Listeria: The Ten Levels of Avoiding Sports Media
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 19, 2009
One of the weird functions of working at night means that the amount of sports news I watch is vastly disproportional to the amount of actual sports I watch, since I’m away for when all the events actually happen and can only see what I deem important enough to tape and watch when I get home at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. But home all day in the afternoon, I invariably end up watching an unhealthy amount of after-the-fact sports news coverage, just because it’s often the only thing on that’s at all worth watching (at least when SOAP and A&E are cycling through re-runs of The O.C. and The Sopranos that I’ve already re-watched recently). Naturally, in the eight hours between the start of First Take and the end of Pardon the Interruption, things can get a little bit repetitive.
All I can hope for during this time period is that certain topics don’t happen to pop up. I can handle endless replays of the same game highlights, or different commentators’ lame jokes about the same blooper reels, but there are certain news stories that have recurred so often over the last year or two, and have become so mundane or asinine over that time, that when they happen, it can force me to actually make the effort to find something better on TV, or turn the TV off altogether (well, usually nothing that extreme, but you know). The mere sight of these buzzwords in headlines fills me with dread and positively ruins my Wednesday afternoon. If you’ve read this far, you can probably already guess most of ’em off the top of your head. But just in case…
10. Ozzie Guillen releases an expletive-filled rant about a player/opponent/media figure. Guillen is still loveable enough that these instances can be endearing if spaced out properly enough and saved for the right occasions, but it’s a privilege that the Wizard of Chi-Town abuses a little too often. By the time he was selling Javy Vazquez down the river last season in the middle of a division race with the Twins (and if it was a motivational tactic, it didn’t even come close to working), I’d had enough. Now I’ll only keep him on the tube if it’s happy talk.
Evasion Level: Nothing rash, but keep the remote handy just in case.
9. A teammate or coach snipes at David Beckham. This would perhaps be more tolerable if I was ever given sufficient explanation as to why this guy was supposed to be such a big deal to begin with, outside of the Spice Girl trophy wife and the movie. Don’t even the Brits think he’s kind of overrated? How are we supposed to actually start caring about United States soccer when the great majority of the sport’s news stories are still centered around this gigantic signing bust in some way? We get it, he kinda sucks and kinda doesn’t care. Let’s move on.
Evasion Level: Stories are usually kept brief enough to remain palatable, but proceed with caution if they begin to repeat.
8. Albert Pujols Does Something Good. Sometime earlier this year, everyone in the mainstream sports media made the conspicuous and unanimous decision that Pujols was the best player in baseball. Not that it wasn’t true, necessarily, but I seem to remember Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez previously getting consideration for the honors, before their names got tracked through the mud a little earlier this year (more on that later). Now, whenever Pujols does something good, SportsCenter anchors will react with a near-religious rapture, as if every grand slam or clutch extra-inning hit was a sign of the second coming–as if the entire sport’s redemption hung in the balance of Pujols’s consistently-proven greatness. He’s good, guys, but he’s not quite that good, and what’s more, he’s kind of a boring dude. Plus, if this is what it’s like now, I can only imagine what’s going to happen once he gets to the ’09 post-season.
Evasion Level: Watch the game highlights once, skip any further mention.
7. Tiger Woods Loses at a Major. Luckily can only happen so many teams a year, but when it does happen, we’re treated to the same boring debates about whether Tiger has fully recovered from his surgery or not, whether he lost the championship or the winner won it, whether Tiger’s best days are behind him or if he’s just starting to get stronger. I barely care at all about golf to begin with, and usually my level of interest can be thoroughly sated by a three-minute montage of highlights. Anything beyond that, and the eye-rolls are imminent.
Level of Evasion: At the very least, avoid any chance of hearing Skip Bayless’s ranting on1st & Ten.
6. Progress or Regression is Made with Regards to One of Tom Brady’s Limbs. Brady’s legs got Lohan-style media attention even before Bernard Pollard snapped one of them in half seven minutes into last season, with exclusive TMZ near-stalker footage of him walking around New York wearing a boot during the ’07 playoffs, as if he was getting trailed on the way to see a prostitute. Now, of course, any slight update on Brady’s left knee is considered news, as Patriots Nation waits with baited breath to see if Tom is going to be as Terrific as previous when he takes his first snap in over a season on September 13th. I hated all the coverage even when the guy was actually playing.
Evasion Level: FF through the segments on SportsNation and PTI.
