Press Coverage: Welcome Home Olympic Heroes, Scribes

Dear Quintessential American Sportswriter, ↵

↵Welcome back. It's good to have you home. We missed you the last few weeks. We know that covering the Olympics is the assignment of a lifetime – or for many of you, the assignment of every two years where you get to leave the house for a few weeks and go hang out with your sportswriter friends covering sports you'd never be caught dead watching at your local college or university. The assignment…of a lifetime. ↵

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↵It sure is good to have you back on American soil. And it sure is good to have you back talking about sports you've covered for more than a month's span every decade or so. It's not to say that the writing wasn't good – in many cases the writing was as good as the competition being covered or the gold medals being won. But after 16 days of it, I'm starting to think we've all lost a little sports perspective. I genuinely care about curling now. We had more than 50 bloggers and mainstream media members participate in our online curling tournament – that's likely more than I'll get in my NCAA pool – and I'm thinking about carving out some time to go to the local curling club for a few lessons, so I can more properly understand scoring theory. When someone sent me a message that Bill Simmons said on his show last week that he should be the Commissioner of Curling – in his long-running series of "everything in sports would be better if I was in charge" – I was taken aback by the comment. Josh Zerkle and I actually ran a curling tournament! Wait…ours was an online video game…so…nevermind. Spencer Hall of SB Nation actually went and curled. So did Steve Braband of SportsCenter and Stephen Colbert basically did every Winter Olympic sport. Let's make him the commissioner. ↵

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↵See, even those of us who were an entire political border away from the Olympics felt like we were a part of it. Gold, Silver and Bronze are just so intoxicating. But you, sportswriter, got to be there. ↵

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↵You were on the scene with your incredulity when a man died on a luge practice run. You were there to wax nostalgic when a group of NHL players defeated another group of NHL players in pool play before losing to them in the medal round. You were standing in the slush and rain, indignant about the lack of snow and blindly patriotic whenever the racers were actually able to ski, snowboard and jump on it. ↵

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↵We were the same as you. We got as excited watching the coverage as you did covering it, adding in the bonus you had of not being forced to watch NBC for two weeks (more on that in a moment). But we got to have perspective. We got to write about Tiger Woods, Danica Patrick, LaDainian Tomlinson, Kobe Bryant or pitchers and catchers while you did your best to turn the anonymous athletes of the Winter Olympics into household names. We may have lost some perspective, but nothing as glorious as this lead from Bill Plaschke after the women's ice skating final: ↵

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↵⇥From Vancouver, Canada ↵⇥

↵⇥Tears again filled the house that two days ago held so much pain. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Only this time, they were tears of amazement, of wonder, of joy. ↵⇥

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↵⇥This time, a figure skater wept gold, Korea's Kim Yuna setting a world record in both points and strength of standing ovation, spinning into history with an Olympic championship that will reverberate from Seoul to Los Angeles. ↵⇥

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↵⇥Did you see it? Could you feel it? The breeze from hundreds of Korean flags that filled the Pacific Coliseum is still whipping through these Pacific Rim streets. ↵⇥

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↵⇥If this were a football game, Kim would have won by five touchdowns. If this were a baseball game, it would have been called after five innings. ↵⇥

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↵I've been to a lot of professional baseball games in my life, and never have I seen one that was called after five innings because a team was winning by too much. That rule change would probably make fans of some teams – I'm looking at you Kansas City and Pittsburgh – weep…and don't expect that weeping to be gold. Only an Olympic champion can weep gold. ↵

↵Come on back home, Bill. Let the warmth of the Cactus League embrace you. ↵

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↵And that goes for all of you, American Olympic sportswriters (it's not just Plaschke, but once you find an example like that it's hard to find another). It was a great run. It sure was fun reading your stories, and in some cases chopping up your reporting into digestible bites for our blog reading friends to consume. But it's great to have you back where you belong, debating what teams should get into the NCAA tournament or if the Nuggets can beat the Lakers in a seven-game series or drooling over the arm length of an offensive lineman at the NFL Combine. ↵

