THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
On the world stage, the Baseball Writers of America voting for the next class for players for entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. is rather insignificant when compared to, say, the rapid fall of the Euro, or the Iranian sanctions or the thousands of arrests throughout the United States of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. But there is one importance of the baseball writers’ vote that goes unnoticed.
The Hall of Fame election gives people a window into the world of sports journalism and how sports writing is more akin to writing media or news releases for a team, a league or an institution than living up to the profession that is journalism.
Baseball and newspapers have been linked together for more than a century. The newspaper spread the word of baseball and baseball gave the sports writer an exaggerated sense of importance. Newspapers are baseball partners in spreading the word journalistically and in marketing ventures. Some newspapers have had outright ownership of teams--The Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Cubs--or partial ownership stakes--the New York Times and the Boston Red Sox---so the relationship between the journalist and sports could be colored by business agreements or the fact that jock sniffing is a great way to earn a living.
Vince Doria's ESPN has failed in sports journalism 101. ESPN sat on an alleged child molestation story that involved Syracuse University assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine for nine years because it failed to meet whatever journalism standards ESPN has. The same journalism standards that were exposed by the website Deadspin earlier this week when the site pointed out that ESPN somehow missed out on the three suicides of National Hockey League fighters-enforcers during the 2011 calendar year.
ESPN has co-opted the newspaper industry and has hired quite a number of sportswriters as either talk show regulars on a freelance basis or reporters.
Don't expect the sports writing industry to report on ESPN's grand failures as a journalistic enterprise. There is always the possibility that so called "big writers" can end up working for Doria, the Walt Disney Company, whether it is on one of the ESPN networks including the ESPN radio syndication or ESPN websites.
So much for integrity.
The members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who are voting for the 2012 Hall of Fame class may include an accused child molester and another writer who was fired by his newspaper because he was caught padding expense accounts to an extreme. In the past, writers who have voted on the ultimate baseball honor have revealed some rather interesting conflicts of interest or just shake-your-head logic when it came to casting a ballot.
The "legendary" New York sportswriter Dick Young played the role of Gunga Din and carried M. Donald Grant's water boy to the highest degree when he was heavily involved in the feud between New York Mets Chairman M. Donald Grant and Tom Seaver in 1977.
Young, whose son-in-law Thornton Geary worked for the Mets at the time, apparently was just dictating all of Grant's thoughts on Seaver which became back page fodder for the New York Daily News. It made sense for Young to hammer Seaver and throw plaudits Grant's way. But playing the role of Gunga Din seems to be commonplace for the New York Daily News' featured sports columnist. In the 1990s Mike Lupica, who probably also has a BBWAA vote, could find nothing wrong with Dave Checketts or Madison Square Garden as Lupica penned love letters to the guy running the business, Checketts.
Maury Allen, who was a baseball writer for decades for the New York Post, once admitted that he had a tough time voting for Willie McCovey because he, like a lot of those San Francisco Giants (of the 1960s and 1970s), looked down at his shoes when he spoke to you.
Whitey Herzog and John McNamara during their days as Major League Baseball managers would address the sportswriters first because they were "real baseball men" and then talk to the rest of the baseball journalism riff-raff, radio and TV talents. Baseball writers were respected by baseball general managers, managers, coaches, scouts and players because it was understood that baseball writers were extensions of the individual teams and the league's public relations department.