First of all, I am aware of the inherent irony in posting this to a sports media site. I've been a big hater of the national (and to a lesser extent localized) sports media for a long time. ESPN is the main offender for me. And over the course of the last couple of days I've witnessed two things that have really made me sick.
I was on the treadmill at the gym today and ESPN was running a sit-down interview with Derek Jeter. I know what you're immediately thinking, that like myself you feel bad for Yankee fans and how undercovered their team is on the national stage. Nevertheless, there was Jeter being questioned by some ESPN goob. And then the interviewer ask Jeter about (wait for it. . .) Tim Tebow and how Tebow might be adjusting to life in New York City. Yes ladies and gentlemen, they just can't help themselves. It has to be about Tebow. Some how, some way they've got to bring up the New York Jets backup quarterback. They are so heavily invested in Tebow that it's gone way, way beyond comical. It's now sad and sort of desperate.
So I got done at the gym and went home and was confronted with this video from a couple of days ago:
Have you seen this? I've never been a fan of Mark Cuban at all, but he just destroys Skip Bayless in this segment. Destroys him. It's really not even funny. Skip Bayless has no idea what he's talking about outside of the cliched sports platitudes Cuban brings up. It's so bad that I'm not even sure Bayless realizes exactly how hard Cuban is fucking him here. It's so bad that Baylis' cohort Steven A. Smith (Smith is nearly as obnoxious as Bayless) has the good sense to not say a word and just hope Cuban doesn't go after him.
And these aren't isolated incidents. The sports media is loaded, loaded! with non-athletes who've never competed at anything a day in their lives. They may be able to spout of some stats or history, they may be able to understand the basic concepts of some sports (3 strikes and you're out, 10 yards and a first down) but they just don't get it on a molecular level, so to speak.
Skip Bayless is one of the tops analysts at ESPN. That's amazing to me. This video is humiliating, particularly the part where he insists that LeBron cares what Bayless writes about him. He is both completely ignorant and completely delusional. It made me uncomfortable watching it. He should be fired immediately for being exposed as a complete incompetent with no credibility at all.
I think much of the problem with the media stems from a belief that sports is no different than any kind of popular culture. They treats sports as if it's just disposable entertainment. In fact, turn on most sports talk radio shows and you'll be just as likely to hear a discussion of movies or music as your will of sports. Hell, ESPN hosts an annual awards show. What could be stupider than to produce an show in which people vote for awards to give to athletes who are able to prove who the winners are in open competition?
The sports media also seems to be filled with people who want to tear down what athletes work their whole lives to build. One of the things that makes Joe Posnanski a great sports writer is I think he, as a non-athlete, gets it. He realizes the hard work and personal sacrifice that go into becoming a great athlete. When he criticized it was honest and it wasn't a personal attack. I really believe that most of the guys in the sports media think that athletes are just more talented. Sure they're more talented that normal people, but it takes an enormous amount of work to go pro. ESPN seems to lead the way with a tone that mocks athletes who are better at what they do than the whole of the sports media will ever be at anything.
I joined AP on December 15, 2008 and I can honestly say that there is content here from lay people that is as well researched and insightful as anything the mainstream sports media has to offer. They don't set the bar very high but there are AP readers that are kicking their asses.