Wednesday, April 30, 2008

HBO’s Costas Now: Sports Media Thoughts


Last night at 10pm on HBO, Bob Costas hosted a 90 minute live show in front of a town hall audience, centering on sports and the media. If you missed the show, it will re-air frequently, including tomorrow (Thursday). It’s certainly worth watching (the best show on TV in a while). The show was split into five segments, featuring a 5 minute pre-taped video and a 10 minute discussion with 3 panelists for each topic. Let’s recap.

Segment #1: Sports Radio, panelists- Chris “Mad Dog” Russo (WFAN), Mitch Albom, Michael Strahan
The first topic looked at the negativity that has recently arisen with the growing media outlet of sports talk radio. Recently, sports talk hosts have become more known for shouting for coaches to be fired and players to be traded than anything else. The HBO piece discussed how sports talk radio can “beat a dead horse” and often says controversial things simply to drive up ratings. I thought that a good point was made in the pre-taped video on this topic, stating that in New York, the Super Bowl victory by the Giants are a 9 on a 10 point scale. Yet, the collapse by the Mets last September scored a 10. People that listen to sports radio have become angrier, with criticism and analysis happening on every game, every inning, and every play. I thought that the highlight of this segment was the argument between Russo and Strahan. The Giants defensive end lambasted Russo for discussions that took place on his show, namely Russo questioning the validity of Strahan’s record-breaking sack on Brett Favre and his recent decision to holdout from training camp. Strahan responded rapidly, telling Russo that “the last time you had a uniform on was when your mom took you trick or treating.” The primary debate centered on the lack of journalistic standards or qualifications frequently seen in sports radio. For instance, contests for fans to appear on air occur often. Moreover, if you are on the air and don’t have an opinion or take on every single issue, the assumption made is that you are afraid or scared to talk about the subject. Is that fair?

Segment #2: Internet/Blogging, panelists- Will Leitch (Deadspin.com), Buzz Bissinger, Braylon Edwards
Online blogs and websites can be an information overload, providing instant scores and constant updates. In addition, anyone can post anything on blogs, somewhat blurring the lines between commentary and insult. On the HBO show, the most talked about segment of the show will be the Bissinger-Leitch argument. Let’s just say that Bissinger, the author of “Friday Night Lights” is not the biggest fan of blogs. Bissinger called Leitch “full of sh--” and “dedicated to cruelty and dishonesty.” Bissinger also stated that blogs “piss the sh--out of me” and aid in the “dumbing down of our own society.” Well, that’s one opinion. By the way, Braylon Edwards added nothing to this segment. Shouldn’t he be at Browns mini-camp or something? Anyway, while I agree with the sentiment of Costas that the tone, mean spiritedness, and poor quality of some blogs is a problem, blogs are a different voice that need to be somewhat serious to gain increased readership. In addition, blogs add a sense of humor to negative sports stories, along with speed that makes reading the newspaper the next morning useless and act as a distraction from the duties of a day of work. Also, aren’t blogs just somebody’s opinion? Why do the words of someone on TV or radio have more meaning than someone else’s, like a blogger living in their mom’s basement? While opinion may be cheap, when compared with research, I have as a good of a chance, if not better, of picking the winner of the Sixers-Pistons Game 6 (Sixers!) on this blog than Skip Bayless does on ESPN’s Cold Pizza… I mean 2nd take, no First Take.

***Later tonight, I will post a recap of the final 3 segments of the show, focusing on sports and TV, the relationship between the media and athletes, and the always controversial topic of sports and the issue of race.

13 comments:

Stu said...

Many people bash blogs as being unreliable, saying that they don't check sources or confirm stories before breaking them. Let's take a look at ESPN: Earlier this year Kirk Herbstreit announced on college gameday that Les Miles would be the new Michigan coach...that sure wasn't right. Earlier today, ESPN reported that Mike D'Antoni had been fired, I just flipped ESPN back on and now their breaking news is that he hasn't been fired...

Andrew said...

The irony of your observation, stu, is that the MSM know that blogs move very quickly, so they feel compelled to try to match that pace. Of course, the rate at which they get the stories wrong is increasing and is, I would argue, similar to the hit rate of the internet fan bases.

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