Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 27, 2013

Oh, how sports journalism has changed

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — Sometimes I have to wonder whatever became of sports journalism.

My reasons for doing this job is because it wasn’t supposed to be a job. What sports fanatic wouldn’t want to get paid to write about sports.

Unfortunately, sports journalism has changed in the 18 years I have been doing this. It isn’t all fun and games like it used to be.

Here is what it has come to:

Lance Armstrong: Armstrong actually went to Oprah Winfrey to confess to what most of us already expected, that he was guilty of using performance enhancing drugs during his run of seven straight Tour de France championships that followed his fight with cancer.

Manti Te’o: Te’o chose to go on something called “Katie” — with Katie Couric — which I honestly had no idea existed until I was at a car dealership last week — to explain the whole episode with the fake girlfriend who later died of cancer.

It is interesting that both sports figures went to non-sports mediums to tell their stories. I guess they were expecting a sympathetic ear from both.

While the story of Te’o — who must have suffered enough in the lopsided loss in the BCS championship game to Alabama — just won’t go away, Armstrong did at least help raise funds and awareness for cancer research.

The Te’o story is just plain weird.

Those were two stories that dominated the news last week.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, now comes the latest:

Danica Patrick: The NASCAR driver who is a media darling for her looks and not much else, was the subject of an AP NewsBreak on Friday, which is usually meant for major news.

Of course, that isn’t always the case. I remember once in Bristol when a AP NewsBreak came across alerting all the world that Mike Piazza had dyed his hair.

This news was about as relevant.

It was revealed that Patrick, who just began divorce proceedings with her husband of seven years in November, announced that she is dating Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who just happens to be another NASCAR driver.

Patrick, whose love life has always interested — well, I am really not sure who — said she revealed the relationship so the gossip about her love life would end.

That needed a AP NewsBreak???

It gets even worse.

The Associated Press followed that news with a 21-inch story about Patrick dating Stenhouse. That was followed by 16 inches of reactions that vary about their relationship.

Neither was printed in this newspaper. Blame me for it if you want to. That is why I get paid the ‘big’ bucks.

Drivers were asked about this breaking news, and most seemed to care about as much as I do, but it couldn’t be less. They were asked how they thought Patrick and Stenhouse would race each other on the track.

Could you imagine Dale Earnhardt being asked to comment on this subject? Think he wouldn’t put his wife or girlfriend into the wall, at least before tragedy struck? He wasn’t called the “The Intimidator” for nothing.

Many drivers are in Florida for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, but instead of being asked about racing and the upcoming season, it turned into  “Entertainment Tonight” and they had to try and provide serious answers to silly questions.  

Or not.

My first meeting with NASCAR driver Jamie McMurray came at Bristol Motor Speedway years ago. I was assigned to do a feature on McMurray so I sat down with him in his trailer — which is like a moving house — and started asking questions, but he quickly figured something out.

He asked me, “You don’t watch NASCAR, do you.” Oops. I had to admit that I was not a fan, and tried to make an excuse, but it was too late. He let me finish the interview, but I could tell he was ready to throw me out.

That was embarassing, but a hard lesson was learned.

Well, McMurray certainly didn’t care about this story either. He was quoted by the AP as saying, “I thought there were much more important stories to report on than someone dating someone else. That’s about where I stand on that.”

I agree, and hopefully so do many of our readers.

Think that is bad? It will get a lot worst this week.

It is Super Bowl week, and the hype will be unmerciful. It will be all about the “Har-Bowl” and Ray Lewis’ final game and whatever other hard-hitting subjects are brought up by media — and non-media types — that will be part of media day.

By the time the game finally arrives, you will just want it to be over.

Sometimes I yearn for the old days when sports were about games and professionals like Stan Musial and Earl Weaver, and not about money and cheating and fake girlfriends and endless hype and who is dating who.

It is an insult to true sport fans, such as NASCAR driver Clint Bowyer, who was asked on Friday about the relationship between Patrick and Stenhouse, and his response was so true.

“Thanks a lot, Ricky,” he said, sarcastically, according to AP. “I’m down here enjoying the sunny weather in Daytona, at my first 24-hour race, and what do I get asked? About Ricky and Danica.”

I know how he feels. You probably do too.

—Brian Woodson is the sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at e