The Devolution of Internet-based Sports Media

Television is garbage.

My parents had been saying that for years, claiming that the Ninja Turtles had no real educational value.  I told them that was ridiculous — I learned more about ancient artists, Japanese culture, musical styles, and talking brain-things in mechanical suits because of TMNT.

Nevertheless, the slide of modern television is evident in the oft-held misnomer of MTV, which is less about music (and even less about music videos) and more about stupidity.  The Weather Channel now trots out reality shows instead of blue-screened weather forecasts backed by Muzak.  And cable news is just a litany of over-the-top talkers and pointless segments.

Sports is not beyond this, which is something that we covered back during THE DECISION!  SportsCenter has devolved into more of an entertainment show than a highlights show.  Interviews are now being conduct between quarters of basketball games.  Terrible shit.  Perhaps the catalyst for this was that anyone could get scores and whatnot off of the Internet; so SportsCenter in particular — and ESPN in general — needed something to maintain the attention on themselves.  But the gossip, “storylines” and other bullshit has made many of the programs on sports television unwatchable.

But, the Internet-based sports medium is not immunity to this slide towards gossip and other garbage.  Again, part of this has been covered here before with the fear reporters have of bloggers.  And perhaps that is why we are seeing more and more garbage come from “reputable” Internet sites.  And the site that is driving the trash-truck is Yahoo! Sports.

But it is not necessarily just gossip, as writers at Y! Sports have started taking to attacking other journalists, or being generally hypocritical.  There are numerous examples, but I will highlight just two that have occurred in recent months.

Short-term Memory

On 8 November 2012, Dan Wetzel wrote an article attacking one of my most hated things in reporting — anonymous quotes and polls that attack players.  It was a well-written piece that focused predominantly on attacks from an “anonymous” NFL general manager on Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola, as well as a “players’ poll” about the most overrated coach in the NFL.

Protecting witnesses and whistleblowers is understandable; protecting cowards is NOT.  I mean, when punter Chris Kluwe is displaying more manhood with his opinions and statements than the supposed “real men” [and, i mean that out of respect to Kluwe], then maybe it is not something that should even be published.  So, Wetzel was correct to attack this trend.  Awesome!  Way to take those to task!!

But wait!  What is this!?  Nearly a week later, Yahoo! Sports publishes an article drawing attention to “anonymous sources” criticizing backup QB Tim Tebow.  To be fair, Yahoo! did not conduct the survey or write the original, but by publishing it they became any accessory to the “crime” of publishing garbage.  Even Wetzel joined in by writing about the Tebow situation and referencing the New York Daily News article, though he did try to throw in a quick disclaimer and a link back to his “anonymous polls and comments are bad” article.

So, publishing anonymous quotes and polls are bad, but writing articles in order to draw in more reads is badass!

Kaepernick’s Tats Draw a Crowd

Colin Kaepernick is the shiz-nit!  He was a fave of mine during his days at Nevada when i though that he deserved more publicity for Heisman (when Denard Robinson was getting the same treatment for doing the same).  I am glad to see him getting a fair chance at QB, even if it did come due to an injury (and one that took the starting job from a player who was actually doing well).

And look at those tats!  Stunning!  What a beautiful man!

Well, tattoos are good for some, but not for others.  Writer David Whitley, writing for SportingNews and AOL’s Fanhouse, published a piece describing the “horrors” of a tatted-up QB — the “CEO” of the football team — ushering in a new trend that sullied that sacred image.  Drawing parallels between tattoos and prison culture, Whitley wonders about the messages it sends to have the face of a franchise carry some ink.  After all, the only QBs with excessively visible tattoos were the likes of Michael Vick and Terrelle Pryor (trying to hold back the laughter on labeling the latter one a QB) — you know, deviants!  Perfect for the “prison culture” of tattoos!

Of course, that article led to criticism of Whitley making racist insinuations about having tattoos meaning one is a criminal; that only blacks (and only black quarterbacks) have tattoos.  And, since the connection is made early on about prisons, the Great Leap Forward is that Whitley believes blacks are criminals…since criminals have tattoos.  And…wait, huh?

colin-kaepernick-16x9Whatever was trying to be argued, Yahoo! Sports quickly jumped up to be the savior of the day; to shit on another website’s work; to be the torchbearer of civil rights in sports!  Blogger — ERRRRR, columnist — Doug Farrar wrote an article about how Kaepernick’s parents were “mad as heck” and not gonna take it anymore!  Farrar goes on and on, lecturing about how Whitley is irresponsible and a joke and incoherent.

