Out of touch?

May 22, 2008

Sports reporters, in general, and national-level sports columnists, as a rule, often complain about the challenges that accompany their job, much to the disdain of the general public.

True, it’s unbelievably difficult to cover Monday Night Football or a Saturday night NCAA primetime game — I’ve done both — but most fans don’t want to understand those challenges. Even more, they don’t want to hear journalists whine about any part of the travel, stadium issues, late-arriving coaches or uncooperative players.

But NFL reporters — and I covered the Kansas City Chiefs for about six years — and national columnists often lose touch with reality and the general public. Take the Super Bowl, for instance. Every time a Northern city hosts the Super Bowl, complaints resonate about how the NFL punishes the fans by making them sit in a cold-weather stadium to watch the league crown its champion. Of course these are the same types who praise the winter warriors that play in the blizzard elements of Green Bay, Pittsburgh or Boston in late January for a conference title.

A recent column by ESPN.com’s Gene Wojciechowski, one of the most respected sports journalists in the country, illustrates this point. He seemed irked by the league’s choice to play the 2012 Super Bowl (yes, four years away) in Indianapolis. (Read the column here http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=wojciechowski_gene&id=3406852&sportCat=nfl)

“I don’t get it. Playing in a Super Bowl is supposed to be a reward, not a reason to visit your local North Face outlet. And attending a Super Bowl as a fan is supposed to be the experience of a lifetime, a chance to break out multiple bottles of SPF 30,” he wrote.

While warm weather is wonderful, most Americans have it for at least six months. Indianapolis will open a new retractable-roof stadium this year, and I’m sure it will be closed if its below 60 degrees. The fans will survive, as will the thousands of journalists covering the game.

What Wojciechowski is really complaining about (and undoubtedly will be joined by fellow columnists by 2012), is the what his Super Bowl work week will look like. The Super Bowl is one of the easiest events to cover for a columnist– if it’s not your team. You write about the big story of the day and then a prediction column for Sunday. Those columns take between 4-6 hours of work, and in warm-weather climates you hit the links, the restaurants and the parties the rest of the day. You’re shuttled from location to location, and it’s a national reunion for sports columnists. In Indianapolis, the workload might stay the same, but there’s nowhere fun to go outside of work. No South Beach, no Bourbon Street, no golf courses. No fun for them, right?

That’s why you’ve read columns complaining about Detroit in 2006 and will read tons in 2012 whining about Indianapolis. Columnists want to protect their working vacations at all costs and damn the NFL for ruining their fun with old friends in warm weather away from the family. Complaining about the game’s location is just a mirage to shield their true aggravation.

That’s the same reason why you’ll never hear political reporters complain about a national convention, even though its relevance is moderate at best. It’s my thought that many reporters want Hillary Clinton to drop out before the Democratic Convention this summer so they can preserve their old-school political reunion with as little “real” reporting as possible.

Sports writers get defensive about their jobs because on the surface it looks fun. “You mean you get to meet the players AND the coaches?” Deep below there’s a lot of work, rough hours, tough sources and bad food, kind of like a professional iceberg. But complaining about the Super Bowl’s location is like an oil executive whining about jumping to a higher tax bracket. It’s better to keep those opinions to yourself.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.