Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who gives a rat's whatever about sports talk or talker ethics? New school attacks the old school (spit) journalism...

I haven't heard the word "journalism" spoken anywhere with such distaste ... not Sarah Palin, not Sam Shepard playing Chuck Yeager in "The Right Stuff," not even in academia.

I'm listening to a snippet of one of the morning sports talk talkers. This is as close as I can get to the quote by writing it on a peanut bag balanced against the steering wheel.

"We're able to get away with more because the standards for what's right have dropped," the guy growled.

In the sentence before he said something about how "journalists" wouldn't like what he was about to say. Something about how media people wouldn't agree with him, about how he would be the bad guy among media people. Maybe even to his boss for saying this. Not a bad listenership ploy, I suppose. Paint yourself as the victim, the outsider, even before you speak.

"But you don't care," he said with the confidence of the clairvoyant. "As a sports fan you don't give a rat's (something) about whether a journalist asks Tim Tebow for his autograph."

That's close enough for you to get the meaning, I think.

What got me was the way he expectorated the word "journalist." I'm not sure what that was about. I know in studying humor, some theorists think when you happen on particularly over the top humor, it usually indicates something psychological lurking just under the surface of the humorist or the society. Or both...

(One thing I have to figure out how to do is wire my car radio so it goes directly to XM music in the morning if I've listened to the ball game on it the night before. )

As I said, I only caught a snippet. About enough to back out of the driveway and get to the corner to turn left. So I'm just speculating on the story behind this rant. I'm sorry, I could listen longer. I just couldn't take the voice. You know, I'm not asking for the professional big boy voice that was kind to the ears in the old days. I'm not that old school. I'm just asking for a voice that doesn't sound like a blender on puree. Or, as I said a few blogs ago about an afternoon talker, like your mother nagging you about cutting the grass.

Does it matter to you if "journalists" fawn over the folks they are paid to cover?

I heard a story that I haven't been able to confirm, so take it as a "what if..." The story goes like this: One year the Los Angeles Rams gave every beat reporter a color television at the end of the season.

Now, as a fan, would you expect those reporters to write tough things about the Rams? I wouldn't. Those guys have to be wondering what the gift will be next year. A car? Better to keep your mouth shut and stay on the beat. Better not to do anything to get yourself reassigned.

At one time I read the Kansas City Star bought two season tickets every year for its Royals reporters even though they never sat in the seats. I don't know if they still follow that practice but it was the right thing to do.

The New York Times did an interesting story on a new school television reporter who is also a conditioning agent for NFL athletes. Boy, that's somebody you want to trust with the straight goods.

I've been wined and dined by sources who refused to let me pay. When I got home I sent them checks for the dinner, explaining that as a reporter I simply could not accept their generosity (and I submitted expense account reports in the same amount to the magazines... Now, that's not old school -- that's business).

You just can't let the reader or listener think you might be biased by the gifts you're offered. So, no, I don't want the people who cover sports fawning over athletes they are supposed to tell me the truth about. I don't want them accepting tee-shirts or hats or other perks they are offered on their beats.

And although I've often suspected it, I don't want them to make it obvious to me that they are really star struck in the locker room. The way they ask what they consider tough questions makes you think of an orderly trying to calm a suicidal mental patent in the emergency room.

Surely this sports talker would not want the Star's city hall reporter to accept gifts from the mayor. If the mayor wrote a book, surely he wouldn't want the guy fawning over an autographed copy. And surely he wouldn't want a supplier of snow plows sending the mayor on a free golfing junket to Florida just before the decision on which plows to buy is made. In politics, that's called conflict of interest and among politicians and business people it's often against the law. The law takes it seriously.

So, bottom line, his argument -- the little I heard -- seemed to be these things just aren't important in sports and to sports fans. And, about that, he may be right. Sports may not be very important in the dangerous world we occupy. Perhaps not even important enough to listen to some guy debate with himself whether the football coach should be more open to the press or why Brett Farve decided to return for another season.

On second thought, why would anybody tune into these guys? Unless, of course, he was listening to the ballgame on that radio the night before.


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