but I don’t hate most sports writers, in fact I am most thankful for you and your ilk and the articles you produce.

    But very few do irk me – Sal Pal and Stuart Scott owning the top spots on the short list. And, that is not to say I don’t enjoy Sal’s writing, I do…but his persona on TV, it seems as if he has always has to be the story. Same goes Stu and many others on ESPN. I do notice more and more reporters trying to become the story vs. reporting it, and I guess that is in an effort to claim your territory as it’s deteriorating thanks to diminishing print revenue and bloggers making room for themselves. Of course, opinions matter, too, like you said.

    The Sports section is still the first section of the paper I go to, followed by business and then national. I’d consider myself a casual fan to everything that is not Philadelphia related (obsessed with my hometown sports), but I still like to read many a report.

    Jeff, the people that are bitching and complaining are most likely the same guys who are living at home past the age of 25 and posting comments while there mom makes them PB&Js. They are in their basement, picking boogies and staring at boobies on the PC. Never mind them. Do what you do…the fact that they are posting proves that they are reading your goods after all, right? I’d kill to have a captivated audience, without caring what its collective stance might be.

  • GregEarhart

    My main problem with sports media is that so much of it is aimed at the average stupid sports fan. This is understandable since that is likely the most profitable way to go about it, but it means more intelligent fans are subjected to the Woody Paiges and Steven A Smiths shouting ill informed garbage in an attempt to be controversial and gain better ratings. It seems like it is getting harder to find intelligent mainstream sports media so people are more willing to ignore it in favor of blogs. I can easily name more intelligent sports bloggers that I am interested in than members of the mainstream sports media. I guess I don’t hate the mainstream sports media as much as I ignore it. I don’t watch ESPN unless there is an actual sports event on it and I don’t bother with most mainstream sports media unless it is through a link on a sports blog that I like.

  • As a person who grew up in NYC and just recently moved, my BEEF with the sports media is overwhelming negativity (in new york at least), and that the media takes itself way too seriously… I also find that like the rest of society, everything is a rush to judgement (a team lost 3 games in a row, it’s over… they win 3 games in a row, set up the parade…)

    Generally I enjoy the sports media, but there are definitely areas where it can improve.

    As for the other people that HATE the media, they really just don’t have any perspective on things. There is a culture of negativity today, and most people online are just looking for something to bash. Nothing anyone does will ever be good enough…

  • David

    My 2 biggest problems:

    1. The lack of genuinely insightful and original reporting and/or commentary. The media is supposed to be better because it has intimate access to the game. I don’t see what the point of clubhouse access is if all we readers get out of it are the same empty post-game platitudes from players and coaches. And the opinion is even worse – it seems like as much thought goes into some reporters’ columns and seemingly every talk show hosts’ rants as goes into the athletes’ responses. I feel like when a lot of sportswriters see a game or athlete, they try and mold it into a familiar situation: the underdog vs. the favorite, the scrappy utility man, etc. There shouldn’t be a predetermined angle; otherwise, we won’t find anything out. Compare all the articles written on David Eckstein, Darin Erstad, and other similar (and almost exclusively white) guys. They’re all the same.

    I think this is a big reason why no one was thinking about steroids in the late 90’s and early 2000’s – people cast McGwire and Sosa into this “saviors of baseball” mold. The strike was over, and now we had two guys who reminded us all over again why we loved baseball so much. The only problem is that it was all a load of bull. But it was just too good of a story to ruin. Of course, once the story broke, then the sanctimony started and every steroid story was the same.

    2. Self-importance – there’s a lot of ways this is a problem, but the following is the subset that bothers me the most. You got it absolutely right when you criticized LeBron for his attitude after losing. But most of your colleagues only harped on his missing the post-game interviews. I pull my hair out every time I hear or see the MEDIA saying that a sports figure is bad because he doesn’t handle the MEDIA well. It’s especially bad in the New York market, where coaches like Joe Girardi get a lot of crap for supposedly not handling the media well. Joe Girardi seems like a nice guy and I think he’s an excellent manager. If he makes a writer’s job more difficult because he doesn’t give enough information about injuries, then, well, that’s the writer’s problem, not mine. Granted, most of the time, if someone’s a jerk to you guys, he’s a jerk to everybody else. But there are some cases where that’s not true, and more importantly, you can’t let that get in the way of what you’re primarily reporting.

    Robert Lipstye said it best: “Sportswriters anoint heroes in basically the same way you have crushes in junior high school… If he’s going to appear to us as a surly asshole, then we’ll cover him that way. And then, of course, he’s not gonna talk to us anymore—it’s self-fulfilling.”

