Is “Rooting For The Story” The Only Way To Go?

It has been repeated since the days of “No Cheering in the Press Box” – sports reporters are not to stoop to the fans level and actually root for the team that they cover. Instead, they must remain above the fray, objective, rooting for the story. 

Michael Silverman repeated this belief in his Herald Sunday baseball notes column:

In discussing how the Red Sox clubhouse is not as interesting without Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, Sliverman says:

If they are doing their job properly, the press corps always root for the best story, not the particular franchise or players they chronicle.

Do you believe this to be true? Or is a winning team the best story, in which case the causes of the reporter and the fan would be the same and it would be acceptable for the reporters to root for victory for the franchise they cover? 

What are your thoughts on Silverman’s statement? Is the press only doing its job properly if they are rooting for the best story? Is it entirely inappropriate for a member of the press to also be a fan of the team that he is covering?

  • http://www.sportsfan4.com Josh

    I disagree with Silverman on this one. How excited can you get when your hometown sportscaster sounds so unbiased and bland that you can’t tell when your team is doing well. When I listen to Don Orsillo and the Rem-Dawg I get excited when Papi sends a shot over the monster. Not only because Ortiz just shot a bomb, but because Jerry Remy gets excited with us.

    Compare Jerry Remy on NESN screaming that the Red Sox just took the lead on a ground rule double to that of YES Network announcers Michael Kay and John Sterling. Sterling may have been made famous for letting you know that “Theeeeeeeee Yankees’ win”, but much to my admiration we haven’t heard those words in years.

    Now just think of watching your beloved sports teams being covered by someone who seems to have no emotional connection to that team, similar to Harry Doyle in “Major League” before the Indians made their run at the climax of the movie; solemn and sad.

    The stories will always be there to cover. Finding that you and the announcers share the same love of the game and for your team will undoubtedly keep you tuned in for the games and bring a deeper connection to them. It shows that it’s more than a job for them, it shows that they too have emotions and heart just like we do. It brings more to the game for everyone when the announcer is a fan of the team he covers and not just an employee. That’s why we love Don and the Rem-Dawg here in Boston!

  • Nopointe

    ‘No cheering in the press box’ is a lame rule conconcted by sports reporters to make their jobs seem more important. They’re detacthed so they can be objective!

    It’s how all the important professions work – surgeons aren’t happy when their patients pull through. Teachers and school administrators aren’t happy when their students graduat. Lawyers aren’t happy when their clients win a case. Firefighters could care less whether a building burns down. They’re all objective that way.

  • Char

    It’s impossible to cover a team for any amount of time and not feel something about them. Unless they’re a group of despicable human beings (or the reporter is a despicable human being), of course you’re going to want the team you cover to do well.

  • naop

    Les gens heureux n’ont pas d’histoire.

    Happy people don’t make history, and happy players make a beat reporter’s (and/or radio host’s) job too difficult.

    Silverman’s quote exposes the backward thinking of the local sports media because for most rational people the “best story” is when the local team wins a championship or when a local player does something extraordinary. Since Silerman says reporters “root for the best story”, then this is what they should be rooting for. Instead they complain about how boring it is when the local teams are on top. Where’s the controversy? Where’s the angst? Where’s the vitriol? Where’s the easy story?

    “Les gens heureux n’ont pas d’histoire.”

    Happy people don’t make history, and happy players make a beat reporter’s (and/or radio host’s) job too difficult.

    • naop

      The quote was so nice I sued it twice.

      • naop

        “used” – Bwahahahahaha

        It’s true Craig it really is.

  • jon

    This tack is disappointing. Joe Pos had a pretty killer blog/extended ramble the other day on the state of sports press, and he touched on this a bit. What makes me the most sad is this whole Watergate concept of covering sports. To a degree, we all benefit (re: steroids [finally]), but in truth, the day-to-day inside the Sox locker room is just not the same as the day-to-day in the Oval Office. I understand that columnists are separate from beat guys (and I really do just want news from them). There needs to be a happy medium between outright fan-style rooting (e.g. “Yankees Suck!”) and, well, Tony Mazz’ “objectivity in ridiculing his paying customers for fandom.

  • MDA

    How do you “root for a story?” It seems like only a small step to creating one where there isn’t one in the first place.

