How The Media Shapes Minds: Truth vs Tabloids

By Michael Tillery

While growing up in suburban Delaware, I was a huge fan of sports. I practically knew every statistic available by either watching games on television, waking up the minute The News Journal hit the front door, or having the privilege of actually going to a professional sporting event. Julius Erving, Franco Harris and Reggie Jackson were the superstars that made me thirst for knowledge because of the way they affected their respective sports. They were my love. I used to become so angry when sports columnists would speak about Reggie’s ego, Doc being the face of basketball instead of winning a championship, or Franco running out of bounds late in his career. Did these irrelevant afterthoughts have anything to do with what happened on the field?

When are journalists going to write about something that mothers of professional athletes can be proud of? What happened to the sheer spirit of sports and the goose bumps that follow when an athlete performs in the clutch? When did sports become gossip? Damn you, Walter Winchell! I’m sure many of you are clamoring for the search box in your browser, trying to find out whom the hell Winchell was. I personally think it was he that demonized sports and anything that entertains us for that matter.

He was a news journalist and commentator in the early to mid 1900’s whose thirst for gossip ruined many politicians and entertainers. Josephine Baker, unfortunately was one. He helped to spawn the Vesceys and the Baylesses of the current sports journalism world.

It is again my humble opinion that papers can be sold without throwing a brick at an undeserving, minding his own business athlete and then having the audacity to question his obvious angry response. I have no intention to get personal with any athlete. I can be content to write about his athletic achievements and the good he does for his fellow man.

That is, if he chooses to do so. I also have no intention in shaping an impressionable reader with BS about what kind of music his favorite athlete’s mother’s sister’s God daughter’s neighbor-on his auntie’s side-listens to on her way to the local bingo night. I want the reader to visually and mentally learn about the athlete him or herself without prejudice.

How long ago did Chris Webber motion for timeout? Can you name the starting five for Carolina in that game? Why was Albert Belle’s incredible year of ’95 basically made non-existent in a year when his team made it to the World Series, eventually losing to the Braves in six? (.317, 52 doubles, 50 home runs, 126 RBI’s, .690 slugging, no MVP, in 143 games!)

Public outrage is irrelevant. Don’t hate! Why is ARod’s salary always mentioned? Didn’t he sign for the market value at the time? Be happy for yourself when you get that $3.00 an hour raise that you obviously think you deserve.

His salary has absolutely nothing to do with you watching sports. Learn to appreciate him for the gracefulness he exhibits when diving behind the bag and robbing Varitek of a game winning double, or his willingness to break up a double play with one out, down by one and a runner on third. There was a time when athletes were considered role models. Ha! What happened to raising your own kids? Just because little Bobby is wearing Barry Bonds’ throwback jersey from his Pirate days, doesn’t mean that he’ll be a 40-40 player or stay skinny for that matter.

Hypothetically speaking, why would you want your child to emulate an athlete who has a squeaky-clean image publicly, but behind closed doors is feeling up his daughter?

Why is there still this thing where Babe Ruth is considered to be the best player, or athlete, for that matter, of all time? You ask most kids today who is the best baseball player to ever play and who will they say? Ruth. How the hell can that be? His stats speak for themselves, but he played in a time when no minorities to speak of were allowed to participate.

How would history perceive Bonds if Josh Gibson (.350, almost 800 home runs in 17 Negro League seasons and the only player credited with hitting a fair ball out of the House That Ruth Built) owned the “hallowed” home-run record?

There are so many writers who say anything to shape their readers’ opinions of particular athletes. They want their readers to demoralize or characterize an athlete in a less than accurate way.

Writers have a responsibility in helping our youth garner diverse opinions regarding sports and to respectfully take accountability for said opinions whenever the need arises.

The journalist who is in it for the money, this might be too quick for your 100-meter time. The writer who wants a historical reference, break the tape first. Strive to be someone your kids will be proud of.

You have your ear to the athletic street. Have some respect for yourself! Do all of us a favor and leave the gossip for weekday afternoons.

Michael Tillery is a Maryland writer. He can be reached via email at masdalunkin@aol.com

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7 thoughts on “How The Media Shapes Minds: Truth vs Tabloids

  1. Good article, Michael. I never thought about it until you brought up – sports news and gossip seem to blur into each other as far back as I can remember. I guess if the reporters were to focus only on the games, they wouldn’t have as much to write. Besides, people in general are interested in the stuff behind the scenes, the “privileged information”, the personal life. Unfortunately, what’s reported tends to be negative.

  2. That’s where writers like me come in. I want to help change that perception.

    It gives attention to guys like T.O. instead of real stories like Warrick Dunn. We as writers have to use our gifts of creativity instead of focusing on the irrlevant drama. What happens will obviously remain to be seen.

    Thanks for the compliment Jeff.

  3. This was a great breath of fresh air, thanks Michael! Far too often writers get wrapped up in stuff like Jays manager John Gibbons getting into a scrap with his starting pitcher when that’s not what draws sports fans to games. It’s the smell of old stadiums like RFK, it’s hearing the bleachers rumble during a DC United game, it’s seeing the hometown Single A team hit a walk off home run to win the game.

  4. Writers are under the impression that they lose their edge when they write real stuff. I implore writers to have some balls and make an attempt at doing the right thing. Yes we are under the thumb of our collective editors, but if the talent is there it won’t be admonished. We have to remain objective obviously. I’m making a decent living and there is not a lot of money in journalism. I’m only one person, but we’ll see! Thanks Ryan!

  5. great article. i’m am sick and tired of all of metion of c-webbs timeout. the fab 5 did something that we will never again see in sports. to label him a choke artist is ridiculous. the fab 5 are the reason that i am a basketball fan. they did something that we will never again see in sports. we are all human and in life capabled of making a mistake at any time. sports is not life and death. it’s a game ant the way they played team ball being so young, was something they should be proud of. do people even know that he scored the last basket for mi with just minutes to go before the timeout. i remember him appearing to be very winded but he stayed in to help his team. his stats in the tounament were legedary. his game against kentucky was incredible, a team that was favored to beat mi i might add. why isn’t the big come back victory against ucla on espn classic? bottom line every game in the tournament is a big game. its win or go home so how dumb is it to put that tag on him for a 30 second blip in his life. how many teams come into the tournament and vacate early? many. are the stars on their team labled choke artist. chis was successful in college and in the nba. so thats how he should be written about. winning a championship has is difficult. it has to be the right coach,time and players. no 1 player in team sports can win you anything. so thanks mike for keeping it real.

  6. Nice comment Gina. Chris is an athlete that transcends his athletic ability. He was once one of the most feared athletes on the planet. Even after microfracture surgery, he consistently puts up 20-10-5.

    I hope the present landscape of sports journalism shifts into a more objective and positive field. Idealistic, maybe, but there’s no fault in trying.

    I will do my best. That’s all I can say. Thanks!

  7. Gina – make sure you check out the Hoops Addict Magazine that is being posted tomorrow because this article will be in the magazine!

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