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↵Should you have any problem reacclimating to our brand of paper money or strip-shaped bacon, it's understandable. And you're in luck, because most major markets have a hockey team you can cover, now that we expect the sport to become cool again after the enormous success of the Olympic tournament. Of course, if you want to go a little more cold turkey on the ice-and-snow events, we understand. Just know, you're always welcome at our next online curling tournament. ↵

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↵It's good to have you back. ↵

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↵A Final Note On What NBC Thinks About Us ↵
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I spent much of the last two weeks in front of NBC Olympics schedule and TV listings page, trying to figure out if there was a network on my system that was actually showing something live. It's the reason I believe curling has become so trendy…it was the only thing they'd put on live TV. And there's a lesson in that, isn't there? The only sport they put on every day is the sport that becomes a cult favorite. In other words, live access to events made them more popular. ↵

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↵Enough of that. The issue I have with NBC this time has nothing to do with curling, or live TV or the Olympics, really. And that's the problem. It has to do with Gander, Newfoundland. Actually, the people of that small town seem like wonderful folks. I just don't understand why on the second-to-last day of the Olympics, when there are events going on at the time, NBC chose to show a documentary by Tom Brokaw about this small town in Canada that had a huge impact on landing planes during 9/11. ↵

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↵It really was a wonderful documentary, NBC. Thanks for holding us hostage under the guise of Olympic coverage. Look, 9/11 was just over eight years ago, so there was plenty of time for you to run this story on Dateline. And if you want to make the case that it's appropriate to show this story as part of Olympic coverage because it was about a town in Canada, I'll point out the fact that the fastest route between Gander, Newfoundland and Vancouver, British Columbia, per Google Maps, is 6,775 kilometers and the most direct way to drive from one to the other is actually through about 13 different U.S. states. This is the equivalent of hosting the games in Atlanta and doing human-interest pieces on Pearl Harbor. ↵

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↵NBC tried this with polar bears in Manitoba too. At least Mary Carillo's stories on lumberjacks and Canadian Aborigines took place in British Columbia, so while they weren't remotely Olympic in scope, at least they were provincial in nature. ↵

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↵But an hour on Gander? They could have given us seven minutes of the story with a tease to go to CNBC or MSNBC later in the evening to watch the full documentary. You know what I'd like to take a Gander at on an Olympic Saturday afternoon: actual sports coverage. It didn't take more than two weeks to realize that NBC considers the Olympics a cultural event and not a sporting one, but that was possibly the most egregious thing NBC had done over the span of their coverage. It was a compelling story, but also a culmination of exactly how little respect NBC has for its audience. ↵

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↵Hearst Teams Up with Bleacher Report ↵
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A few non-Olympic notes, including the news that Hearst Newspapers has teamed up with Bleacher Report to share content. From Editor & Publisher: ↵

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↵⇥Hearst Newspapers is teaming up with the Bleacher Report a citizen sportswriter site to introduce Local Editions in four of Hearst’s markets: Houston, San Antonio, Texas, San Francisco and Seattle. 

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↵⇥“Bleacher Report’s publishing platform provides a powerful way to serve our readers quality, original content that complements our own coverage,” Stephen Weis, executive vice president of the Houston Chronicle and general manager of Chron.com, said in a statement. “Working with Bleacher Report, we’re able to reach out to local fans and add a variety of viewpoints on each of the day’s sports stories that matters most to our readers in their home markets.” ↵⇥

