7 B.S. Sports Stories for When The Media Has Nothing to Say
A lot of people complain about the 24 hour news cycle these days, where the media feels the pressure to be giving you news every second of the day, leading them to stretch the definition of "news" so far that you could wrap the continent of Australia in it. Sports is under the same pressure, what with the SportsCenter and all that, but it's even worse because sports is so specific.
You can pass off a cockatoo riding a bike on a tightrope as a news story, apparently, but you can't pass it off as a sports story, unless the cockatoo belongs to Cowboys tight end Jason Witten. This leaves sportswriters very desperate, especially during offseasons (and even during the regular football season) since there's an entire dry, terrifying week between games where there is really no relevant news to write about.
This is what they come up with when backed into that corner.
Video Game Simulations
"Why is quarterback Jay Cutler getting worse?" asked the Chicago Sun-Times (2011 Pulitzer Prize winner), a fairly important question to Chicago Bears fans, and pretty intriguing if the writer had an answer. His answer, however, was to play a round of Madden NFL 12 where he swapped Cutler with the opposing team's quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.
I wish I could have an excuse to play video games for an hour and get paid for writing an article about it. 5 Cultures That Could Have Totally Conquered The World, backed up by some Civilization, how about that? 7 Reasons Space Travel Is Actually Two-Dimensional, based on playing through Starcraft? Editors? No?
In space, you can only go up like about 100 feet.
Other sites write articles using Madden to predict the games for that week. That site and ESPN are doing it, and who knows what else. It's strange for a professional sportswriter to do something for you that you not only can do at home but is actually something designed for the mass market to enjoy at home. It's like paying someone to eat a cake for you.
So yeah, all you people that want me to write an article about deadly animals or something by telling you how I am doing in Angry Birds, you all go ahead and write in. I don't know if our servers can handle the load, but your voices must be heard.
Asking Random, Unqualified People For Their Opinions
By about Wednesday in the NFL news cycle, you're pretty much out of relevant people commenting on what happened during the games on Sunday and Monday, and if you're in the offseason of any sports, nobody relevant has got a damn thing to say, or anything to say it about.
That's why you just start asking whoever the hell you can get your hands on about whatever you can think of. One reporter asked pro football player Ricky Jean Francois to predict the future career of superstar college quarterback Andrew Luck. Jean Francois isn't a scout, or even a quarterback. He's a 300-pound guy whose job it is to be a human wall. Predictably, he said Luck would do fine until he ended up playing Jean Francois' old school (LSU), and then he would lose because LSU is the best.
Is it just me or do you want to put turntables under this tiger's paws?
But if you want a serious insider's interview on what a team's strategy should be for next week and you can't get the coaches or any of the players, or anyone that's actually part of the team organization, maybe you can ask the local radio sideline reporter from CBS affiliate 98.5 "The Sports" HUB. I'm sure people are dying to know what he thinks the team should do.
That's almost as authoritative as reporting who some blogger thinks a team should sign.
Completely Non-Sport-Related Story About A Player
Some of the most ridiculous filler stories are the ones that are only technically "sports stories" because they are about a sports player. Like an entire story about the fact that left tackle Barry Sims takes spin class with his wife. Or the fact that Plaxico Burress is going to Disney World with his family.
If you don't actually have any new news about the LA Lakers' Andrew Bynum, why not use the fact he just turned 24 as an excuse to write an article rehashing all the old news about him? NBA locked out? Well, that doesn't stop the coaches and players from buying houses. I'm sure people will be just as excited to read about how Lakers are scoring "slam dunks" in the real estate market as if they were doing it in actual games.
And I don't even know why a hockey writer would need filler stories at this time of year, but here's a pumpkin with a naked image of Canucks player Ryan Kesler carved onto the side.
It's a tasteful nudity.
Although, honestly, I would rather read about that than Mike Brown's house shopping.
Profile of an Uninteresting Player
It's possible that writers are driven to cover the non-sports stories about some players because there is absolutely nothing to say about those players as athletes. It seems like sometimes a reporter is asked to do a profile of some lesser-known player in the organization, and in the course of his interview he finds absolutely no interesting information, but he has to turn in the article anyway.
