Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Disingenuous Disgust

SAN DIEGO – This column is disingenuous, putting me alongside those I criticize.

I had three columns in my head and one about half written when the sports media disgusted me last week.

My disgust has been growing in the Southwest corner. Having some limited knowledge of human nature, I suspect the subject of my disgust is the same back home. It certainly is rampant at the national level.

No, this is not my first foray into politics. My vow not to dip my ink into that mess remains intact. But my old business of sports journalism has reached a murky depth in my opinion, and I am compelled to comment.

Bias West Coast

The seed of my disgust began as a sports fan from Tennessee in the Southwest corner. For twenty-five years, I’ve lived in a world biased to West coast sports. This blatant “homer” attitude resurrected my rooting for the Big Orange. Growing up, I was a fervent fan of Bowden Wyatt, Johnny Majors, Tommy Bronson, the Canale brothers, the single wing, quick kicks, high top shoes, orange jerseys only, and an open end Shields-Watkins Field.

I became a dedicated Commodore fan during my short lived stay at Vanderbilt and while sports reporting for Fred Russell at “The Nashville Banner.” But I rooted for the Vols and the Commodores until Doug Dickey put UT in white jerseys, low-cut cleats, and abandoned the single wing.

Vandy basketball’s John Ed Miller’s telling me about hairs on the back of his leg being pulled when he was in-bounding a ball in Knoxville drove me further away. Then at the 1969 Vanderbilt loss in Knoxville, I sat in the end zone in my Navy uniform and had Vol fans continually curse me and throw their drinks on me.

But Henry Harding sent me audio cassettes of the UT games during my Vietnam tour, and I rooted for my state’s other team as well as the Commodores.
When I came back to the Southwest corner, the Vols frequently played West Coast teams. I rooted for UT to win partially in protest of local whining about the “biased East sports media.”

A Tennessee Anomaly

I became an anomaly for a Tennessean, rooting for Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and the Southeast Conference. I railed against biased reporting and uninformed observations.

My dissatisfaction with West Coast sports reporting – Jim Murray of “The Los Angeles Times” being an exception, reminiscent of Russell at “The Banner” – burgeoned with the growth of sports talking heads who mangled facts with brutish manners.

About the same time, ESPN became a phenomenon. At the outset, they televised many sports, including Australian football, which I loved to watch.
ESPN went big time. Talking heads dominate sports television and radio, not sports events. Sports show hosts resemble playground pre-teens with gossip, opinion, and useless statistics.

I don’t know about you, but I am not really interested in who just made the first triple double somersault dunk around the left cornerback in the Rose Bowl, and I’m pretty sure it really doesn’t show some trend in the won-lost records.

I can’t complain too much because ESPN has allowed me to watch almost every Vanderbilt basketball game this season in the Southwest corner.

Over the Top

But this Tiger Woods thing is over the top. The entire nation has been bombarded not only with incessant sound bites from last week’s 15-minute speech, but also by the most hypocritical, senseless, and pointless folderol presented with sham voices of authority by golf experts, public relations consultants, and marriage counselors, not to mention any one who happens to be walking by a microphone.

I cannot presume to know enough about Tiger and Elin Woods, his finances, or his golf to twist myself into a pretzel over what happens next. For someone with his stature or notoriety, Tiger’s statement was news.

A two-paragraph story buried on the fourth sports page would have covered it adequately, but we have blown it into a tabloid nuclear blast. And I have joined the hue and cry, disingenuous at best.

My conclusion is only that every aspect of the situation with Tiger is sad.
Golf is a wonderful game but over-hyped by the golf channel and the mega-million show time of the PGA.

I remember Jimmy Smith of Pennsylvania Avenue golfing for Castle Heights on the dirt greens of the nine-hole campus course and thinking, “He’s cool and so is golf.”

I wish it were that way again.

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