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Just show the game

Friday, Jan 18, 2013


Thou are not for the fashion of these times,
Where none will sweat but for promotion

* The Olympics have scored ratings gold by emphasizing personalities and personal lives as much - or even sometimes more - than the actual sporting events.

As a result, I have a hard time watching the Olympics broadcasts. I wanna see sports. I don’t care all that much that some athlete overcame [insert disease or setback here] to triumph in sports. I wanna see the action.

Soap operatic back stories now permeate pretty much all sports coverage. Count me as disinterested. Just show the game, for crying out loud.

* Despite my misgivings, this stuff works. How many more people became interested in international cycling competitions because of Lance Armstrong’s astounding comeback from cancer to win seven straight times at the Tour de France? Lots.

It’s just a money thing - a way to induce more people to watch an event that they probably had no interest in whatsoever. I don’t care about Tim Tebow’s religion or political beliefs. I care whether he can perform on the field. But a whole lot of other people do care about his back story, so we’ve been inundated with coverage. I just turn it off.

It’s not like I’ve been totally immune to this, either. I was fascinated by the Tonya Harding drama. But that craziness was directly related to the event. I mean, she had a clearly superior opponent knee-capped in a thuggish bid to win gold. Wow. Now we’re talking my kind of story.

* This Manti Te’o stuff never really interested me. It’s not like I’m heartless or something. I agree that his was a tragic story of loss and heartbreak. Great TV. Saturation coverage. Heckuva drama. And, as it turns out, a total fraud.

There’s no way sports coverage will change because of this scandal. There’s too much money involved. So, now, Armstrong’s downfall allows talking heads to endlessly pontificate about what a bad man he is. Tebow’s lack of talent wouldn’t even rate 30 seconds on local news if he had no back story, but the teevee types love to yap about his future and will continue to do so. And the Te’o stuff is now even “better” TV. Much better.

Rick Morrissey

We really, really wanted to believe the story about Te’o’s ­girlfriend, didn’t we?

Better to approach sports with an arched eyebrow. You’ll save yourself a lot of pain.

Better to just forget about this relentless quest for the perfect back story and just show the action. But it’ll never happen. Sports is a big-money soap opera, so the greed heads ain’t gonna change, even though they’ve always ruined everything they’ve ever touched.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


42 Comments
  1. - walkinfool - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:35 am:

    Kinda like how we view our politicians?


  2. - Davey Boy Smithe - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:36 am:

    ESPN shows 3 hours of pregame for NFL on Sundays! All I want to do is watch the game. And enough with pushing the kickoff for Monday Night games to something like 7:36. Just kickoff right at 7:30. I don’t need to be told anything else besides the plays or strategies.

    This Te’o story is just weird and it’s just going to get weirder.


  3. - Leave a Light on George - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:38 am:

    Wasn’t much action Teo’s last game to show unless missed tackles excites you.


  4. - Langhorne - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    I agree w you. In the jim McKay era (70s) the actual sporting event was the focus. They would highlight someone for winning, not bec the family escaped from tyranny so little tadpole could swim here. And they did a good job in spite of primitive technology


  5. - Wensicia - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:43 am:

    I don’t understand why the press and advertising agencies try to portray sport superstars as some kind of heroes. When they’re proven quite the opposite, the press goes nuts with vilification.

    Hey, you guys buy and print the fairy tales. It’s on you.


  6. - johhnypizza - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:44 am:

    Not only is the melodrama unnecessary, the backchecking failure of all the media types shouts out about the amateurish state of what passes for major media journalism in the 21st century.


  7. - Ready To Get Out - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:49 am:

    Have to agree. Not heartless, but I turn on a game to watch the game. There are plenty of hours available for the human interest stories.

    Also watched less of the Olympics because of that. And I’ve gotten addicted to the DVR, rarely watch anything live anymore.


  8. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:49 am:

    If your mama tells you she loves you, check it out.

    The Te’O story is one of the greatest journalism burns that I can remember. It went on month after month — on ESPN, in Sports Illustrated, on NBC — without anyone doing the basic J-101 legwork. The sob story was too good and made to order.