  • Michael Gee

    As a reporter or columnist, you have to be prepared for the team you cover to either win or lose. Rooting for a story is a clumsy although time-honored expression of the hope either outcome will be of interest to readers-even the one that makes them unhappy.
    Judging from public reaction to some of the Boston sports catastrophes I covered,like the 2003 ALCS, it often is.
    I have covered teams I rooted for as a kid and still do root for, like the Phillies and Eagles, in big games. As long as your readers are made aware of the sentiment, the columnist can be fair to both sides without difficulty. My personal feelings did not make Joe Carter’s homer in Game Six of the 1993 World Series any less dramatic or fun to write about.
    The 2003 ALCS was a great story. The 2004 ALCS was an even better story, whether you worked for a paper in New York or Boston. The fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of the Lack of Good and Evil does not lessen enjoyment of sports, at least not my enjoyment.
    Fans only SAY they want more rooterish sportswriting. If Boston fans spent a football season living in an SEC college town, their perspective on what they want from sports journalists would be very different.

    • Bruce

      I don’t think I want more “rooterish sportswriting” Michael. I just get a little tired of the constant references to being objective, as if its a higher calling, or something. It also seems to me that some of the writers in town want to show so badly that they aren’t rooting for the local team that they actually come off as rooting against them, which isn’t objective, either.

  • RedSeat

    If you’re a reporter, rooting for the story is really just hoping that circumstances make your job easier. In truth, I have no problem with someone feeling that way. And for the record, I have no problem with a reporter rooting for or against a team either. I don’t care what they’re rooting for, because when I read their work, I shouldn’t know what they’re rooting for. I’m not reading the paper to learn about Michael Silverman and his buddies and how they reacted to the game. I’m reading to learn about the game, the players, etc.
    I don’t care what happens in the pressbox and I don’t care what he thinks should or shouldn’t happen in the pressbox. This tired point is just another excuse for these writers to make themselves part of the story.

  • Lance

    Unfortunately controversy sells. For the lazy writer having turmoil is a blessing – it keeps them from having to cover the 3rd string tight-end or QB who might have a fascinating story to tell. Or having to actually research an aspect about the team that affects its ability to won.

    The guys like CHB, Mazz and Borgey clearly don’t like to expend any more effort than necessary to hit their word quota so they pray for controversy.

    Good writers like Reiss/Gaspar cover what’s there, easy or hard. But you know Reiss admires and understands BB and for his audience that’s great because they have the ability to explain decisions that may not appear reasonable on the surface. It’s clearly a better way for the audience but harder for the writer.

  • Angry Old Bastard

    To tell you the truth I don’t care if they root for the story or root for the team….I just DON’T want them to MAKE UP STORIES (John Tomase) or constantly play the contrarian to make IT SEEM LIKE THEY HAVE A STORY (Felger)…..Then you have the guys who THINK THEY ARE THE STORY (Shank,Borges)

  • Michael Gee

    Bruce, to me, objectivity only means you’re aware of both sides of the story-namely, the cosmic fact that for every fan who’s happy after a game, there’s one that’s sad.
    If sportswriters seem to prefer writing about losing (they don’t), it can be because as that great sportswriter Leo Tolstoy observed, “Happy teams are all alike. Unhappy teams are each unhappy in their own way.”
    Does the need for self-promotion sometimes color media reports on sports? Sadly, yes and it’s getting worse due to economic pressures. THAT to me is the worst aspect of the business these days.

  • Char

    It’s all too true that when a writer says he’s rooting for “the best story,” it too often means the “easiest” story. If Pedro Martinez is making outrageous comments or Manny Ramirez is acting the fool, that’s easy. If you have to dig for, as Lance says, the fascinating story of the third-string tight end, that can be difficult. But as a fan, that’s often the kind of story that stays with me.

    Easier to snark about Manny.

  • JT

    Reiss, cited almost universally as the top Pats guy in town, emobdies what I like in a reporter. Fact based reporting strung together with analysis. Seldom judgemental either way. A throwback to when reporters were just that and not mini media moguls. Most TV/Radio stuff is primarily entertainment -and while I willingly consume in bunches, I dont hold that to the same standards.

  • mike b

    Silverman’s repeating what others before him have said. It sounds good, but it’s a load of hooey. Else, we wouldn’t see columnists and reporters — reporters! — getting so angry about everything. Try reading a Shaughnessy column at any point in the past 10 years and find where he demonstrates any sense of proportion or balance. It’s a series of propaganda and out-and-out attacks. Is Curt Schilling really the devil incarnate? All he did was pitch his brains out. Does any of the rest of it matter?

    Granted, the CHB is the worst of the group, of course, but most of the rest aren’t far behind.

    Come on guys, this is sports. It’s not real life. Give it — and us — a break.

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