Take this article about how the Patriots' Dan Connolly is basically invisible on his team, is fine with it and is happily contributing as a cog in a machine. I think the reporter might be somewhat to blame for the dullness of the article since Connolly once accidentally returned a kick for 71 yards in magnificent real-time slow motion, his massive bulk lumbering steadily across the field with a cargo normally reserved for smaller, quicker men, before finally being brought down, like King Kong from the Empire State Building, after what felt like about five minutes. It was a record for a kick return by a lineman.
I wouldn't say he was tackled at the end so much as they finally wore down his hit points.
If you do a profile on a guy and don't mention that, I suspect you secretly want your article to be boring.
Along the same lines, here's an article about the New York Giants' Ramses Barden not playing well, and not playing poorly, but actually not really doing anything at all. Compelling reading.
Meanwhile, this reporter got a chance to talk to Raiders' center Samson Satele but apparently had no idea who the guy was and had nothing to ask him about himself, so he spent the whole time asking him about the quarterback. Aww.
Trying To Make a Controversy Out of a Molehill
One of the few legitimately exciting types of sports news that isn't about the actual games is some kind of team drama or controversy, so any time there's the possibility of one, reporters start screaming excitedly like little girls and sometimes intentionally or unintentionally try to help it along and nurture it into full-blown scandal.
For example, last week Jay Cutler was caught telling offensive coordinator Mike Martz, "Fuck you." Reporters excitedly turned to Jay Cutler for comment, who said it wasn't a big deal. They then turned to his target, Mike Martz, hoping to get some "What did he call me?" ire, but instead just got a laugh and an "It's not an issue."
It got a "hearty chuckle" out of a guy who normally looks like he is eating his lips.
Then they turned to their readers, sure that some people would be fired up, and 89 percent agreed with Cutler and Martz that it wasn't a big deal. They later found another Bears player to talk about it, who didn't think it was a big deal, and even later, went to a football analyst and former player, who, surprisingly, also didn't think it was a big deal.
In order to find someone who would say it was a big deal, they actually had to have one of their own columnists say it. That's right, if you can't find anyone who actually wants to get upset about some controversy, why not pay someone to do it?
If that seems ridiculous, remember we've spent about two full weeks talking about Jim Harbaugh shaking a guy's hand too hard.
Which of Our Players Are Pretending to Be Opposing Players in Practice
I don't even know how this is its own category of article, but it is. When things get really really slow, and all the other reporters have covered how Michael Vick is coming to play us, and what his strengths and weaknesses are, and whether we can beat him, and all the other people on his team, and how they all match up against our team, the only scraps left are, who on our team is going to pretend to be Michael Vick when we are practicing this week?
Sometimes teams use first-team players to simulate a really high-quality opponent, but that job often goes to players on the practice squad, whose only job is to imitate players from whatever team they're playing that week. So if things get really slow, you can do a whole story on just one of those guys and how funny it is that a skinny white guy tries to pretend to be a towering athletic wide receiver nicknamed Megatron.
Funnier than a skinny white guy dressing up like the Transformer Megatron?
I think the only way one of these stories would be truly interesting is if they were planning to impersonate that opposing player during the game, wearing their uniform and everything, and try to fool the other quarterback into throwing to them or something. I think that would be illegal, but the important thing is that it would make a good story.
Completely Random Speculation
Sometimes when there's nothing to talk about, the last resort is just to make things up. So, just out of nowhere, this reporter wonders, what if Dirk Nowitzki had gone to Cal? Apparently Cal recruited him heavily, but he ended up deciding on the NBA.
There's not really any amazing coincidence or what-if story there. If the coach had underestimated him, and passed him up, it could have been one of those haha, missed opportunity stories, but Cal wanted him pretty badly so there's nothing there. I guess basketball writers are just going nuts during the NBA lockout.
A prominent basketball reporter, currently.
And this writer wonders, what if the Eagles had hired Rob Ryan? He admits at the beginning this probably wasn't even a possible choice for them, given the timing, but then goes on to write the rest of the article about how they probably should have made that choice. The icing on the cake is that the Eagles demolished the Cowboys 34-7 less than two weeks later.
And probably one of the best examples of blatant speculation is this What If They Played Now? business where they not only guess how a basketball player of the past would do today, but give you his entire speculated career stats if he played in the modern NBA. I only hope they somehow got those by playing NBA 2K12.
A wicka wicka wack.
For more from Christina, check out The 5 Stupidest Ways Movies Deal With Foreign Languages and The End of Online Anonymity: Why Will You Be Freaking Out?.