    The dude on deadspin who broke the story is still in college, for crying out loud. The story took him all of five days from tip to publishing.

    No one, literally, died over this, but I bet some journalists are going to lose their jobs due to their own sloppiness and neglect. And the hoax nearly propelled Te’O to a very lucrative Heisman Trophy, even though he wasn’t even close to being the best college football player in the country.

    Te’O has spent years receiving some of the most fawning, sympathetic treatment from journalists, ever. He’s about to see the dark side of journalists burned.

    He better call Oprah in a hurry, get it all out and get it behind him. Because it ain’t going away.


  9. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:50 am:

    Sometimes the reverse is true as well. Case in point: Ray Lewis, star linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens, who might be playing in his last game on Sunday before retiring after a great career on the gridiron.

    Expect all of the writers and broadcasters to describe him as a first ballot hall of famer, the best linebacker of his era, etc.

    Nobody wants to talk about the fact that he was an accessory to murder and refused to cooperate with police after a member of his entourage stabbed a man to death.

    Steroids and cheating are horrible. But are they worse than lying to protect a murderer?

    A raised eyebrow indeed. And maybe a little perspective too.


  10. - Kasich Walker, Jr. - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:50 am:

    Since I am not much of a college football fan, I wasn’t familiar with any of the Notre Dame linebacker’s story until yesterday, nor do I have much interest in the Olympics.

    “…We really, really wanted to believe…”

    Huh?

    Who wanted to believe what?

    I hope the NHLPA says no to Olympic participation.


  11. - Downstater - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 10:57 am:

    One of qualifications to be an announcer is how much hype he can add to each play. I turn down the sound.
    And Ray Lewis. Great linebacker. So, So human being.


  12. - Skeptic - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:00 am:

    I watched most of the London Olympics on NBC’s video stream which not only showed the sports I wanted to see (Equestrian and White water kayaking on TV? Yeah, right.) but most of the time without the blather of announcers and completely free of all the “Up Close and Personal” stuff. It was the best coverage ever. Then I watched some coverage on TV. I think I spent 20 minutes in front of the screen and saw about 30 seconds of actual competition. *Click*

    I remember years ago NBC tried an Announcer-less game. I wish they would again. And for other sports too.


  13. - bored now - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:04 am:

    sports is just reality tv for men. it’s all about tugging at the heartstrings, because that’s how we remain loyal (how else could you explain a cubs fan’s loyalty?)…


  14. - scurvydog - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:16 am:

    I’m with you, Rich. Whenever I feel the need for back story and drama, I watch “Brian’s Song”. Alone.


  15. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:17 am:

    –Who wanted to believe what?–

    The sob story, or human interest story, whatever you want to call it.

    They’re standard in all sports coverage now (you’ll know they’re coming when you hear the strings and the soft-tinkling of piano).

    It’s an effort to expand the audience. Who cares about the Tour de France? But Lance Armstrong winning despite cancer is a universal story. Not everyone cares about college football. But a young man performing at a high level despite the loss of his grandmother and girlfriend within hours (or days, or something) is a universal story.


  16. - walkinfool - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:21 am:

    “sports is just reality tv for men. it’s all about tugging at the heartstrings”

    the heartstrings?


  17. - Jaded - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:30 am:

    I blame Phil Donahue,Barbara Walters and Oprah. They made “the back story” big business, and now everybody wants a piece of it.


  18. - bored now - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:32 am:

    as strange as it may seem, we remember and act more viscerally than rationally. i don’t know where the myth of the rational man came from, but for some reason, we like to believe that we act rationally.

    tv producers know better…


  19. - Joe Bidenopoulous - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:33 am:

    The complicity of the media shouldn’t be whitewashed either. Sports media is essentially a walking conflict-of-interest. Is NBC going to go after anything at at ND considering their lucrative contract to show their football games? Can ESPN do serious investigative work into the NFL, MLB, or various college leagues considering they are financial partners with them? Would Tribune reporters take a closer look if they didn’t fear losing their coveted access and tips?

    The list of organizations that missed this one is huge, and in almost every instance, there’s at least an appearance of a conflict of interest in some respect. Objective sports journalism basically doesn’t exist, which is exactly why a site like Deadspin does.