But, after reading Whitley’s article and comparing it to Farrar’s response, I wonder if the latter even took a moment to absorb what the former was writing.  I mean, Whitley’s article was certainly not the most eloquent article written, but let’s not pretend that any sports writer is publishing Shakespeare-esque prose.  Nevertheless, his point made no attempt to draw parallels between tattoos and race.  Farrar even quoted Whitley giving examples of “white” QBs with tattoos.  The only difference beyond race between Roethlisberger and Vick is that Big Ben’s tats are more hidden.  Well, that…and Big Ben has actually played in and won a couple of Super Bowls.

Could it be that the only examples of other quarterbacks with such visible tattoos are black QBs?  What other comparison could be made?  I’ve studied issues of “race” (it is obvious that Farrar has not) enough to know that there is hidden racism in subtle statements.  But I do not think this one qualifies because of the general references prison and motorcycle gangs (thinking Hell’s Angels).  You have to wonder if, vicariously, it is Farrar is making the “racist” connection by inserting his assumption into Whitley’s article.

But, the bigger picture is that Whitley’s article seems to be almost satirical in nature.  In a way, it is self-deprecating because he has inserted himself into the role of the old fogey, dreaming of the days of Johnny Unitas.  It almost reminded of one of The Simpsons episodes where Grandpa Simpson was kvetching about Joe Namath’s crazy hair compared to real man Unitas.

I took Whitley’s article as tongue-in-cheek.  It was as if he was playing off of the “horrors” of tattoos and the past stereotypes of those tats and flipping into a piece that displayed the absurdity of the arguments against tatted QBs and embracing the change.  Even if Whitley has some acute fear of tattoos, as he expressed in his article, I took his article as not seriously admonishing the tattoos but embracing it and the change in mentality.

Still, that did not stop Farrar from ripping him and Fanhouse.  Farrar’s piece came off as a potshot at a rival Internet publisher.  He even insinuated that Whitley thought that the tattooed Kaepernick was some sort of “apocalypse for the 49ers franchise”…I could never find where Whitley even came close to suggesting that.  Yeah…nice going Farrar.

In the end, I think it was a satirical piece where Whitley used his own preference against tattoos to draw out the stereotypes of tattoos and note that things are changing…for the better.  And, especially given Sporting News‘ editor Garry Howard publishing a response to the criticism, I am more inclined to side with Whitley (even if his justification is a retroactive one).

Farrar criticized Whitley for apparently not “have time for stuff like interviewing, homework, or film study,” but maybe Farrar should have taken more than five minutes to, you know, speak to Whitley and understand where he was coming from before publishing this drivel.  Yeah, working sucks.  It goes both ways.

Maybe Whitley was being racist and judgmental, maybe he wasn’t.  Farrar doesn’t know because he did not bother to find out.  Instead, he decided to attack a journalist from a competing sports site.  How judgmental!

Putting the “Yahoo!” in Yahoo! Sports…um…

There are other examples that are less controversial, including recently attacking Steve Czaban (somewhat justifiable in the criticism, but Czaban has always pushed the envelope and called it as he saw it; why kvetch now?) and Rob Parker (who was asking for it, but Yahoo! then went out of its way to delivery shots at ESPN).  But these two are tame compared to the Tebow story and the Kaepernick story.

Or, non-stories, as it should be.

Yahoo! Sports still has a great fantasy sports interface going for it.  But that their sports “reporting” has drifted into gossip and attacks on other media outlets and journalists is started to erode the site’s appeal as a reputable sports news site.

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Scumbags of the Universe: Danny Sheridan

I am going to take a page out of jubbo‘s book and go after individuals, in this case oddsmaker Danny Sheridan.

I do not personally know Danny Sheridan, nor do I want to personally know him.  In fact, I really was not sure who he was until his farcical appearance on a well-listened-to regional sports show [Paul Finebaum].  It was not until his attorney referenced Sheridan as an “oddsmaker” that I put it together.

Now, in full disclosure, I have not followed the drama that unfolded over the past couple of months concerning Sheridan and his appearances on Finebaum.  Nor do I really care what he has to say.  To be perfectly honest, I do not even listen to Finebaum on a regular basis; I happened to catch it because I was flipping between channels while picking up my son from school.  So, I do not have much to go on in terms of the full background on the story.

