Good sports?


Horse racing is fortunate to have a responsible national press, which is to say that when members of the print or electronic media go to Louisville to cover the Kentucky Derby, you will not read of some reporter whining about paying $350 for a $125 room, and complaining about its view.

No matter the opulence of the event, people who cover horse racing have to get down and dirty occasionally and watch where they step.

The field of horse racing has always attracted characters, writers and reporters included -- Hank Goldberg at the rail, not some Brit whispering from the bushes around the 18th green.

Outside of horse racing, there is a sports reporting crisis of major proportions, with many of those professionals whining and complaining much better than they write or speak.

I have just witnessed this first-hand as the national media recently came to Tulsa for the U.S. Open golf championship and complained about everything from the heat to the food to the condition of the streets to the lack of places to party the night away.

What sour sports reporting involves for the most part is people from large cities playing the bully against people from smaller cities, a columnist for the Washington Post saying that a golfer couldn't commit suicide by jumping out of a window in Tulsa because no building was more than three stories tall, and a golf writer from the Houston Chronicle producing social commentary about gun museums and convenience stores.

Having a smart mouth seems to be considered more important than using the language creatively.

So please let's not forget this aspect of the entertainment world, lippy sports writers and reporters, when it comes time to trace the roots of all the young punks. Video games and the movies are not the only outlets that might influence a youthful sap.

There is very little writing left in sports writing.

There is hardly any colorful description that makes a person feel like he was at a particular event.

Instead there is a lot of negative opining that makes a reader glad he isn't there.

ESPN's "Sportscenter" was responsible for changing the face of sports reporting on television, for putting a smile on it. Sometimes on a late-night weekend "Sportscenter," when a couple of new people are in from the heartland for a tryout, it sounds like open mike night at Goofball's Comedy Club. And even the prime-time "Sportscenter" players have provided material for the best parody ever on "Saturday Night Live," Ray Romano trying to out-catch-phrase his sports anchor co-host.

But the "Sportscenter" company line seems to be one of maintaining good humor.

Otherwise, sports talk radio seems to have drawn the writers and reporters away from the language and toward showy business.

Representatives of some cities can talk trash about the city in which I live.

Somebody from London.

Somebody from Beaufort, S. C.

Somebody from Lake Tahoe.

Somebody from Paris.

Somebody from Spearfish, S. D.

But not somebody from Houston.

I once wrote an article about Houston for Playboy Magazine and was so overcome by the blast-furnace heat-humidity combination that I felt delirious several times when out of doors. The tone of the story reflected my fear of suffocating while simply walking along a summertime sidewalk, and I was not asked back.

If somebody from the current pool of national sports reporters and writers were to cover Casey at the bat, the readers would be told about how bad the press box buffet was.

The readers would learn about how they turned off the last light in the Mudville bar at 11 p.m.

The listeners would hear about how the manager should be fired for not having pinch hit for Casey.

It would be written that the game lasted so long, members of the press missed the last bus out of town.

The final score would be one of the least important aspects of the game.

The big-city media finds so much to complain about, it's as though they really don't enjoy what they're doing.

Size is not synonymous with media quality. Usually, cities are big because they're easy.

Why don't you hear writers and reporters who cover horse racing complain about things like the quality of their rooms and the free food in the press box?

Possibly because of previous losing streaks.