  20. - Kasich Walker, Jr. - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:39 am:

    “…The sob story, or human interest story, whatever you want to call it…”

    Mute button, or wait until game time to watch, though I admit the more I find about the Notre Dame story the more I enjoy it.

    NCAA football broadcasters reached that far to broaden their base so more advertisers will pay attention.

    Shame on that linebacker! Shame! How can he make up stories about imaginary girlfriends…or allow himself to be so duped.

    He should spend more time memorizing creeds or learning about virgin birth and papal infallibility.


  21. - Skeeter - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:40 am:

    Completely agree. I just want to watch a game and forget about everything else.

    A few years ago, the Phoenix Suns got involved in the dispute over immigration. It annoyed the heck out of me. Rather than watch basketball, we had to hear about some divisive issue.

    At times, we just need a break from politics.

    That may be part of the reason that I follow soccer. Other than the fact that it a great sport to watch, I know that the controversy will be over whether a player flopped or whether a red card was deserved or whether they should adopt goal line technology. It has nothing to do with politics.


  22. - shore - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:43 am:

    I’m with you to a large extent especially as a cubs fan who thinks a large part of the teams problem has been their focus on selling the “product” rather than building a winning team. I’m also sick of the 85 bears nonstop self promotion.

    On the other hand the relationships between jordan and his father, jordan/jackson/krause and reinsdorf were the central drivers of why that team never finished its run and topped the russell celtics 8 in a row. I’m with you on the olympics, but those kids work their hearts out, are mostly good role models, represent parts of america we don’t hear about too much in an nyc dominated media and take on tremendous personal and financial sacrifice to get there.

    You have to sort out what’s relevant and what’s bs and that’s up to you guys who do this for a living to decide.


  23. - Jerome Horwitz - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:45 am:

    It’s stories like this that sell advertisements for the media. I’ts all about the money. Sports stories and sports are entertainment. In order to promote the entertainment, there has to be drama.


  24. - 47th Ward - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:47 am:

    ===why that team never finished its run and topped the russell celtics 8 in a row===

    Some believe that Michael’s gambling problem played a part in his decisiont to try minor league baseball instead of going for another title.

    When the facts conflcit with the legend, go with the legend.


  25. - RSW - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:48 am:

    I agree with Langhorne. When you everyone perform — good and bad — the good performers stand out. With all the commercials and hype, pro football games are well over 3 hours. I have cut back on all sports.


  26. - Gary Hutton - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:53 am:

    No wonder Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o’s game was “WAY OFF” during the national championship. This story was gonna break at any moment. Shame on him and Notre Dame!


  27. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:54 am:

    ===why that team never finished its run and topped the russell celtics 8 in a row===

    Krause was obsessed with building his own team without. He’d drafted or signed everyone but Michael, but Michael got all the credit.

    Plus, he was jealous of Phil, who he’d recruited as a high school player out on the Plains and had plucked from the Albany Patroons and gave the keys to the kingdom when Collins was fired (another story altogether, and nothing to do with basketball, lol).

    Reinsdorf, for his part, I think, didn’t want to pay both Michael and Scottie when Pippen’s original (lousy) long-term deal expired.


  28. - Cheryl44 - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:55 am:

    I’m not even sure what a linebacker is, but the people who are complaining the media didn’t do any checking–really? Some kid says his girlfriend died and reporters are supposed to go look for the death notice? Really? Of course I guess now they will.


  29. - 3rd Generation Chicago Native - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 11:59 am:

    Between the commercials and the stories there is not much of the actual events left to watch of the Olympics.


  30. - Nearly Normal - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 12:05 pm:

    Years ago, the Olympics would give a short back story on the athlete. It was only a few minutes long and it was interesting. Then someone got the “bright” idea to make these long-winded sagas about the athletes. That was not necessary but it probably gave the network a chance to sell more advertising. These networks pay such huge sums to get the exclusive rights for the broadcast so they want to recoup as much of the expense as possible by getting more sponsors to pay for multiple ads at high prices.

