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Sports Calendar's Black Hole Gives Us Time To Reflect On Sportswriters

Jan 22, 2013
Originally published on January 23, 2013 8:13 am

Sports fans are jealous of sportswriters, because it's a dream job where you get to watch games free, which is, above all, what sports fans want.

Once upon a time this was true. The sportswriters watched games, keeping score, me. . .tic. . . u. . . lous. . . ly, and then wrote it all up, so that the poor devils who had real jobs could read about the games.

Well, that's the way it was.

But today there are no news cycles. News is like the Earth going around the sun, cycling constantly. As a consequence, sportswriters are required to update and blog and react to everything.

Press box visitors are astonished to see that sportswriters, of all people, do not have time to watch the game, because they have to forever file something or other for the endless cycle. So, now it is the sports fans at home with their gargantuan HDTVs who are the privileged ones watching the games, while sportswriters are the ones not able to.

Now, that's a fine how-do-you-do, isn't it?

To save themselves from extinction, ace sportswriters have become specialized. It used to be that the star newspaper columnists were generalists, churning out homely anecdotes about humble heroes, but now sportswriters are experts in specific sports.

The champion model is Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who was just voted Sportswriter of the Year. He is amazing. Every NFL week, he writes a Web column, Monday Morning Quarterback, that runs for, literally, thousands of words. You can't stop him. Imagine Scheherazade, with statistics.

King critiques not only all the stars of all the games but also arcane things like offensive linemen and special teams coaches. With authority. It would be like each and every Paul Krugman economics column also including deep inside skinny on the Department of Agriculture and the National Institutes of Health.

So, in the mold of the celebrity Mr. King, do other specialist sportswriters analyze; but, you see, this is the most trying time of the year, because there is no game this week, so we have this interminable countdown to the Super Bowl, and each day is worse for sportswriters because there is nothing new to analyze.

And this year everything besides the Super Bowl is also so depressing. A smarmy Lance Armstrong comes out of the woodwork. The magnificent Stan — the Man and the gentleman — Musial dies. And that gloriously original genius, Earl Weaver. So too Gorgeous Gussy Moran, who, at a time when we still could be shocked in sports, wore the most famous athletic underpants ever.

Plus, there is going to be a movie about Joe Paterno, starring Al Pacino. Please, if there is one thing we don't need: a Joe Paterno movie.

So fans, be kind. I've dubbed this "be sympathetic to sportswriters week," the black hole in our sports calendar.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

From the trials of Korean basketball broadcasters, we turn now to commentator Frank Deford, who asks you to also consider the plight of the modern sportswriter.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Sports fans are jealous of sportswriters, because it's a dream job where you get paid to watch games - which is, above all, what sports fans want. Once upon a time this was true. The sportswriters watched games, keeping score, meticulously, and then wrote it all up, so that the poor devils who had real jobs could read about the games.

Well, that's the way it was. But today there are no news cycles. News is like the Earth going around the sun, cycling constantly. As a consequence, sportswriters are required to update and blog and react to everything.

Press box visitors are astonished to see that sportswriters, of all people, do not have time to watch the game because they have to forever file something or other for the endless cycle. So, now it is the sports fans at home with their gargantuan HD TVs who are the privileged ones watching the games, while sportswriters are the ones not able to.

Now, that's a fine how-do-you-do, isn't it?

To save themselves from extinction, ace sportswriters have become specialized. It used to be that the star newspaper columnists were generalists, churning out homely anecdotes about humble heroes. But now sportswriters are experts in specific sports.

The champion model is Peter King of Sports Illustrated, who was just voted Sportswriter of the Year. He is amazing. Every NFL week, he writes an Internet column, Monday Morning Quarterback, that runs for, literally, thousands of words. You can't stop him. Imagine Scheherazade, with statistics.

Peter King not only critiques all the stars of all the games, but also arcane things like offensive linemen and special teams' coaches - with authority. It would as if each and every Paul Krugman economics column also included deep inside skinny on the Department of Agriculture or the National Institutes of Health.

So, in the mold of the celebrity Mr. King, do other specialist sportswriters analyze. But you see, this is the most trying time of the year because there is no game this week. So we have this interminable countdown to the Super Bowl, and each day is worse for sportswriters because there is nothing new to analyze.

And this year everything besides the Super Bowl is also so depressing. A smarmy Lance Armstrong comes out of the woodwork. The magnificent Stan "The Man" and the gentle man, Stan Musial dies. And that gloriously original genius, Earl Weaver. So too Gorgeous Gussie Moran, who, at a time when we still could be shocked in sports, wore the most famous athletic underpants ever. Plus, there is going to be a movie about Joe Paterno, starring Al Pacino. Please, if there is one thing we don't need: a Joe Paterno movie.

So fans, be kind. I've dubbed this Be Sympathetic to Sportswriters Week, the black hole on our sports calendar.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: Sportswriter Frank Deford joins us each Wednesday.

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.