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↵The plan is to use B/R on all the local newspaper websites to boost their online coverage and provide more analysis from other voices, stating that the local editions will start using Bleacher Report "original content." Buyer beware. From a business standpoint, Bleacher Report seems to make a lot of sense, but in practice, there's something missing. Perhaps it's just a level of checks and balances that other content networks have, but to everyone I've ever spoken to, including some people who write at Bleacher Report, the network is the wild, wild west of sports blogging. And that's saying something. People put up whatever they want, and the outlandish articles get thrown to the top of Google searches like they are legitimate news and commentary. It's both a testament to the company, and incredibly scary, that a good business model and questionable content with zero accountability and very little respect in the industry can get them as far as they have. ↵

↵I'd be happy to be proven wrong by someone at Bleacher Report, but let's hope with these new content-sharing agreements comes a bit more selective promotion and a lot more checks and balances. ↵

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↵Never Use Your Own Cell Phone To Make Prank Texts ↵
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Deadspin linked to an article at the Boston Herald that Andy Massaua, a producer for WEEI in Boston, was suspended because he was texting vulgar comments to radio hosts at the station's new competitor, "Sports Hub" WBZ-FM, including personal attacks at some of the "Sports Hub" employees. ↵

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↵⇥Damon Amendolara, also known as D.A., the nighttime host on WBZ-FM, said he couldn’t even read about 80 percent of the WEEI producer’s texts on the air during his show Thursday. ↵⇥

↵⇥Amendolara said Massaua had been texting his station “constantly” for months, sending a barrage of 22 one night alone. ↵⇥

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↵The best way to keep your job in radio is to produce a show that wins in the ratings. The best way to lose your job in radio is to attack your biggest competitor and using your own cell phone so it's easily traced back to you. ↵

↵The Sports Guy's Revisionist History: 101 ↵
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Speaking of Deadspin, Tommy Craggs had an epic takedown of the Sports Guy this weekend. After Bill Simmons said in an ESPN chat that the saga of Tiger Woods is the biggest sports story in his lifetime, and that "the only thing that comes close" is when Ali returned to boxing after being exiled from the sport for dodging the draft, Craggs found just a few holes in his history lesson. After being questioned by another commenter about equating Ali's situation to Woods, Simmons replied: ↵

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↵⇥Here's the big difference though: Everyone was rooting for Ali. He never came even 10% close to facing the scrutiny, vitriol and 24/7 news cycle microscope that Tiger will face. ↵
↵Mr. Craggs, you may have the honor: ↵
↵⇥Even if this weren't coloring-book history — and it is (among other things, the year Ali refused induction, 1967, was more or less the year America began to turn against Vietnam) — it'd be a silly sentiment merely on the grounds of the preposterous comparison. Look, I know we all like to think we're living Important History as it is being written, and I know that this is the Sports Guy's world, where watching Battle of the Network Stars on YouTube counts as a sense of the past… it takes a staggering lack of sense for someone to write that Ali "never came even 10% close to facing the scrutiny" that Tiger will — as if it were Ali's good fortune to be scrutinized only by the boys running COINTELPRO and never by Skip Bayless. ↵
↵Not to be outdone was Charles P. Pierce, who filed a reply for Boston.com, which included the following salvo at the former Bostonian: ↵
↵⇥This isn't hard. This not stuff you have to have lived through. This is stuff you can find out by, you know, reading, which is said to be fundamental. Let us be kind and suggest that young Bill perhaps is unread on the subject of The Sixties, possibly because The Karate Kid was not set in that era. ↵
↵Burn! The lesson here, of course, is that no matter what you write, people are reading it, so you should probably get your facts straight before you put something out there, whether it be in a column, a blog post, a radio/TV appearance or even an online chat that focuses as much on actual sports as it does on reality television with a target demographic of teenage girls. I think we forget that sometimes. So far this thing you're reading has been about 2,400 words and I bet at least four times I've forgotten that someone I've taken a shot at, or someone who clearly knows more than me on a certain topic, is probably reading this and now thinks I'm a moron. ↵

↵That said, I think we can all agree that to say, "everyone was rooting for Ali," or to even bring up the topic when discussing the philandering of Tiger Woods, is just really, really moronic. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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