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Written by Mark Grey   

Black Cloud

by MARK GREY

5.12.09

The old saying goes, "the more things change, the more things stay the same." Sadly, this couldn’t be more true for sports media coverage.  The beauty about sports is that history is continually made, challenges are continually conquered, and greatness is continually on display.  With all the great sports action going on right now, I want to know why the real sports stories take a back seat to the recycled stories.  While today’s players are the ones credited for the black clouds that hang over our favorite sports, I am starting to think the four letter network that runs the sports media is the biggest reason for those clouds.

The sports world couldn’t be hotter than it is right now; yet when you turn on the TV looking for sports coverage, you see the same stories from the last five years.  On Wednesday night, the NBA had two very intense Playoff games, but the only stories running on Thursday were about Manny Ramirez and Brett Favre.  I can't help but ask myself if this is a dream.  Are they really still talking about this?  Is it really breaking news that Brett Favre still wants to play football?  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Star Baseball slugger tests positive for steroids but says he didn’t know what he was taking.  While no real sports fan should have been overly shocked by either story, the media beats the viewers over the head with these stories so consistently that people start to think they are the only stories in sports.

While Manny and Favre steal all the spotlight with their off-the-field choices, there is plenty good going on in the world of sports.  The NBA playoffs are on a crash course to give us the two best basketball players on the planet facing each other on the biggest stage for the title.  The Celtics and the Bulls just played the best first round series ever. The best pound for pound boxer in the world just came out of retirement.  The Lakers and the Rockets series features the best wing player of the last decade going up against two of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.  In the NHL, the two best hockey players in the world are going head to head in a 7-game series; seeing Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby go back and forth trading hat tricks makes even non-hockey fans take notice.  In golf, Tiger Woods was back in action this weekend looking for his first victory since returning from surgery.  With all of these great, current sports stories, why are we as sports fans forced to only hear about the negative, old stories?

The sports media today is becoming more and more like entertainment tabloids then actual sports coverage.  How many times do we have to hear about who likes A-Rod and who doesn’t? He is just like everyone else with a job: some of his coworkers like him and some of them don’t.  On the same note, every year the media makes a huge deal about whether Brett Favre wants to play. At this point, it's overkill. And still, the media acts like it plays no role in the scenario.  One media outlet asked, “When will Brett stop doing this?”  Let me answer that: as long as reporters with cameras line up outside of Favre’s house asking him if he is 110 percent sure he doesn’t want to play anymore, Brett is going to entertain them.  How long are they going to act like it’s the biggest news story to ever break every time a great slugger tests positive for performance enhancers?  There is no reason any sports show should have a four minute segment with a doctor breaking down the effects of pills used to jump start a woman’s cycle.  As if the story isn’t covered enough about the failed test, they then spend another 15 minutes talking about the apologetic comments that player gave, also known as  the same comment they all use:  "I went to an unnamed doctor for an unnamed reason, and he gave me some unnamed pills, and I took them.  I would like to apologize to my fans and teammates for using bad judgment." We have all heard it hundreds of times and we get the point.  We don’t need to hear every member of the Baseball Tonight staff analyze it for us.

If ESPN is going to have 6 or 7 different networks, they need to make one of them ESPN-E.  It can be for the juicy entertainment news.  They can have live cameras running 24 hours a day in front of A-Rod’s house so you can see things like who he is dating or how much he tips the pizza guy.  They can always have one in Favre’s backyard so we can all see every time he decides to test the old arm out.  You would be able to get all the latest news on Jose Canseco, a man who hasn’t played baseball in almost a decade, along with all the latest info about Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson's whereabouts.  And of course, every hour on the hour there could be a 5-minute discussion about steroids.  With all of the entertainment news on that channel, it would allow the rest of the sports networks a chance to do something crazy … like talk about sports.  Instead of breaking down birth controls pills, maybe we could actually get a breakdown of the way Ron Artest and Shane Battier are trying to defend Kobe.  Maybe we could hear about how Rajon Rondo has gone from unknown point guard to a triple double machine.  I would love to hear why Ovechkin is better than Sid the Kid.

There is no denying that many of these players today are giving sports a black eye with their away-from-work choices.  But still, because Michael Vick decided he wanted to fight dogs two years ago, I can’t get highlights from last night's game?  And just because Favre thinks he might want to play football again means that LeBron James' and the Cavs' dominance goes uncovered?  While many of today’s media outlets want to blame the players for the black cloud hanging over sports, they should probably take a look at what stories they are choosing to consistently cover.  
 

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