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 firstname.lastname@example.org