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"Sports Journalism" Archive

3/6/12

Columnists: Please use more care when writing about the bounty scandal

SI quotes former linebacker Junior Seau (pictured above) as saying "When you say bounty and you talk about intentionally taking someone out, in essence you're talking about affecting his livelihood. That's not football."

There are so many conversations springing from the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal that the waters got muddied too quickly. In the rush to make the point that “bounties are no big deal” or “all bounties or extra payments are terrible and unacceptable” people are forgetting to make some key distinctions. One is the distinction between trying hard to make a big hit or play and intentionally trying to injure someone, the second is a distinction between rewarding a player for making a tough play vs rewarding a player for injuring an opponent.

Those things are absolutely and unequivocally not the same, and I don’t understand why many writers don’t see it or haven’t made a better effort to point it out to the public. Guys get injured on fairly minor plays (think Eagles Jason Babin smushing Cowboys Tony Romo’s hand against his helmet) and bounce back up from hard hits and play the next snap (think Darren Sharper destroying Kevin Faulk who bounces up after the play like a Bop Bag). A hard hit is not necessarily an attempt to injure nor is an injury guaranteed. That’s why tying rewards to injuries goes beyond asking guys to make a play, and crosses the line over to encouraging them to do something beyond that like twisting an ankle at the bottom of a pile or hitting late or low.

Ethically, paying players extra for a hard hit violates nothing in the game except the collective bargaining agreement as incentives should be included in contracts and counted against the salary cap. But paying players under the table for hurting another person is the part that is wrong, and no amount of excuses is going to make that feel right when it’s considered thoughtfully.

I also think some are grossly out of touch with players especially the modern player. Today’s players are even more concerned about their fellow man than guys in the past. Nowadays, guys consider themselves to be a part of a very elite fraternity. Many played together in college, some party together, they tweet each other, express a desire to play together, narrate each other’s profiles, and so on. Even fierce rivals like Terrell Suggs and Hines Ward will appear on TV together. The vast majority of players are NOT out to injure each other though they may be ready and excited about inflicting a little pain in the name of good football. And, of course, occasionally there may be a moment of anger where they DO try to injure whoever has pissed them off but that does not reflect most players’ general approach to their jobs. Besides, many times those angry plays tend to stand out (think: N’damukong Suh on Thanksgiving Day).

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2/27/12

Mike Mayock makes note of what I call “racially affected” coverage of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III

Is it safe to say that Mike Mayock runs football yet?

This might be news to Cam Newton, but scouts and scouting reports are still largely trite with stereotypes. Mike Mayock, America’s new favorite analyst (no, seriously, I think he runs football now–and he looks damn good doing it!) finds the comfortable narratives about Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III to be an “interesting juxtaposition.” (But where Mayock uses the word interesting I use “racially affected.”)

I think Andrew Luck is more athletic than people will ever give him credit for. When you compare his numbers this year to Cam Newton’s numbers last year, they’re almost identical. We all gushed about the athlete Cam was, but we don’t with Luck, whose athleticism is underrated. Whereas Robert Griffin’s pocket awareness is underrated also. It’s an interesting juxtaposition between those two guys. We kind of want to push them into categories we’re comfortable with, but they’re both better than we think across the board.

I appreciate what Mayock says here and he doesn’t have to get all Jesse Jackson with it to make the point. Whether you consider this kind of “assessing down convenient lines” a racist (or, more gently, “racial”) act or simply inadequate or flawed analysis the fact is it needs to stop. Analysts of all kinds need to make a greater effort to accurately describe the guys they’re covering.

I’ve also never really understood the discomfort folks have with the athletic ability of white men. I thought athletes were, by default, athletic which is the main thing that makes them, in effect, athletes. If a white player isn’t quite so acrobatic or physically flamboyant are they lacking athleticism or simply subscribing to a different style of play?  Or, are certain types of white players more palatable for those who do the choosing–especially early on? For the record,  I never found John Stockton, Steve Nash or even Euro Tony Kukoc to be lacking athleticism but apparently that’s what I’m supposed to think or at least be impressed with the athleticism they’ve shown.

