Sports, gossip and TMZ

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Here at jeffpearlman.com, where dreams come true and bribes are accepted, I like having up-and-comers speak their mind. Hence, Yaron Weitzman—a junior at NYU, an aspiring journalist and the pride of New Rochelle—has been contributing his weekly thoughts

Today’s post: Sports and gossip …

Earlier this week sportsbybrooks.com reported that TMZ.com is planning on launching a TMZsports website in the next couple of months. According to sportsbybrooks.com, TMZsports.com will be a home for athlete gossip and dirt, the same way TMZ.com is for celebrities.

While websites like Deadspin and the The Big Lead have already been involved in the business of sports gossip for some time now, TMZ’s decision to launch a TMZsports.com will officially change the way sports are covered and consumed.

In the past, the public was never interested in the personal lives and dirt of athletes. Michael Jordan was paying mistresses to keep quiet long before Tiger Woods was. Michael Irvin was doing drugs at parties before Michael Phelps had ever grabbed a bong. Yet you never saw Jordan or Irvin on the front page of US Weekly. And maybe more important, you never saw these stories on ESPN or in the local sports columns. Nobody cared.

We all like to think that the job of the media is to play the role of traditional journalists—to cover life in an honorable manner and inform the public. But in today’s world that just is not the case. Be it in politics or sports, the media’s one goal is to attract as many viewers, readers and clicks as possible. And while I’m sure that many news outlets would rather not focus on the sex life of Tiger Woods, they are faced with no choice. The public craves these stories, and if ESPN doesn’t talk about Tiger Woods, its viewers will just flock to Deadspin and TMZsports.com instead.

This is why TMZsports.com is going to have a huge influence on how sports are covered. Major news outlets like ESPN are going to have to decide whether they want to compete with TMZsports.com on the sports gossip front, and perhaps more important, decide whether they are OK with using TMZsports.com as a source. Are we going to see PTI and Around the Horn lead with a new TMZsports.com gossip story every week? Is Rick Reilly going to be given a weekly spot on SportsCenter to play Dr. Phil and give “troubled” athletes advice? These are the kinds of decisions ESPN will be forced to make.

There is no doubt in my mind that TMZsports.com is going to be a huge hit.  People (myself included) love hearing any celebrity sex gossip; something that I am sure TMZsports will have no trouble finding. Tiger Woods was our first test, and we all failed with flying colors.  Sports fans and the media couldn’t get enough of the story.  We’re hooked. We’re junkies.

Sports coverage, and how we view out athletes will never be the same. And we have no one but ourselves to blame.

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