BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — Sometimes I have to wonder whatever became of sports journalism.
My reasons for starting this job were 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 changed in the past 18 years. It isn’t all fun and games like it used to be. This is what it has come to:
Lance Armstrong 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 following his fight with cancer.
Manti Te’o chose to appear 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 media to tell their stories. I guess they were expecting sympathetic ears.
Armstrong, at least, helped raise funds and awareness for cancer research. The story of Te’o — who must have suffered enough in the lopsided loss in the BCS championship to Alabama — is just plain weird. And it just won’t go away/
As if that wasn’t bad enough, here comes the latest from Danica Patrick, the NASCAR driver who is a media darling for her looks and not much else. She was the subject of an Associated Press NewsBreak on Friday, which is usually meant for major news.
Of course, that isn’t always the case. I remember once 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 last week that Patrick, who just began divorce proceedings with her husband of seven years in November, announced she is dating Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 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 worse. The AP followed with a 21-inch story about Patrick dating Stenhouse. That was followed by 16 inches of varying reactions to their relationship.
Neither story was printed in The Bluefield Daily Telegraph. Blame me, 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.
Can you imagine Dale Earnhardt being asked to comment? 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 has turned into “Entertainment Tonight," and they've had to 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. I sat down with him in his trailer — which is like a moving house — and started asking questions.
He quickly figured out something about me: “You don’t watch NASCAR, do you?”
Oops. I had to admit 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 embarrassing, but I learned a hard lesson.
Well, McMurray certainly didn’t care about this story either. AP quoted him 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.
” Things will only get worse this week. It's 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.
By the time the game finally arrives, you'll 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 who is dating whom.
Brian Woodson is sports editor for the Daily Telegraph. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org