Sports Media Musings: Columnists Gone ‘Cray’

Is everyone alright? I only ask because sports scribes everywhere are producing work that, frankly, is wildly absurd. I know, I know: The quixotic endeavour of  journalism commentary has long been dead. I get that. And somehow, someway, Deadspin has become the voice of reason, leaving major outlets (e.g. ESPN, Fox Sports, and CBS) behind.

It started with news that ESPN was hiring Jay Mariotti as a freelancer.

I think the WorldWide Leader gets a great deal of criticism levied their way just for being ESPN. It gets old sometimes. But then Rob Parker makes race-baiting comments about RGIII, Skip Bayless continues to do Skip Bayless things (and collect a paycheck), and the list goes on and on (and on). To its credit, ESPN eliminated Parker. A good move, for sure. But then it brings in Mariotti? Confounding. It’s like giving up Burger King for Lent, but then embracing Wendys. Even on an one-off assignment, this wreaks of strangeness.

Mariotti, who has taken a sabbatical from writing, is loathed in the industry, mostly for being a jerk and writing sensationalistic (Read: crappy) columns. On a personal basis, if you’re not a fan of spousal abuse, Mariotti probably isn’t your cup tea, either. With so many other writers available (Hey! ESPN! Look over here!), why does the four-letter network bring in Mariotti for a freelance assignment? Odd choice.

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You’d never believe it, but Jason Whitlock wrote a stupid column. Yeah, this thing was actually published. I’m not saying there is — or isn’t — a homophobia problem in the NFL. But Whitlock irresponsibly conflating the Manti Te’o situation with coming out of the closet in an NFL locker room is a reach at best; an ill-fated attempt to bolster his crusade against Roger Goodell for whatever it is he’s botched most recently. (Seriously, is there a more hated commissioner? Goodell is terrible, but come on, David Stern curiously vetoed a trade involving a league-owned franchise for crying out loud! Gary Bettman nearly killed ANOTHER NHL season! And Bud Selig oversaw the steroid era!!)

A few fun excepts:

Goodell could and should free the gays.

Let me stop there for a moment.

Please do. Just stop. Oh wait — you’re going to keep writing, aren’t you? (Side note: “Free the gays”? There are so ma– Really???? … WTF!)

I am not stating an opinion on Te’o’s sexuality. I don’t have any inside or outside information on Lennay Kekua’s widower. I do, however, believe Mike Florio of NBC’s ProfootballTalk is correct in his belief that the Notre Dame linebacker’s sexuality is a topic of high interest for his prospective NFL employers.

Phewwww. Don’t worry, guys. He’s going to bring in Mike Florio: Purveyor of journalism! Thank god!

Because if Te’o is hiding in the closet, he is highly vulnerable to exploitation and extortion. There is a popular theory that the possibility of hustling money from Te’o — and not love — motivated Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the mastermind and voice behind Kekua.

It could all be a coincidence, but Te’o just happened to have a horrendous performance in the BCS Championship as the Kekua fraud was unraveling. Maybe he was distracted. Or maybe the wrong people knew his secrets.

I thought he had no inside information?

Whatever the case, difficult questions must be asked, and they should come from the commissioner’s chair. It’s Goodell’s job to protect The Shield. It’s Goodell’s job to protect the employees.

The best protection for the league and the players is the freeing of the gays.

WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE! (Side Note: I thought the “Free the gays” thing was a typo. I was wrong – ROLLIN’ WITH IT)

Let’s be honest. I think it’s reasonable to assume that 15 percent of NFL players are gay and/or bisexual.

Doing the numbers … Yes, your baseless claims seem to add up, keep going! You’re almost there!

Goodell should use this Te’o situation as a convenient excuse to enact tough measures and standards of behavior that attempt to eliminate the homophobic hostility within football locker rooms.

I can see the edict now …

Goodell: Fake Internet girlfriends can happen to you! Also, if you’re gay … We’re totally cool with it!