  • Well, since you asked for my ill-informed two cents…

    My biggest beef with sports media is the overt disdain that its more prominent members seem to have for their own readers. This was especially highlighted during the whole Buzz Bissinger/Will Leitch dust-up on HBO.

    Maybe you hate Deadspin or you love it, but in the aftermath, listening to sportswriters equate blogs and those of us who read them with the “dumbing down” of America just peeved me. Can’t I enjoy both traditional and so-called new media?

    Furthermore – and forgive me for generalizing – but, why are sportswriters so resistant to the evolution of the very games they cover? Look no further than the great sabermetrics vs. scouts debate.

    You’d think the stat-heads personally peed in Tom Verducci’s or Jon Heyman’s or Bruce Jenkins’ Corn Flakes for all the vitriol these guys launch towards the “sabermetric jihad” (Verducci’s words).

  • Andrew Martinez

    This sports fan is sometimes jealous because they think they can do what you do just as good and often times better. See guy who says, “Well I would have questioned Sosa and McGwire and I would have seen the steroids era coming and spoken up.” Maybe that guy would and maybe that guy is a (insert profession) for a reason. And this is why we have bloggers to our benefit and detriment.

    What I want from my sports media is more investigative journalism and unique stories. I can find the score 1000 diff places and I don’t care about your opinion unless you have a unique voice (see Jason Whitlock). What I want is more information about things I don’t know about yet. I want more Woodward & Bernstein and Lance Williams & Mark Fainaru-Wada. If you’re telling me something I can find somewhere else, you’re really telling me nothing at all.

    The reason I buy and read your books is because you tell me things I don’t know and haven’t heard ever before about topics that are interesting and most importantly you’re telling me things I can’t find anywhere else. Give me more HBO Real Sports (best sports journalism show I’ve ever seen) and more ESPN Outside the Lines and less (or preferably none) of Around the Horn and PTI

  • “And to explain why the next time you hear about a professional athlete acting like a jerk to someone in the media, you should realize that what they’re really doing is acting like a jerk to you, the fan.” – taken from Jeff’s link in the PPS line.

    Sorry, Jeff, but this is one more thing that drive me nuts about sports media.

    I’m sorry that Sosa was five-star d-bag to your fellow journalist, but I don’t care. I’m not naive enough to believe that my favorite team is a collection of choir boys. At the end of the day, I want my team to score more than your team.

    The above quote is just a slightly tweaked derivative of the same “won’t someone think of the children” argument that the writer correctly mocks earlier in his piece.

    I’m certainly not trying to say sports fans don’t need the media, I just wish reporters would quit trying to transparently curry sympathy by playing the “he really hates you, too” card. Whatever issues Sosa had with this reporter are between the two of them.

  • Andrew Martinez

    Forgot to add something on sports journalism personalities… If you want me to know who you are as a sports journalist make me care about what you’re saying first and the rest will follow. Skip Bayless and Screamin’ A. Smith are perfect examples of this.

  • Jeff, I think your perception that people hate the sports media is a product of two things. One, the tendency to notice the vocal critics as opposed to those who are content and silent. If 10,000 people read an article of yours, and ten of them write angry e-mails to you, which ten are you going to remember? The other 9,990 might have agreed with every word you said, but you have no reinforcement from them.

    Second is what the guys at Penny Arcade call the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. In this modern age, it is way too easy to dash off an e-mail full of insults and profanity, but devoid of reason, or post comments on a blog or message board or whatever. You put up that e-mail last week from that Chris Byrne guy, and while he’s entitled to his opinion, his initial e-mail amounted to “You suck, dude,” with absolutely nothing to counter your column. I hate that crap. If you’re gonna bitch, sound intelligent, tell the writer WHY he’s wrong.

  • I think this hate towards sportswriters is no different than fans “hating” athletes, coaches and owners. The difference is, fans could go to games to voice their displeasure, and up until the invention of comments sections in blogs/articles, the fans had no such outlet. Not they do and the hate has arrived. My suggestion? Get a Rod Smart jersey, and keep doing good work, because when people AREN’T talking about you, that’s when its time to get paranoid.

  • Bruce

    Not directly about you but sports writers in general

    1. Pompous and self important. You all seem to think that you know way more about sports than the reader.

    2. The media complaining about their jobs. If I have to read one more story bashing that the Super Bowl is in Detroit (No golf in January on expense accounts) or the Final Four is in Minnesota (too cold). Can’t you guys see that we fans would give our eye teeth to go to these events — especially when you get paid to go and have unlimited access?

