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Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sports-Celebnalism: Morphing from ESPN to TMZ.

Fans are thrilled by walk-off jacks, pick-6's in OT and end-to-end game-winning ginos. It's only understandable that they become intrigued by the people who are responsible for eliciting these powerful emotions. However, dramatic changes in our relationship with athletes has altered the way we interact, and fulfill our desire to be associated with greatness. Physical restrictions fostered through the growth of populations, personalties, and pocket-books has created unconventional demands on increasingly-brazen media outlets.


When I recently touched on athletes in new media I facetiously argued that TMZ-Style Sports Blogs are Journalism. I was inspired then -- as I am now -- by the commentary from an MSM source. Here the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Ethan Skolnick talks with Brooks from SbB about the direction of sports journalism. When pressed for specific changes that could incite celeb-like coverage of athletes Brooks offered:


“If sports journalists at major newspapers and magazines feel compelled to change their standards, because of the proliferation of gossip and pressure from superiors, and start reporting more off-the-field gossip.”


We are clearly witnessing this already: the value in providing consumable goods for the bottom-feeding illiterates who browse celeb rags, and the success of numerous publications who frequently post 'edgier' content has been observed and noted well. The steady increase in the E!-ish coverage of athletes is an unavoidable consequence of the demand for celebrity personalities. While relatively new to some, this phenomena is many generations in the making.


The ravenous commercialism of sport has irreparably skewed a variety of guidelines. While writers and athletes respectively wrote about and enjoyed the marked divergence in their annual income, communications evolved from radio to moving pictures to 1080p with surround. Meanwhile, assorted press outlets have exploded unto multiple platforms and information vehicles to meet the demands of the growing population.


We've come a long way from the days of getting pissed and playing bridge with Babe Ruth on the now-ancient North-East commuter trains. Extinct are the days of equal privileges for athletes and the masses, a factor paramount to our shifting media ideals and creation of the profitable genre of sport-celebnalism.


The impressive sums paid to todays athletes are increasingly jeopardizing the status of the formerly ubiquitous 'humble athlete'. Wealth and entitlement has spawned a new attitude towards the media responsible for their stardom. Slowly players' behaviour has morphed from amicable to dubious -- hows that for a cause-effect relationship? Partially shunned and wholly prideful, the delectatio morosa from certain media members is a palpable by-product of the maltreatment received from players and their organizations. Bitterness and envy surely play their role alongside the boyish motivations of those fortunate enough to make a living from kids games, but the debate rages on whether this is sufficient justification to publish scandalous off-field material.


Athletes and reporters aside, what about the impact of a third party? Ultimately the consumers decide what is to be published in both the MSM and blogosphere since their patronage guides the direction of the platform. This can be described as the inmates running the asylum, but I prefer to liken the consumer-producer relationship in the media to digging up a corpse: the purpose is to uncover the truth behind the human condition, but the outcome is generally deleterious.


Every skeleton raises the expectations for the next, leaving the limits up to the imagination of those in the business of raw and controversial. This new content is packaged to sell and there is an overwhelming amount of momentum behind it, so whatever the cause we know the effect: sport-celebnalism is here for good, and has room to grow.


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1 comment:

The Commentator said...

And I lament this fact as a sports fan. There's so much of SbB one can take. To say nothing of smart-alec takes on sports.