*************

The last shot taken before dry heaving ensued was CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel taking a hatchet to the notion that Tom Brady is a hero. BECAUSE WE NEEDED CLARIFICATION!

No reasonable person believes Brady is a ‘hero’ for taking a deal below market value as Doyel insinuates. He isn’t altruistic nor is he a philanthropist. But if you’re an absolutist, like Doyel, then it’s all or nothing. Take it away, Gregg!

Tom Brady is not heroic or noble or even unselfish for signing a contract Monday for considerably less than his market value. To be those things, he would have had to sign a contract for the NFL minimum.

And I’m kind of wondering why he didn’t.

Me too. Me too.

Being honest here.

Is it a red flag when you need to give an “honesty” disclaimer in your column? Methinks so.

Nobody in his position has ever done that, of course, but nobody — and I mean nobody — has ever had the freedom to be as altruistic as Tom Brady. His net worth is in the vicinity of $100 million, and he earns millions more in endorsements, and that’s not even what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about Gisele.

Who?

To be fair, Brady is unselfish in the sense that he’s not selfish.

So it’s either one … or the other? No gray areas. Got it.

A player’s contract is more than his salary. It’s his status symbol. That applies to almost everybody in professional sports — but it doesn’t apply to Tom Brady. He doesn’t need the biggest salary in the Patriots locker room to have the utmost respect of everyone there.

Respect > $20 million > Logic. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW, PREACCCCCCHHHH!!!!!

He’s sort of a team player, yes. He made a gesture. But if he’s going to think of his team a little bit, why not think of it a lot?

Let’s go a step further: Brady should start paying the Patriots for the right to play quarterback. THAT’S A TEAM PLAYER.

But let’s have some perspective, please.

Pretty please? Pretty, pretty please!?!

OK, for some perspective, here is Doyel’s bio on CBS Sports:

Hi. Hello. Congratulations, you found me. And I know why you’re here — it’s because of that column you just read. It angered you. So here you are, trying to decipher my motives.

Good luck.

I can’t CRACK THE CODE. Hold on, I think — yes, I figured something out — you’re just a troll. That’s all. Just like the rest of them, only with a bigger forum. You probably took an ethics class in college, and you most definitely tried joining the debate team. You play devil’s advocate hoping not that you’ll convey any greater point that no one considered, but that it will piss people off.

Hmm. And to think: It only took me reading, the words, “Being honest” as a disclaimer. LUCK MUST HAVE BEEN ON MY SIDE.

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Finally, this Deadspin Q&A with the National Sports Journalism Center on how they handled the Te’o story is incredible. Read it.

As always, thanks for reading, give me a shout on Twitter: @Hadfield__

  • Frank

    I listened to his phone call with D&C&M today. I think he came off as a whinny, tough guy wanna be. I say whinny because he said he loves Tom Brady, even going so far as saying he had a “man-crush” on him at one point, but that everyone in Boston thinks this is such a big deal and it isn’t. Watch out Boston Gregg Doyel is here to rain on your parade! Gregg thinks it’s no big deal because of Gisele. Seriously how does his wife have ANY bearing on this subject? Does anyone think Tom isn’t going to be living VERY comfortably for the rest of his life, with or without Gisele? He totally glossed over the point about the NFLPA wouldn’t allow him to play for a veteran minimum, and when confronted with the same question about his salary responded with “yeah if I have Gisele in my bed then I would work for free, so there I win.” Really? I don’t think you did. Then I say wanna be tough guy because of all the amateur fight crap. Ooh you’re 4-0. Is that supposed to be intimidating? You were brought on to defend your laughable opinion not prove how much of Borges you can be.

    I can’t believe I would agree with John Dennis on anything but he’s right it comes down to two things: 1 Did he have to do it? 2. Does it benefit the team? The answers are no and yes. This is a good thing despite what Gregg would have you think.