I’m ready for a new conversation to emerge that has more to do with the style of play that blacks and whites are coached into and whether or not there truly is something inherent that limits guys in different ways based on race. Because right now the waters are very muddy and it makes it way too easy to pigeon-hole everyone so that they fit neatly into pre-created boxes.

2/24/12

How did the media get it so wrong on Scottie Pippen’s finances?

Despite what has been reported, Scottie Pippen says his income hasn't dipped below 40 million dollars since Michael Jordan first bought his first pair of painted wide-leg jeans.

I know that folks love a good “super rich athlete goes broke story,” but how could the media get it so entirely wrong on Scottie Pippen?

It’s one thing to say that a guy doesn’t have any money, it’s wholly different to say that he filed for bankruptcy…something that’s typically searchable. Pippen is suing CNBC, CBS Interactive and other companies and sites for false reporting his bankruptcy.

All of Defendants’ above statements are false. Scottie never filed bankruptcy and indeed has a substantial net worth, which has not been less than approximately $40,000,000 in the last ten years.

The most telling thing about his legal filing is that once a story like this–about a high profile athlete and a salacious mishandling of funds (private jets and such)–is posting once it will be published again and again and again and again (including on sites like this one) in some cases pointing to back to the original source in other cases not. A long time ago a misreport was a simple misreport. Now, misreport is akin to digitally branding someone, a point that Pippen’s lawyers make.

Investigate blogger Brooks of SportsbyBrooks brought up a good point: It’s clear that the media got it wrong, but can Pippen prove he was financially damaged by the reports?

It looks like the legal documents ask for an amount that the judge thinks is appropriate meaning that Pippen isn’t suing for a specific amount.

I’ll be interested to see how this plays out. I think it’s entirely possible that the news reports could make it more difficult for Pippen to find business partners. But if his networth truly hasn’t dipped below 40 million that’s something he can prove to whomever he works with.

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2/22/12

On ESPN and XXL: When it comes to online editorial decisions speed kills

If there’s anything we learned from ESPN’s recent firing of an online editor Anthony Federico and XXL’s suspension of online media staff, we were reminded of a few things:

  1. The media is over-reliant on puns, cliches, and wordplay for headlines. And, also, the creation or promotion of “celebrity.”
  2. Immediacy online can boost or maintain traffic but can also lead to embarrassing faux pas.
  3. The big guys have more leeway to make “mistakes” than the sacrificial lambs.

This is why I couldn’t bring myself to support the firing of either Frederico or XXL Editor-in-Chief Vanessa Satten because it misses the bigger problem here that caused these messes to occur in the first place.

To get this out of the way: I have no idea if Frederico is a racist or meant to use racist terminology. And I don’t know that it matters, but I’ll give you a little story about myself, fairly sheltered girl I was.

It wasn’t until my second staff speechwriter job in which my supervisor was s Jewish person that I learned the term “Jew you down” was an offensive stereotypical reference to the way Jewish folks do business. How did I find out? Luckily, I didn’t say the phrase, but my supervisor’s neighbor said it to her and she relayed the story as one of those funny things old people do that you just have to ignore. Well I, being a country girl from Virginia, didn’t know any Jewish people until I went to college (in fact, @freedarko is probably the first Jewish person I ever befriended a mere 10 years ago) and had no idea that prejudice against Jewish people was even “a thing.” Not to out myself any further, but I was still threatening to “jap slap” people until college. i was surprised to learn that was, yet another, racist phrase.

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2/15/12

Report: Peyton Manning actually had 4 procedures on his neck not 3 as previously thought

aww suki suki now!!

Just saw this in Sports Illustrated:

While it cannot be determined exactly when the unreported procedure on Manning’s neck took place, it was at some point after his May 23 surgery in Chicago to correct a bulging disk, and before his Sept. 9 one-level cervical neck fusion surgery in Marina Del Rey, Calif. The same doctor who operated on Manning’s bulging disk in May did a follow-up procedure last summer in Chicago, as a result of the original surgery. Both of those operations came while the NFL and its players were still engaged in their protracted labor fight, with clubs having very limited medical contact with injured players. At the time of Manning’s September neck operation, that surgery was reported to be his third neck procedure in 19 months. In reality, it was his fourth.

*insert judgment here*

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