Open Mouth, Insert Football: Hypocrisy in sports

What’s this? NFL players are hitting each other hard – on purpose? What’s this? NCAA coaches are going over their minutes when calling or texting new recruits? What’s this? A coach known for his rotten personality is caught wrecking his motorcycle with a girl half his age on the back? What’s this? A baseball manager known more for his mouth than his baseball insight is now in trouble for flapping his yap?

No! Say it ain’t so! My faith in humanity is shattered!

OK, not really. But if the sports channels can be sensational, why can’t I?

The reports scrolling across ESPN’s non-stop “BREAKING NEWS!” screen would have us sports fans in a constant tizzy, forever astonished at the new lows to which people will go.

You know, crimes against humanity like New Orleans Saints’ linebackers trying to crush other football players. (Hey ESPN! Why did you suddenly stop running your “JACKED UP!” montage on NFL Live?)

Or Baylor’s coaches sending too many texts to high school basketball recruits. (Hey NCAA! You really think a top athlete will decide to skip UK or Duke because Scott Drew sent him too many pics of Waco, Texas?)

Or Bobby Petrino, one of the most unlikable coaches in the history of unlikable coaches, showing up at a news conference in a neck brace with dried blood still on his face looking as pitiful as possible for the cameras. (ESPN’s Shelley Smith spent the Easter weekend camped out in Fayetteville, Ark., to get all the juicy gossip before Petrino’s ultimate firing.)

And my favorite: Ozzie Guillén shocks the world by running his mouth.

This week alone, four different “BREAKING NEWS!” reports slammed our screens that were supposed to keep us riveted and emotional and … I can’t even finish the sentence. Media marketing is making me sick.

This is the result of the dead zone, that portion of the sports year I wrote about last week where captivating sports go away until autumn, and where the sports marketing machines earn their keep by keeping bored eyes on the television. As a refresher, just remember that the truly entrancing months on the sports calendar go from the end of August (beginning of college football and pennant races) to the first week of April (Opening Day). After that, just buckle down for four months of fluff, fantasy baseball, weekend-long drafts and sensational journalism.

The sludge has already begun to flow in full force. The deficiency of concrete, on-the-field stories to cover force sports journalists to scramble to uncover tidbits of gossip and blow those tidbits out of proportion for the sake of ratings.

Hence the hypocrisy.

For our case study, let’s look at the latest report spoon-fed to us this week – the soap opera known as the Ozzie Guillén saga – and measure whether it really merited the “BREAKING NEWS!” treatment it received.

I’ll admit that Ozzie Guillén is an idiot. Yes, Miami-based Cuban-Americans – or Cubans anywhere for that matter – have a legitimate beef with the loud-mouthed new manager of the Miami Marlins. (Side note: My copy editors probably have a beef with the record number of hyphens and dashes found in that last sentence. Moving on.)

When ESPN reported that the former Venezuelan loudmouth (and occasional baseball manager) expressed his “love” for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, was anybody that surprised? Not I; nor was I surprised when he went into damage control after the fact.

A lynch mob has a way of making someone feel truly sorry.

Everyone who has watched baseball for the last few years knows that Guillén has made a name for himself as a mouth without a filter. The Marlins knew this when they rolled the dice and named him as their new manager last offseason. The idea was to bring in a charismatic Latino to help open the Marlins’ new ballpark in Little Havana, Miami, to connect with a growing target market. It took Guillén exactly one week of regular season play to cause this ingenious plan to backfire.

Cuban-Americans are coming out all right, but with signs demanding the Marlins fire the Mouth. Somewhere the Chicago White Sox are laughing their heads off now that the Marlins have the Sox’s former headache mouthing off in Miami instead of Chicago.

The hypocrisy comes in with the Marlins organization denouncing Guillén’s comments and suspending him for detrimental conduct. Again, I’m not supporting Guillén’s actions. I’m wondering what the Marlins’ organization thought was going to happen? This is who this guy is. You knew this going in. To try to distance yourself from your marketing spokesman less than a week into the season is disingenuous and hypocritical. I suppose they had no choice, but, again, what did they expect?

Cut to Joe Sportsfan clicking over to ESPN to read “BREAKING NEWS! Ozzie Runs His Mouth!” Pathetic. We all know who this guy is, and we all know ESPN is making money off of it during the slow part of the sports year. This is a classic example of a news medium creating the story instead of reporting the story. Yes, Guillén opened his stupid mouth. But it was the reporter who ran to Bristol, and the media machine that put the “BREAKING NEWS!” story on all its stations that blew the report into a national furor. ESPN found its story that would lead PTI, Around the Horn, Sportscenter, Highlight Express and every other two-bit program that the Worldwide Leader pumps out.

And, as the calendar dictated, the lead story wasn’t an on-the-field story. That only happens while the sports are compelling. The media machine found its fodder and played it to the hilt. Again.

Come on, pennant races. You can’t get here fast enough.