Vin Scully Saved the Weekend for Sports Journalists
If there were ever two better examples illuminating how modern sports journalism has changed, they will be hard-pressed to match what took place this weekend. First, the bad: former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti was arrested in Venice, CA on a felony assault charge following a night of domestic altercations with his girlfriend. The good: about a day later, legendary broadcaster Vin Scully announced he would be returning to broadcast L.A. Dodger games for a 62nd season.
From the outset, aside from both of these events taking place in the greater-Los Angeles area, they are completely unrelated. However, they can’t help but force us to consider the personalities of the men attached to these events. Scully is widely-regarded as the “Babe Ruth of broadcasting” while Mariotti has been referred to as a “rat.” So, what conclusions can we draw here?
I’m not going to get into an “old-school” v. “new-school” argument about sports journalism because there isn’t enough space here and I’m probably not eloquent enough to explain that in this space. But what I will note is that Mariotti, like so many of his brethren, represent the twisted way sports journalism (generally) has turned into a “look at me” industry. Mariotti, like so many other beat writers and columnists of his generation, trade in press passes for seats on television programs to promote themselves. So instead of hours spent at actual games doing stuff like reporting, guys like Mariotti would rather sit in a make-up chair preparing outlandish statements that border on the asinine.
The new breed of sports journalist seems to have forgotten one of the first things you learn in j-school: writers report the story instead of making themselves a part of it, which as Ozzie Guillen would tell you, has never been a problem for Jay. Writers are supposed to put their personal biases and interests aside and tell a story. Broadcasters are supposed to paint a picture. Mariotti doesn’t do that — he’s a “sports personality” in the worst sense of the word. Why? Because becoming part of the story makes you famous and notable, and it also puts you on TV. Too many sports journalists today have learned to follow the Glenn Beck model: pick a fight with someone famous, say something ridiculous, dupe the hell out of people, then make millions on television. It’s sad.
Vin Scully isn’t the man because he’s the best at his job (he is). It’s because he’s been doing it like a pro for 62 years. He loves his job and the sport he covers. By accepting his place in the sporting universe, he’s come to carve out his own indelible space in it. Maybe if the Jay Mariottis of the world worked on promoting themselves a little less and their jobs a little more, they’d have a shot at being remembered for something more than being a loudmouth coward.
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