~~Found him…ERRR, her.~~

But the basic story works like this: oddsmaker Sheridan alleges he has sources that know the name of the go-between for the Newtons (Cecil and Cameron) — the so-called “bag man.”  Apparently, Sheridan was pressed for the name of the “bag man” on a previous appearance on the Finebaum show and the oddsmaker claimed that he would have the name within a couple of weeks [he never claimed that he would reveal the name…allegedly].

A couple of weeks elapsed and became yesterday’s [17 August] appearance on the radio program.  Now, unbeknownst to me, when I had tuned in for that brief moment, Sheridan had already been on the air for a good, solid hour!  I was thinking that the segment started to run.  Additionally unknown at the beginning of my listening was that he brought along a friend — Mobile attorney Vince Kilborn [those with knowledge of Alabama politics know Kilborn from previous work with great individuals like former governor Don Siegelman].

Anyway, the farce went on for nearly two hours, of which I caught about 40 minutes of it.  It was basically one caller after another line up to push for Sheridan to reveal his source or the name of the “bag man.”  And to be honest, they were absolutely smoking him; just straight up murdering him, but he stood by his loyalty and held firm.  A lot of that likely had to do with Kilborn being there to “protect” him.  The best that Sheridan could do is shoot off weak sarcasm.

Now, I have no issue with Sheridan standing firm and not revealing anything.  He does not owe anyone anything.  My life will not dramatically improve if he reveals the “bag man” or any other information that he purportedly knows.  Furthermore, I could not care less if he is telling the truth or not; does not affect me.

My issue with the oddsmaker is his arrogance and hypocrisy.

What was the point of going on the Paul Finebaum show if Sheridan had absolutely no intention of revealing any pertinent information?  He claimed that he could get the name of the bag man in a couple of weeks and allegedly he did just that.  So, was his only reason for going on the Finebaum show to stroke his own ego?  “Hey, look how awesome I am!”

The arrogance occurred predominantly when he constantly reminded everyone who cared — which from the looks of things is not very many people — that he did not request the appearance; he was invited to join the program.  And?  Did “no” never cross his mind?  I mean, since he had no intention of revealing the name (hence the attorney), then the entire appearance was just to run his mouth about how he knows the name of the bag man and how he has “trusted” sources and that he is dead-on when “reporting” these types of stories.  I should probably capitalize “he” considering how awesome the oddsmaker feels about himself.

Oh, but the arrogance does not stop there.  I referenced his weak attempt at sarcasm.  Sheridan’s entire demeanor during that segment reeked of arrogance, but mostly with his interaction with callers.  I will freely admit that I do not listen to Finebaum because of the callers; I am not a fan of the show’s format.  However, as I noted above, the callers lit him up like Baghdad in January 1991.  It was actually somewhat entertaining.

Flustered, the best that the oddsmaker could do was insinuate that people were using their “momma’s computer” or that the call was turning into “Jerry Springer.”  I was waiting for a “I know you are but what am I” retort!  He basically looked down on every single caller and ranted on and on about how right he was and how awesome he and his sources were.

The ultimate display of arrogance actually occurred during an exchange with Kilborn.  The Mobile attorney referred to Sheridan as an “oddsmaker,” to which Sheridan quickly “corrected” that he is not an oddsmaker, but a “sports analyst.”

Yeah, about that.  Go type in “Danny Sheridan” into a Google search and what pops up?  Well, given his recent attention, there is a variance, but what stands out is that he is an oddsmaker.  References to his “handicapping” and odds are the primary theme.  It is why Google’s “Searches related to Danny Sheridan” include “college football odds” [first] and “NFL odds” [third] among that group.  Hell, even his own Twitter account first describes him as “handicapper” [another word for “oddsmaker”] and scanning most of his Tweets displays all of his “odds.”

But Sheridan desperately wants you to believe that he is more than an oddsmaker; well, actually, he wants you to believe that he is a sports analyst and NOT an oddsmaker.  He even has a Tweet stating the following:

FYI — USA TODAY refers to me as their Sports Analyst, who analyzes/predicts sporting events. Odds makers take bets on their odds, I don’t.

Sorry, chubs; that is the definition of a bookie.   Sheridan is an oddsmaker first and foremost.

danny effin sheridanThe second issue I have with Sheridan is that he is hypocritical.  And this partially relates back to his treatment of the Finebaum callers.  He called bloggers and other commoners “cockroaches” and dismissed any opinion from casual fans.  When it came from the media, however, all he could say was that he was a proponent of the First Amendment and that he “respected” their opinion, even if he disagreed.