    In the meantime, most of us would rather watch the events and not deal with a half hour about some athlete. Remember the American skier who got such a build up before his event? He flopped.

    Sad. Bad for sports but it must make money or it wouldn’t be on TV.


  31. - Darienite - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 12:05 pm:

    ==In the Jim McKay era (70’s) the actual sporting event was the focus.==
    If I remember correctly, Jim McKay’s zenith was the reporting of the killing of the Israeli Olympians at the ‘72 games. Peggy Fleming, Jean-Claude Killy, Olga Korbut, Nadia, Bruce Jenner - all great athletes but magnified by McKay’s storytelling. Actually that was Roone Arlidge’s idea in order to appeal to the female viewer.


  32. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 12:10 pm:

    –Some kid says his girlfriend died and reporters are supposed to go look for the death notice? Really?–

    He did more than that. He made it — over and over again — his “compelling human interest” story that garnered him loads of national publicity and put him on the map for the Heisman Trophy — and that thing’s worth a lot of money, for life.

    Colleges do full-blown marketing campaigns for the Heisman. Nobody could match Te’Os. If Johnny Football hadn’t beaten Bama in Tuscaloosa, Te’O would have won it.


  33. - Joe Bidenopoulous - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 12:13 pm:

    = but the people who are complaining the media didn’t do any checking–really?=

    Um, yeah, really. That’s what journalists are supposed to do. It’s what word referred to in his “if you’re mama says she loves you, check it out.” That is, quite literally, one of the first things you’re taught in journalism. If they didn’t, then they simply are a propaganda arm for whomever is talking.

    SIU J-school, ‘91


  34. - MrJM - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 1:07 pm:

    Pro-wrestling fans would reject a narrative as nutty as this Manti Te’o story.

    – MrJM


  35. - dupage dan - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 1:23 pm:

    I think Paul Harvey is spinning in his grave knowing the rest of this story.


  36. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 1:36 pm:

    Now, ESPN, the biggest peddler of these sob stories, and the biggest promoter of the Te’O sob story, is going after him with everything they have — and all with unnamed sources.

    They are the poster child for shoddy journalism.


  37. - Endangered Moderate Species - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 2:03 pm:

    The medias coverage of sports is no different than their coverage of politics. These stories increase the ratings and sell advertising. When the stations are competing with more than a 1/2 dozen or more 24/7 sport stations and another 1/2 dozen or more 24/7 news stations, they learn to love the stories that keep going and going.


  38. - Hans Vanity - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 2:23 pm:

    “…Sports media is essentially a walking conflict-of-interest. …”

    Considering the struggle between reason and emotion or heart and mind, aren’t we all?


  39. - Amalia - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 3:01 pm:

    yes, it is about the game, but the backstories fuel the money machine of sports. the myth makers sweep much under the rug. things must be looked at. is the NCAA going to investigate sexual assault cases at ND? players involved in the Lizzy Seeberg assault and another case played in that national championship game. what is going on at that university?


  40. - wordslinger - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 3:18 pm:

    – is the NCAA going to investigate sexual assault cases at ND? players involved in the Lizzy Seeberg assault and another case played in that national championship game. what is going on at that university?–

    You’ve got that right, Amalia.

    Lizzy was not only swept under the rug, but the St. Joe County, South Bend and Notre Dame authorities pretended like nothing happened and bullied her family. Makes me sick.

    When Declan Sullivan got blown off the scissor lift to his death while filming practices, in the midst of historic high winds, Jack Swarbrick coldly called it a “freak accident.”

    But he cried like a baby over Te’O.

    I have a son who plays college football. I have another who will next year.

    But don’t believe the hype. There are mercenary outlaw coaches at the highest levels out there who care about nothing but their next big score. And they will destroy anyone who gets in the way of it.

    Did we learn nothing about the “clean” Penn State program?


  41. - LincolnLounger - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 4:05 pm:

    While people die and the Notre Dame p.r. machine spews its nonsense, the NCAA relentlessly polices politically-incorrect mascots.


  42. - Arthur Andersen - Friday, Jan 18, 13 @ 4:50 pm:

    Lincoln, exactly.


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