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The Dumbest Guys In the Room??
DENVER — So let’s see. Between Mavericks owner Mark Cuban calling us “the dumbest guys in the room” and Jay Mariotti’s arrest on suspicion of felony domestic assault, it’s been yet another banner month in my business.
The no longer ink-stained wretches of the sports media were already riding high, what with Yahoo Sports playing secret police for the NCAA and ESPN renting itself out to LeBron James Inc., not to mention the always zany antics of Jim Gray.
Even Jason Whitlock couldn’t compete in this madcap race, finishing back in the peloton with an emotional breakup from The Kansas City Star last week that included him broadcasting allegations about sex among editors and collegial neck-kissing.
To answer your inevitable questions about my own experience in these areas, uh, no, not lately.
Just in case we hadn’t covered ourselves with sufficient glory, Dan Le Batard of The Miami Herald went on record agreeing with Cuban that sportswriters are mostly hypocrites and idiots. Also cowards, I believe.
I say, let’s make the best of it. We are what we are. As you know, I’m always looking for the bright side.
So, in honor of Cuban and his relentless wisdom, I am starting a new media organization called Dumbest Guys in the Room. Despite the obvious sexism of Cuban’s phrase, this organization is open to men, women and any other primates capable of composing an e-mail.
Applications for membership should be sent to dumbestguysintheroom at gmx.com.
The mission of Dumbest Guys in the Room will be to restore sports media’s good name. Or give it a good name for the first time. Whichever.
It will not be an easy task. The media in general already rank down there with mortgage brokers, politicians and Lindsay Lohan in public esteem. On the bright side, the fact that I just mentioned Lindsay Lohan should improve the search-engine optimization of this column.
The deterioration of our reputation is easier to figure out than the solution. To stem declines in readership and viewership, we embraced provocation and sensation because provocative and sensational sell better than considered and correct. Political parties are discovering pretty much the same thing.
As unreliable as our provocation and sensation may be, it’s still more reliable than the pap issued by sports organizations themselves, which now operate with a sense of entitlement rivaled only by the athletes they employ.
Cuban’s criticism was built on at least one factual observation â€” we are usually operating on partial information. Sometimes this is a result of laziness, as he suggests, but often it is a result of newsmakers such as Cuban providing scant information and then griping when that’s what comes out.
Similarly, Le Batard’s flagellation was built on at least a couple of factual observations â€” being first has become more important than being right in our business, for some; and while we criticize sports figures for mouthing empty tripe, when somebody real comes along, we take advantage of anything controversial to rip him/her apart.
Neither Cuban or Le Batard mentioned all the good work done the old-fashioned way. Stories about steroids and head injuries are just two recent examples of good journalism that prevented teams and leagues from burying those issues. Congress gets the credit, but politicians only knew there were headlines to be grabbed because of the journalism.
This just in: It’s a zoo out there. There are shrill, self-righteous arbiters of human behavior such as ESPN’s Mariotti; thoughtful, self-conscious judges such as Le Batard; and thousands of writers and editors doing their best to be considered and correct. It is little different from the sprawling range of behavior among doctors, lawyers and, yes, even Internet entrepreneurs.
It is, in short, the spectrum of human nature, from glorious to hideous. I think I can report with a fair degree of certainty that this variety is not unique to our business. But it is true that provocative and sensational get a disproportionate share of the attention.
We can do better.
And even if we are the Dumbest Guys in the Room, we aim to try.