On ESPN radio and television simulcast show, Mike and Mike in the Morning, baseball guy Buster Olney, sitting in for Mike Golic, called Kobe Bryant, “the biggest baby in sports.” Further, he implied that Bryant is a cancer with the rhetorical question: “Is Kobe Bryant a cancer?”
Olney’s question comes on the heels of word from Bryant’s camp (whatever that means) that regardless of whether or not the Lakers trade for Kevin Garnett, Bryant wants away from the Lakers. “If you’re the GM of the Bulls, do you want to invite all that [referring to Bryant’s trade demands] into your team,” Olney asked.
That Olney will omit truths or lie to make a point makes him part an alarming general trend in the sports reporter ranks. Remember, Olney is the reporter who outright lied by calling Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams’ Barry Bonds indictment of a book, Game of Shadows “Pulitzer prize-nominated” on ESPN News when the veracity of the authors’ claims were challenged. It escaped and apparently escapes Olney that Game of Shadows reads more like an extension of a National Enquirer story than a book of proofs that Bonds used some combination of performance-enhancing drugs to aid him in blasting home runs and maintaining his high level of performance late into his thirties.
Despite the fact that Mike Greenberg explained to Olney why Bryant is upset, it also escapes Olney’s reporter radar that it was the Lakers who threw Bryant under the bus, not the other way around. For what feels like the thousandth time here, readers again must be reminded that “someone” in the Lakers organization told the press that it was Bryant who demanded that Shaquille O’Neal be traded and gave the “him or me” demand to Lakers owner Jerry Buss, forcing Buss to part with O’Neal. Bryant remained silent about the bad press for three years until he recently learned of this basic breach of faith by someone with enough leverage with the sports media to make a story like have three-year legs.
It escapes reporters like Olney that the biggest babies in sports are actually are Roger Clemons and Brett Favre. That both have had unparalleled careers is unquestioned. However, Clemons’ made ridiculous financial demands for his waning services. What other athlete, at age 45, has ever demanded the money of baseball teams that Clemons has? What other athlete has demanded that he travel with his team if he feels like it other than Clemons? That the New York Yankees met the aged pitcher’s demands speaks much more to the desperate nature of George Steinbrenner than it does the reality of Clemons’ present abilities.
Favre, like Clemons has held the Green Bay Packers hostage over the past two years. Favre still grumbles that Green Bay management has failed to do enough to accommodate his wishes and add players that Favre feels provides him the best chance to go out a winner rather than allow Green Bay management do what is best for the future for the franchise. Yes, Favre can still play. But he admits his ankles make him feel like he is “walking on glass.” His arm strength has diminished just enough so that he is now unable to overcome bad decisions through the speed of a pass. The result is that Favre much closer to being a liability than he is a Super Bowl quarterback. Yet Favre has whined and threatened his way into extending and ending his career with the Packers.
Favre hasn’t taken a pay cut so Green Bay might acquire a high-quality free agent veteran wide receiver (remember Randy Moss?). Favre openly dismissed the notion that he act as a mentor to backup Aaron Rogers, though Rogers is the future quarterback of the Packers. From these acts, it is clear that Favre has only his own interests in mind, not Green Bay’s, though the Packers, in an almost unprecedented act for a football team, have acquiesced to the aged QB’s every demand.
So, while Olney’s utterings are great for talk radio and for audiences who trust that he is an authority beyond reproach, they act to poison relationships between athlete and reporter and athlete and fans. Reporters like Olney act impervious to this fact. Yet, when challenged by athletes, they lash out even more at athletes, even stooping to ad hominem attacks. When challenged by fans and independent journalists they become defensive and dismissive, trotting out tired insults like, what do they know they’re just beer-swilling fans and, those bloggers are just fat, white guys who don’t have lives and still live in their parent’s basements.
It appears for all the world that what reporters like Olney depend on is that, despite their condescension toward all people not officially of their profession, the overwhelming whiteness of the fans and the bloggers allows them a barrier against the more insidious charge of using racially-charged speech to force their opinions on the public.
Unfortunately the majority of black and minority reporters, like Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press, Terrence Moore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Tony Mejia of CBS Sportsline seem to be largely in lock step with their white compatriots. Buoyed by this fact, white reporters turn to those black and minority journalists – and those who agree with them – who have an alternative perception of today’s verbiage and say, we’re not racist, we’re not using racially-charged language, these guys think just like us.”
What is curious to me is that for these allegedly college-educated 30 and early 40-something reporters, postmodern thought ruled their campuses. The postmodern method requires the professional to, before engaging in an act within their profession, to always ruminate on and lay out their biases before performing a scientific study, or in the case of journalists, before commenting on a sports or sports-related event. This act allows for a more honest outcome to the scientific report or comments by journalists.
It is telling that so many journalists, as soon as they are provided the opportunity, turn back to their biases and swear they are real in an effort to sway to conform to public opinion. This is why journalists like Ralph Wiley, Dan Jenkins, and David Halberstam are sorely missed by the sporting public. They were progenitors of postmodern thought in journalism. They never hid behind their biases, they attempted to conquer them. Sadly, it while the vast majority of sports journalists pay mouth credit to these men, their actions say they could not be happier that they are gone.
Michael (“mizzo”) Tillery noted yesterday that that Adam Jones, Tank Johnson, and Barry Bonds recently seem to daily lead off Sportscenter and newscasts. Actually, mizzo’s statement isn’t quite true because the same was true for FOX Sports news broadcasts.
And because he forgot to add Kobe Bryant to his list.