2011

Erin Andrews and journalistic standards: A bad match

So Erin Andrews, ESPN’s sideline reporter/resident celebrity, has signed on with Reebok to endorse the company’s new shoe, the ZigTech (whatever the hell that is). On her Twitter profile photo, Andrews actually had the sneaker balanced on her arm (she changed it recently).

As noted in The Oregonian recently, while covering the Rose Bowl game between TCU and Wisconsin, Andrews reported that Texas Christian players were having problems slipping on the  turf because of new Nike kicks they were wearing. She went on to say that TCU did not have backup cleats, blah, blah, blah.

Which rightly led the newspaper to ask the following question: Was Andrews noting this because it was true, or because it would benefit Reebok?

Answer: I don’t know. If I were to guess, I’d say Andrews was just doing her job, and that the players were slipping. However, in media perception is stronger than reality. Like, much stronger. By endorsing a shoe and working for ESPN, Andrews once again puts herself in position to be questioned and, to a certain degree, ridiculed. When she initially defended her professionalism, I was sorta with her. Just because a woman is young and attractive doesn’t mean she isn’t also a fantastic reporter.

However, over the past year or so, Andrews has become a joke; an indictment of sports journalism. To appear on Dancing with the Stars; to endorse a sneaker; to do red carpet appearances—who are you? Who do you want to be? What do you want people to think of you?

There are so many women reporters out there who work hard and kick ass and want to be judged solely on their professionalism and performance. I’ve long been an enormous Michele Tafoya fan; an enormous Robin Roberts fan; an enormous Bonnie Bernstein fan.

Erin Andrews, however, I have no patience for.

Not any more.

PS: And ESPN needs to step up here. I know they love celebrity and hype and all, but, seriously, how about some standards?

The miracle worker

So it looks like I’m going to be teaching an online journalism course, in addition to my duties at Manhattanville.

Earlier today the woman from the program sent me a course description to be listed in the enrollment catalogue. This is part of what it said:

In this class, you will learn:

• How to create captivating sports stories that editors will want to buy and readers will want to read

• How to get your foot in the door at the nation’s leading sports publications

I had to laugh. I’m 38. I’ve been out of college for nearly 17 years. I still struggle with the first, and I definitely struggle with the second. This shirt is hard, no matter what an increasing number of bloggers and “experts” seem to think. Good writing—truly good writing, the type you see from the Verduccis and Posnanskis of the profession—is a beast. It takes an abnormal attention to details; a willingness to make the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th call; a ceaseless desire to find the exactly right word; on and on and on.

Can I teach the answer in six weeks?

Crap, I’m not even sure what the question is.

Just a great song

I’ve taken much abuse throughout my life for my Hall & Oates fandom.

To answer your questions:

1. Yes, I love Hall & Oates.

2. Oates is the one who had the mustache.

3. No, they weren’t lovers.

4. Yes, they’re still around.

Hall & Oates certainly have their bad songs. Maneater, I can’t stand. Private Eyes—eh, no. Overall, however, the catalogue is loaded with really excellent music. Rich Girl, Sara Smile and She’s Gone are all-time greats, and whenever I see RS lists of the 100 or 500 Greatest Songs, I’m always disappointed to see none of the above. Hey, I’m a fan. It is what it is.

Best H&O song, however, is one very few people know. It’s called Wait For Me, and it came out eons ago. I’d suggest clicking on this link and scrolling down to the song—this version, with the dude from Train, is terrific. Maybe even better than the original.

OK—good night …

Snow, NPR and Idol

We have two cars. One is a Toyota Prius, which I love. One is a Chrysler Town and Country minivan, which I loathe on 8,000 different levels.

Neither vehicle can handle the snow.

At all.

It’s actually laughable, in a pathetic sort of way. I grew up in suburban New York, raised in the snow and well aware of its power over transportation. When I was a kid we had two Dodge Darts, and every winter Dad put snow chains on all eight tires. As the cars came and went, we always made sure to have at least one of two that was reliable in snow.

We have none.

Right now, as I write this, the blizard is pretty intense. If there is, by some chance, school tomorrow, odds are we won’t be able to get there alone.

Enough babbling—off to write.

PS: Appeared on NPR today. I did the interview while my son and his little friend had a playdate. I was pretty distracted.

PPS: I’ve gotta say (and I know this will kill any lingering cool morsels), the new American Idol judges are terrific. Seriously, a huge upgrade and a badly needed refreshing of the show. JLo is fabulous, and ol’ Stevie Tyler is as good as it gets. A tad creepy with the ladies, but engaging.

PPPS: Also did a show, House of Run, about Delaware’s demolition of its men’s track and XC programs.

Why it matters

I taught my first class of the semester at Manhattanville this morning, and while standing before the students my mind drifted to the whole CNN/Twitter thing of the past 1 1/2 weeks. Specifically, I was thinking about my relatively thin skin, and why the foul comments particularly offend me, and why even the negative comments about stories sting to a certain (but lesser) degree.

The answer, I believe, is because writing—if you genuinely care about the product—is personal. If you’re someone who just writes straight news, or merely blogs regurgitations of the work of others, or half-hearts the whole thing, well, of course you wouldn’t care. But when I write for SI.com or CNN.com or even for this blog, I generally bleed it. I don’t take positions I don’t believe in. I don’t make bold statements for the mere sake of making them. I write it because it’s how I feel. It means something to me. A lot to me.

A lot of writers would share this take. Gary Smith once talked about making every word count, and I try really hard to make every word count; to focus on the buts and whats as much as the names and lengthy adjectives. It’s personal, because it’s what I love doing. So, yeah, I don’t love the insults. But I don’t view it solely as a character flaw. I view it as someone who cares.

And that’s what I have to say about that.

PS: My 4-year-old can’t get enough of the above video.

Idiot’s Ball

As much as I loathe Sarah Palin. As much as I long for her to move to Guam. As much as I disagree with everything she says …

Sarah Palin is no Michelle Bachmann.

Wait, take a look …

The best line comes around 2:30—the ol’ lightbulbs line. Ha, ha, ha, ha. Good one, Michelle!

Seriously, this is a person who is planning on running for president. I hope she does. Exposure kills fiction.

The return of Herschel Walker

As he nears his 50th birthday, Herschel Walker is talking about a possible return to the NFL.

Anyone who follows this stuff knows talk is mere talk, and Walker certainly is not going to actually take a crack at this.

That said, I sure hope he does.

As a commenter rightly posted earlier, my book on the Cowboys of the ’90s, Boys Will Be Boys, sort of paints Walker is an adequate light. The general take from other gridders was: Excellent 40 time and strength, but no shiftiness, ran straight ahead, lacked genuine football instincts. I’d agree with the take, with one major point—Walker was such an otherworldly physical marvel that his limitations were obscured. Back in the mid-80s, he belonged right there with Willie Gault and Bo Jackson as freaks of nature. Walker could do everything, and everything well.

Can a 50-year-old absorb regular NFL brutality? No way. But could Walker return kicks? I’ll say—yeah, I think he can. The guy remains in tip-top condition. Seriously, he looks exactly like he did in the late 1980s.

Anyhow, night, night …