So, if it is from a reporter, it is First Amendment, but if it is from a blogger, it is from a cockroach.  But he was certainly called out by some of his peers (“peers” if you also consider Sheridan a reporter).  Well, that is their opinion…or as Kilborn insinuated, some in sports media are jealous.

Now, I can at least partially understand Sheridan’s critique in that he noted how some hide behind screen names.  However, that is the way of the Internet; the anonymity of the Internet allows for a lot more opinions to get out.  Do some make outrageous claims in anonymity?  Certainly.  But to brush off the opinions of bloggers and discussion board posters simply because of the anonymous nature of it seems hypocritical.  I mean, that is still  an expression of the First Amendment.  Where is the respect of opinions there?

Furthermore, he is hypocritical in that he only seems to value the opinion of people with “credibility.”  So, this is all a court of law now?  Sure you do not need to take every post on a message board as “credible.”  But there is a subtle attempt here to undermine any opinion in the “new media” world.  Also, he is attempting to weed out opinions with which he disagrees as not being “credible” — and therefore unworthy of attention — and focus more on those that are allegedly “credible.”  Not surprisingly, to the oddsmaker the only “credible” media members are those with which he maintains a friendship.

What humors me the most about this outrage from Sheridan is that the oddsmaker is getting so upset over these “cockroaches,” individuals that are supposed to be beneath him.  And yet, the criticism from his peers does not seem to bother him at all.  Seems odd that bloggers are able to get under his skin, while the “well-respected” and “credible” members of the media [i.e., the ones that matter to Sheridan] can rip him a new one and he “respects” their opinion.  One would think that Sheridan would be more offended by criticism from “credible” or “respected” members of the media rather than “cockroaches.”

And that gets to the final level of hypocrisy.  Sheridan goes on and on about how he has trusted sources with whom he has been friends with for “20 or 30 years.”  He notes how he wants to avoid lawsuits and causing individuals to lose their jobs.  And he brings up morality and how revealing the name of the “bag man” or the source would be “morally corrupt.”

And yet, whence came this information?  Sheridan assures (or attempts to assure) everyone that it was not “leaked,” but that it was simply “told” to him.  Was this told in confidence?  If it was, then why he is parading around that he has information?  “I know something you don’t know.  I know something you don’t know.”  How juvenile!

But, the hypocrisy is that how is it morally corrupt to reveal the sources, yet the sources themselves are not “morally corrupt” for spilling said info?  And how is Sheridan not also “morally corrupt” if he is parading around information that apparently must remain confidential?  Something is missing here between the oddsmaker and logic.  He defended his “friends” as not being morally corrupt, even though they divulged information that is apparently confidential.

I dig the legal aspect of Sheridan not revealing anything, so I understand that.  Again, I do not care that Sheridan did not reveal the source.  What bothered me is his arrogance, his hypocrisy, and his Cat in the Hat “look at me now” agenda.  I mean, the latter worked.  He was able to turn what is typically an accidental stop on my radio dial into a stop-what-I-am-doing moment where I actually paid attention.  Granted, I was more curious how deeper he would sink in the quicksand more than if he’d slip up and reveal the name.  We all love a good train wreck.

John Carvalho wrote a good piece detailing the entire segment from a sports media perspective, delving into the legal ramifications of it all.  But what I found most striking was his point about “trust.”

In the four minutes I was listening, a friend of Sheridan’s from Atlanta called in and tried to defend him, saying Sheridan has the trust of hundreds of people who subscribe to his service.  All I could think about is what Bernie Madoff’s clients thought about him the day before he was arrested.

That is a great comparison.  I could not draw that comparison while listening yesterday [and really wish I followed Carvalho’s listening habit yesterday], but it all seemed familiar.  Maybe there are issues with Sheridan’s credibility, especially since the oddsmaker prefers to surround himself with only “credible” people [i.e. people that agree with him].  It is why Darren Rovell tweeted:

Danny Sheridan has spent more than 25 years building his reputation. Only took 20 minutes to destroy it.

The entire thing is a farce, and Sheridan is loving every minute of it.  It is why he keeps offering to take a lie detector test, but only on someone else’s dime.  You would think that someone who is telling the truth would be willing to put his money where his mouth is and prove that he is correct.  He even said he is willing to take a truth serum.  What is this, Harry Potter!?