    • Mike

      Agreed, Frank. Gregg did himself no favors today in that interview. The more he talked, the more his entire argument seemed like it was built against the flimsiest of straw men (especially when Callahan got him to admit that he didn’t know if Tom was married to Gisele–and he wasn’t–the last time, in 2005, he took a below-market-rate deal). And on the deal itself, and the ongoing confusion of what it actually is–I heard yesterday that the signing bonus was $3 million, and I’m reading today that it’s $30 million. That $30m signing bonus, in practical terms, sure changes the basic compensation. But still, loath as I am to agree with John Dennis, as you said, Brady helped the team, at least in the short run.

  • http://twitter.com/DryHeave1 DryHeave

    Great stuff Ryan, really brought your “A” game today!….

  • http://www.jimmacleod.com JimMacLeod

    How pissed is Shank that he didn’t think of this “angle” on Brady’s contract?

    • http://twitter.com/Hadfield__ Ryan Hadfield

      LOOK, EVEN THEIR CONTRACTS ARE TOMATO CANS! AMIRITE OR AMIRITE?!?!!!

      -A crisply sunburnt Shank in Ft. Myers

  • APNDaveR

    I always assumed that “Gregg Doyel” was just a pen name used by Gregggg Easterbrook.

    In any event, I only read Hadfield these days…..

    (And I totally agree on the must-read nature of the Tommy Craggs interview with NSJC. If you don’t have time, here’s the gist: “Dear Emperor: you have no clothes. Kthxbye.”)

  • Mike

    It looks like I’ll be in the minority here, but I thought Whitlock’s column was pretty good (and I usually do). I’ll admit his writing is at the least an acquired taste, because his bombastic humor (such as being the self-appointed arbiter of race in sports) can be a little obnoxious. But he covered football for years as a reporter, so I think he does have some knowledge about closeted gays in the league, and he certainly has knowledge of how homophobic an NFL locker room is. Jason’s comments on Teo’s performance in the championship game are pure speculation, but I agree with his main point: Goodell can use his position as Commissioner as a kind of a bully pulpit to hold the NFL to broader standards in society. He certainly has the power to start changing the culture in that league, particularly by working with the players’ association.

  • http://www.bostonsportsmediawatch.com/ bsmfan

    One day, there needs to be a “lodge” or at least a panel that includes Skip Bayless, Gregg Doyle, Whitlock, Bomani Jones, Parker. All you would have to do is have them either open their mouth or keep their writing in a binder as a HOWTO on what not to do. Sadly, it seems the sports media has this gravitational pull, like the mainstream media does, that pulls it toward this vortex of suck that these guys embody.

    —-
    Here is the audio of Doyle on with D+C&M this morning:

    http://audio.weei.com/a/71549887/cbssports-com-s-gregg-doyel-mixes-it-up-with-d-c-about-the-nobility-of-tom-brady-s-new-deal.htm

    The three shred him apart, rightfully so. It’s not like this is new for Gregggggggg Doyle, but when he’s asked some intelligent questions that you should be asking yourself or at least a producer/copywriter should, he just backs down. He basically pulled a Felger, taking the extreme of what the media writes, applying it to all (fans and media alike), and writing a column about the straw man.

    • Mike

      ESPN is more honest than networks like CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and (*cough*) Fox, in that their first letter, E, once stood for “Entertainment”. I expect no journalism from them, because their real mission is to promote sports and themselves in connection. Something creative like E:60 or 30 for 30 might come along every now and then, but by and large I dismiss the network. Even now, with steroids, they participate in constant whitewashing. Derek Jeter’s broken foot last fall? Classic steroid-related injury, where an unnaturally strong muscle just snaps a bone (or tears loose like Nomar’s pelvis, or rips in half like Ray Lewis’ triceps). Any mention of the possibility of steroids from the Very Serious Journalists like Buster Olney (or John Clayton)?

  • dan

    I’m tired of the whole using sports and the nfl in particular as some barometer for this country’s social issues from race and sexuality.
    I’m tired of the social engineering that goes on with sports.
    I’m just tired.:) this is where Madeline Kahn starts singing:)

    • Brianwaterslocker

      what knockers

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