Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Attention ESPN, FOX, Somebody, Anybody: PLEASE Put the 'New' Back in Sports News

What freakin' year is it?!?!

My calendar says it's the second month of 2009, but I'm skeptical. And I blame the sports media.

Every time I've turned on ESPN (seldom) or FOX Sports (frequently) or visited an online resource in the last couple of weeks, I've been bored to tears by a story that's as stale as a frat house carpet. None—I repeat, NONE—of the "big" stories to hog the headlines recently have revealed new information.

They've certainly confirmed some pretty sensational suspicions so I'm not saying they're totally unworthy of prominence. However, their treatment left prominence in the rearview many miles ago. We're closing in on full-blown hysteria for some of these puppies. Consider:

1. Michael Phelps narc'd out by some spineless, hypocritical college kid for taking bong rips at a college house party.

In November of 2004, after Phelps' first Olympic haul, he was busted as a 19-year-old kid for drunk driving.

Poor judgment? Check. Youthful indiscretion? Check. Mind-altering substance use? Check.

On top of that, drug use in this country is far more prevalent than anyone will admit. The last three Presidents have copped to smoking weed and I believe the last two have either admitted to or been heavily implicated in use of cocaine.

The loudest, most ignorant, and (thus) most respected voice in the neo-conservative universe admitted to an OxyContin addiction. Everyone knows that blimp, Rush Limbaugh, couldn't stop the pop. What gets less publicity is that his pill of choice was essentially synthetic heroin (or so I've heard).

It's no wonder that both the National Review and Wall Street Journal—not exactly bastions of liberal and/or progressive thought—have criticized the United States' anti-marijuana laws in the wake of the Phelps' picture.

When voices that speak in unison with George W. Bush shake down on the side of legalizing something, I think it's probably time to ease of the 40-point font. Forgive me if I don't think a young kid—who spends 95% of his life keeping his body in supreme physical condition—smoking some reefer merits several days of headlines.

Not only was this story tired because of Phelps' earlier arrest, but also because it represents a tired social attitude i.e. the demonization of marijuana use.

Although it does get points for indirectly bringing the latter into sharper focus.

2. Kobe Bryant drops 61 points in Madison Square Garden.

In the winter of 2005-2006, Kobe hung 62 on the Dallas Mavericks through only three quarters and put 81 on the Toronto Raptors in regulation.

I've covered this one already so let's just say we already knew Kobe could score with the best of 'em and we already knew the 2008-2009 New York Knickerbockers play zero defense.

I get it—he broke Michael Jordan's single-game, MSG scoring record. MJ did it against a much better defense and Kobe beat him by six points. That's still not reason for several days of headlines.

Especially because the man has an 81-point game to his credit.

3. Alex Rodriguez' urine tested positive for steroids in 2003.

Barry Lamar Bonds, who was arguably Major League Baseball's best player (a phrase now applicable to A-Rod), has been under investigation since 2003 for perjury after admitting to ignorant use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Then there's the Mitchell Report...and Roger Clemens...and Andy Pettitte...and Jason Giambi...and Jason Grimsley...and you get the point.

Furthermore, the list of sports tainted by PEDs has ballooned well beyond the confines of MLB—cycling with that Landis dude, the National Football League with Shawne Merriman and the Pittsburgh Steelers doctor, mixed martial arts, professional wrestling, etc.

Once again, this confirmed a widely-held suspicion so it deserved to get hit hard. But dammit if we're not entering the third day of big bold type dedicated to the "revelation."

You'd think it was 1998 and somebody walked in on Mark McGwire plunging a syringe into Sammy Sosa's backside.

4. Brett Favre announces that he won't play for the New York Jets in 2009.

I won't even dignify this with an entry other than to say that I guess it had to be reported since the team and year have changed.

Is it really that hard to find new topics to cover? Or how about just a new angle on one of these stale arcs? I don't think that's too much to ask.

Some will say the sports media is just giving the fans what they want, catering to the masses and all that jive.

I don't buy it.

I don't believe that, if FOX didn't have a story about the steroid fall-out or ESPN didn't lead with Favre's latest hobble into the sunset, the fans would seek those stories somewhere else. My faith in humanity forces me to believe the majority of you are like me—looking to those outlets for access and information otherwise unavailable to the average fan.

And if these stories were so monumental in what they disclosed as to warrant the treatment they received, my calendar must be years ahead.

Of course, it could be worse. I could be a finance nut under the impression it's the 1930s.

Thank heavens for small miracles.

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