I’d love for Sheridan to respond to this.  I’d love for him to use our “Contact the Uncle” and respond.  But he won’t.  After all, I am only a “cockroach” hiding behind a screen name on my mom’s computer (although better than hiding behind an attorney).  Odds are he will not care about my opinion.

And odds are that Danny Sheridan is an attention whore.

Steve Czaban was not that bad, was he?

When I first started to really listen to sports talk radio in Tallahassee, we had already lost ESPN Radio.  All we had was Fox Sports Radio.

In the mornings, however, the local affiliate had some ass named Dan Sileo (syndicated from Orlando, I believe) who seemed to hate the Tampa Bay Rays.  In 2008, he claimed there was no way the Rays would finish ahead of the Yankees and bet that he would wash as many cars as the number of games the Rays finished ahead of New York.  I never know if he stood by his word as that syndication was pulled in August of ’08.

Nevertheless, I did not really listen in the mornings.  But when I started to do so (after Sileo was gone), I heard Steve Czaban.  And I hated “The Czabe.”  He always sounded like an asshole.  He seemed like the know-it-all ass who sits at football games and comments on everything.

Steve Czaban...certainly better than Stephen A. Smith

I mean, look at him!  Don’t you just want to punch him in the face!!!

But, that is what we were stuck with in Tallahassee in the mornings.  And while I usually avoided his show, I would occasionally listen.

When my son changed schools (one that was a further commute), I began listening more simply because there is nothing else worth a damn on the radio in the mornings.  And while he did bore me and aggravate me from time to time, I began to find some entertainment value in his program.  His treatment of fantasy football callers, especially those that asked too many questions, was hilarious.

And, it was because of his constant shilling of Leinenkugel’s that I finally tried the beer.  At first, I grew tired of his “Leinies” pitches.  But, I decided to give the Summer Shandy a shot (which we finally got in Tallahassee after it had ran its seasonal course elsewhere) and damn if it was not a tasty beverage!  As were the other brands of Leinenkugel’s.  So credit to Czaban as if it were not for him I would not have found a good beer (well, I like it…i do not care what you think!).

Yes, I finally came around to “The Czabe.”  He was not the best, but he was not as awful as he first appeared.

So you can imagine my surprise when I turned on the radio yesterday morning and heard…….Stephen A. Smith!?!?  What the hell!!!!!!

The replaced a condescending radio host with an obnoxious one!?  Apparently, FSR feared that Czaban’s show was beginning to sound too much like ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike (a show that I refused to listen to when we had ESPN Radio, nor will I watch the show when they air it on ESPN).  Well, that was Czaban’s response, which the original can be read here.

I listened to Stephen A. Smith for two minutes (seriously) and turned it off.  Garbage!   I’ll wait for Dan Patrick to come on.

Sports talk radio is not that great to begin with.  I like Dan Patrick because he does many interviews, is entertaining, and keeps calls short.  Jim Rome does great interviews, but I usually cut it off when he says “Let’s go to the phones…”  The only time I listen to Rome calls is when he does the annual Smackdown.

But the afternoon guy in Tallahassee goes on and on about Florida State football and basketball, which is understandable but not my interest.  And I cannot stand the Petros and Money show (mainly because of the loud and annoying Petros Papadakis).  I’d rather staple my nuts to the carpet than listen to those ass-clowns!

So this is it.  This is what I am left with…basically Dan Patrick for three hours then Jim Rome minus callers (and if i am really lazy, i do not turn the radio back on after turning it off due to a caller).

Maybe I’ll come around to Stephen A. Smith.  After all, it took some time for me to warm up to Czaban.  In fact, it took a couple of months for me to tolerate Jim Rome.

But really…was Czaban so bad that FSR replaced him with the loud, obnoxious Smith!?  I mean, as The Czabe noted, when he added 80 affiliates since he took over the morning slot with FSR.  He was obviously appealing to someone.

I guess this is why in terms of their own programming, which I do not think Patrick and Rome and directly a part of, Fox Sports Radio is garbage.  From Petros and Money to J.T. the Brick (another loud, annoying host) to even Chris Myers, it is all shit!

So good luck to the Czabe!  While I hated him at first, he did eventually convert me (and my son) into a fan.  He will be missed during the morning drive to my son’s school.