Larry Fitzgerald Calls Out Sports Media In Most Respectful Way Possible
Media in general, and sports media in particular, is a clusterfuck right now. There isn't necessarily more information to report on, but there are way, way more outlets -- be they websites, blogs or Twitter users -- "reporting" it nowadays. This leads to everybody basically talking about the same thing, in slightly different formats and tones. It also leads to outlets scraping every bit of usable information out of every tiny nugget, which often means finding meaning that doesn't exist, creating controversy that isn't there and citing facts that aren't necessarily true.
This is how quotes that are meant to be innocuous blow up in athletes' faces. Josh Smith is a good recent example of that: A comment he made about how moving would be hard on his family turned into a mini-scandal when "reporters" (many of whom weren't in the room to hear him speak) took it to mean he was a greedy bastard. This is the state of sports media -- and Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals WR and all-around good guy, did a fantastic job of taking the situation apart in a Players Tribune article.
With great respect and without trashing anyone in particular, Fitzgerald highlights the problems with today's media circlejerk (while not using words like "circlejerk") and how it makes athletes more guarded and less willing to share their true feelings:
A lot of young guys who become professional athletes are now thrown into the fire when it comes to media. When I was growing up, there was a finite amount of information reported by a small number of sources. In Minnesota, if you liked to read about sports, your source for news was probably either USA Today, The Star Tribune, Sports Illustrated or The Wall Street Journal. The athletes usually knew the people writing about them, so there was a level of familiarity that’s a little more rare these days.
Today, the same amount of information exists, but now it’s shared by a million different sources, each of which looks for a unique angle on the same snippet. As a result, unsurprisingly, speculation is much more rampant than facts. “Report Cards” and “Power Rankings” are pushed out almost daily, even though they’re essentially the equivalent of empty calories for sports fans.
Even when the coverage is very fair, dealing with the media is no simple task. Imagine having a bad day at work, and then as soon as you leave the office, you get asked a bunch of difficult questions, many of them about your co-workers or your boss. To add an extra layer to it, consider that every word, action and facial expression is being recorded so that any individual sentence you say can be taken out of context to create a story. I understand as well as anybody why we’re asked these questions, and for the most part I’m happy to play the game, but it doesn’t make the task any less daunting.
But Fitzgerald, being the standup guy that he is, understands that this issue isn't the result of being willingly dickish (for the most part, anyway -- trolls are very real). It's just the nature of the business now that everything is based on getting clicks:
Of course, I understand the divide between athletes and writers is caused by a changing media landscape, not by mean-spirited people with laptops. The proliferation of online outlets has produced a lot of pressure to produce more stories with less information, which has led, in some cases, to a level of distrust.
He's absolutely spot-on, of course. This is a concept we've discussed at length on SportsGrid -- that it's more profitable to cover the gossip, and most cost-effective to simply re-blog the already-written, rather than contribute meaningfully. Hell, this post is basically just repackaging the article Fitzgerald wrote on TPT. But I chose to spin it slightly differently (although, at Fitz's suggestion, I am trying to do so positively), in order to gain eyeballs, clicks and hopefully repeat views.
Fitzgerald's overall message is one of promoting respect and positivity. Which is ironic, because the example he uses -- the current sports media landscape -- feeds off of negativity. That's human nature. We slow down for the car wrecks, not for the vistas.
Photo via Getty.
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