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Robison: Sports media is crazy with the 24/7 coverage (March 23)

Matthew Robison | Thursday, March 22, 2012

The first R-rated movie I ever saw was “BASEketball,” and it is still one of my favorite films of all time. On top of being one of the hilarious concoctions of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of “South Park,” released in 1998, it is one of the most prophetic stories of this, or any, generation.

For those that have not seen it, I strongly suggest it. The opening sequence features a voice-over talking about the destruction of sports as we once knew it as a noble endeavor. What was once the realm of heroes and legendary figures has descended into nothing more than controlled chaos: players getting traded, end zone dances taking more significance than the play itself, franchises changing cities, stadiums selling themselves as giant billboards and the ridiculousness of free agency.

To point out how ridiculous the whole situation is, the narrator says, “The Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles where there are no lakes, the Oilers moved to Tennessee where there is no oil, the Jazz moved to Salt Lake City where they don’t allow music.”

While it is comical, it speaks to an inherent truth in the sporting world today: at times, it is utterly ridiculous. Think about it. The Tim Tebow trade. “The Decision” by LeBron James. The constant debates over whether the Kings need to move from Sacramento to a bigger market. Orlando’s announcement that Dwight Howard would be allowed to decide the fate of both the Magic general manager and the head coach at the end of the season. It is all so ridiculous.

I see people complaining on Facebook and Twitter about how they hate hearing about Tebow on “Sportscenter,” about how they don’t care where Peyton Manning wound up in free agency, about how silly “The Decision” was.

But as a journalist, I understand why these characters get so much airtime. The journalist’s job is to tell the most intriguing and relevant story. If there is no story, the journalist has to find one. That’s why we see a hovering video feed of Peyton Manning landing in Miami to talk to the Dolphins’ executives. That’s why we heard what Chris Broussard’s sources had to say about where LeBron James would end up. If you really hate it, go ahead and turn off the television.

The sad truth is this is where sports have headed. Instead of the lunch table discussing how superhuman Kevin Durant’s 50-point performance was, or how Albert Pujols put two balls into orbit last night, we are talking about LeBron’s off-handed comment about possibly making a return to Cleveland.

For me, the healthiest way to look at the whole situation is to separate the two main components of the sporting world today: entertainment and sports. I consider the final out in the World Series, the elation and heartbreak that follow great moments in sports. When Magic coach Stan van Gundy tells the press, “If they want to fire me…please somebody fire me,” that’s entertainment.

ESPN makes no apologies about what they do with the news. They are the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network. In the 1990s, the entertainment part meant they would show billiards and lumberjack competitions. Now, it means we get to hear about today’s sporting news 24 hours a day, with a clock in the right hand corner of the screen telling us how much time is left before the MLB trade deadline, or the NFL Draft, or until NBA free agency begins.

It may be troubling, but it’s not going to change how much I love sports. I’m still going to marvel when Ed Reed sacrifices life and limb for an interception, when Vince Carter jumps clear over a 7-footer for a dunk, when Alexander Ovechkin scores a goal at an impossible angle while sliding across the ice on back and when Justin Verlander makes batters look silly for two-and-a-half hours. That is why we watch sports: to get a glimpse of the superhuman in all of us.

 

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.