5. Michael Phelps Breaks a World Record or Has One Broken. It’s bad enough the blitzkrieg that this individual put on the sports media last summer, but we accepted it under the implied pretense that it was just going to be a once-every-four-years thing, like an insanely loud thunderstorm that you can begrudgingly endure because you know it can’t possibly last forever. You mean the guy swims in public contests in between cermonies, too? At least Usain Bolt is fun to watch, both in action and in celebration, but Phelps looks, speaks and rejoices like an idiot. When national pride is supposedly on the line I can maybe at least feign interest that he swam a 100-M freestyle backstroke reverse individual medley in some time that broke the previous record by .0002 of a second. Otherwise, call me when he progresses to strippers and crystal meth.
Evasion Level: Perhaps not necessary to skip whole programs, but fast forward insantly at any on-screen appearance in any program of the word “Phelps.”
4. Michael Vick or Plaxico Burress Move From One Location to Another. Thankfully Michael Vick appears to have settled in an indefinite resting place–my very own hometown of Philadelphia, where hopefully he can make things legitimately interesting instead of just theoretically so–but for about a year, a disturbingly high percentage of news stories just involved these two guys doing little more than going places. From home to court. From court to prison. From prison to meetings with the commissioner. From meetings with the commissioner to heart-to-hearts with Tony Dungy. From Tony Dungy back home. Nothing much ever seemed to happen with them–which is why his actual signing with Philly shocked me more than anything–but they certainly logged a lot of frequent flyer miles. And even with Vick situated, Plax still has miles to go before he sleeps. Color me uncurious.
Evasion Level: Automatic name-skips, and maybe entire programs if entire segments appear to be devoted to their transit stories.
3. LeBron James Makes a Comment About the Summer of 2010. So much of the sports media is pulling their hair out over what LeBron James will do when he reaches his free-agency off-season, that even the most innocuous statement gets the full decoder-ring treatment from anchors and analysts. He’ll say something meaningless like “Well, I’d like to stay in Cleveland, but I also want to keep my options option,” and two different pundits will go on opposing diatribes how it means he’s definitely bolting for the New York Knicks, or how he’s definitely staying long-term in Cleveland. Of course, LeBron doesn’t make things easier on himself by occasionally dropping vague (and occasionally contradictory) hints like wearing Yankees hats to interviews or receiving awards in his old Akron high school, but in reality, since he signed his last contract, LeBron James has done absolutely nothing legitimately newsworthy contract-related. Yet everyone wants to treat anything he says that even refers to the existence of the 2010 off-season as a breaking story. The truth is…well, dude, we just don’t know.
Evasion Level: Stay away from any show that involves more than one person offering an opinion.
2. A Current or Former Baseball Great is Linked to Steroids. It’s hard to choose which is worse–the depression of the current baseball player getting the taint, or the irrelevance of the former baseball player going through the ringer for the millionth time. Either way, there’s no other story type that makes following sports less fun. When Manny Ramirez was linked to steroids earlier this year, I was heartbroken–not just because I liked Manny, but because I knew that all the sports shows I’d come to love would have to go through the now-predictable and soul-deadening motions of covering a PED story (the ambiguous responses and lame excuses from the players, the alternately outraged and resigned reactions of the fans, the end-of-days analyses of the pundits, rinse, lather, repeat) virtually non-stop for the next week, with the reverberations lasting far longer than that. It’s arguable, maybe even probable, that this is stuff that needs to be reported by somebody, but I don’t envy the conscience of the soul who has to bring this kind of gloom-and-doom on an already mea-culpa-pleading sports public.
Evasion Level: Time to spend the day with the Food Network or VH1 Classic.
1. Brett. Fucking. Favre. As if there was any doubt. Of course, this was the inspiration for the article, as the off-season-long Favre Watch finally appears to have come to an end, with Brett officially signing with the Vikings. But boy was it a fun half a year of Favre holding an increasingly sarcastic sports media hostage, engaging in an endless swoop-and-pull with a franchise so desparate for a half-competent QB that they were willing to let one treat them like a geeky teenager who has to beg for the privilege to do the popular girl’s homework for her. It probably should’ve gotten funny at some point, but for me it never did–I never much liked Favre, and every move he made since his 2007 season ended with a Corey Webster interception in the NFC Championship game just filled me with more and more hatred. Of course, once the NFL season actually starts this year, I’ll no longer be ignoring Favre-related stories–in fact, I’ll be following them rather intently, as I root against Favre’s Vikings harder than I’ve rooted against any pro sports team since the 18-1 Patriots. But until then…
Evasion Level: Unplug the TV from the wall just to be on the safe side.
Let me know if I’ve forgotten anything.