    3. Stories about who has the best FREE food in which press box. Can’t you see that we fans are paying $8 for a beer and $5 for a hot dog?

    4. Negativity — I’m sorry but you are guilty of this one Jeff. If I hated my job as much as the media does I would quit.

    5. Secrets — NOT any member wrote about steroids when it was happening. Read your own posts; Sammy Sosa is an asshole? Why didn’t you tell us that 10 years ago? I’m betting it’s because you (and the dude from the Baltimore Sun item) were afraid of losing access.

    6. Any attention given to recruiting. Come on, don’t act like that kid from Nowheresville High School is going to be a great linebacker. You have at best seen 2 minutes of his highlights.

    7. Bloggers infatuation with bagging on everything ESPN except Erin Andrews.

    8. Being afraid to ask the tough and obvious questions. I.E. Joe Buck NOT asking Favre if he wasn’t coming back to stick it to the Packers GM. Of course he lobbed a question about Packer fans so that Favre could suck up to them.

  • Greg Andrew

    I try not to hate sportswriters. The problem is in many ways more the profession than the game.

    Sportswriters are expected to write stories about games even when those stories aren’t there. They’ll be fired if they don’t. So they end up writing lots of stories where none exist. They make games into tests of character, will power, fortitude, because writing that team A won over team B because team A guessed right about a few pitches is boring.

    That’s not to say there aren’t good stories out there. But there aren’t that many of them.

    Even when sportswriters no longer are on a daily beat, they can’t help themselves from constantly assigning meaning to events that have no meaning.

    The result is that much traditional sportswriting takes place in an alternate reality, where facts don’t matter very much, not compared to the story. Narrative uber alles

    Even when sportswriters know the facts, they don’t seem to care. I’ve seen at least 1000 stories about sportswriters or broadcasters being inducted into the broadcasters/sportswriters wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, even though there is no wing, no induction, and no sportswriters/broadcasters (except Henry Chadwick) who are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame. This isn’t some small technicality, as some sportswriters have claimed. Sportswriter/Broadcasters are honored by the annual Spink/Frick awards given out at the annual Hall ceremonies, and their name goes on a plaque in the Hall that lists all the winners. But there’s no wing – literally or figuratively, there’s no induction, and the people who receive this award are not Hall of Famers unless they were inducted into a different Hall of Fame.

    The irony is that I think a few sports writers and broadcasters should actually be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. (Chick Hearn has been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in addition to having won basketball’s version of the Frick Award, which I think is named after Curt Gowdy) But no one even bothers thinking about that possibility as a result of all the counter-factual reporting. But few sportswriters care about getting this correct, because talking about inductions and Hall of Fame status makes their articles more interesting than they would be if they talked about them as lifetime achievement awards, which is what they are. (And obviously, in this case, pretending that members of the profession get inducted into the Hall of Fame does add a bit of glamour to their jobs)

    On today’s New York Times, Jack Curry writes most an an article about a sportswriter who has been nominated for the Spink Award. But it’s framed as being about the fact that Steve Wilstein, the AP reporter who reported about McGwire’s bottle of andro back in 1998, “has a chance to be voted into the Hall of Fame before either of the now-shamed sluggers.”

  • Dan

    Is not really sportswriters for me its tv. The quest for the next great catch phrase . I dont want to hear Stu Scott shouting booh yeah and big ups. i just want to see the highlight delivered with a quick synopsis of the surrounding event. Drives me nuts. I guess thats why i dont watch espn much anymore. I used to just watch baseball tonight but tend to watch the mlb network even though vasgersian isnt much better than scott with ill timed jokes and comments

  • Actually those 3 examples of sports blogging you gave are what I hate. And not to generalize, but that’s what the average fan seems to want. A snarky quip, some T&A. Sorry if that sounds condescending, but it’s true. Some sportscasters seem to cater to that (the aforementioned Stuart Scott) and that is irritating.

    I get irritated with sportswriters when they try to become the story rather than the story. Peter Vescey, Stuart Scott and a whole bunch of other writers commit this crime. And don’t get me started on Mike Lupica.

    Anyway, i don’t hate the media. I just wish they wouldn’t assume I’m a slobbering fool.

  • Erich

    David had most of the really good points, but I’d like to tack on one more if I may: the spreading of misinformation.

    Writers blame athletes for why ticket prices are too high, say things like Scott Boras is evil, etc. It’s often way easier to repeat the catchphrase then question it or write a new one.

    For the most part these guys have dream jobs, and their lazy as shit or simply apathetic. I don’t hate them per se, but topics like this do make me miss the hell out of FJM.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life