Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Home Cookin'

With Cleveland's overtime loss to Orlando last night it doesn't look so good for a Kobe-LeBron matchup in the NBA Finals (LeBron's Cavs are down 3-1, while Kobe's Lakers are fighting for their lives against Denver). The NBA higher-ups desperately want the Cavs and Lakers in the finals to give the series some star power (and much needed ratings). An Orlando-Denver series would provide some good basketball, but offers little in the way of interesting television.

A lot of people are still talking about the Cavs' one win in the series--a last-second bomb by LeBron James at the buzzer. The game is interesting from a journalism standpoint, because the game winning shot took place while one of the local Cleveland television newscasts was still on the air. Check out the reaction from the Cleveland sportscaster, who caught the end of the game from the news set.

There seem to be two ways to look at this. Old schoolers would tell you to absolutely play it straight and not be a local booster. Most leagues and teams have a rule that forbids cheering in the press box by sports journalists covering the game. The rule is announced and on some occasions violaters have actually been asked to leave. (The late baseball writer Jerome Holtzman, who invented baseball's save rule, titled one of his books No Cheering in the Press Box). The idea is that sports journalism should be objective and obviously boosterism isn't objective. How can you report honestly on a team or a player if you're openly rooting for them?

Younger sports journalists, especially those on television, seem to be a lot less committed to objectivity. To them, sports journalism is really about entertainment, and it's more entertaining to get excited and jump up and down than to be objective. People tune in to see excitement, they argue, so why shouldn't we give it to them?

My personal perspective is that it's impossible to be totally objective about sports. (Tune into any game and see how long it takes before you've picked a favorite). Just like any journalist, sports journalists bring their own established values, ideas and biases into their stories. However, good journalists do their best to recognize these prejudices and keep them out of their coverage. There are a lot of sports media types who have given up any pretense of objectivity and enjoyed successful careers as "homers" (Haray Caray comes to mind). But once you cross the line from objectivity to boosterism it's very difficult to go back. You also lose the one thing all sports journalists work a lifetime to achieve--credibility.


Blogger Corry Cropper said...

I always like listening to Ron Santo's color commentary for Cubs' games on the radio because he was such a homer. I know plenty of people griped about him, but I appreciated his sincerity.

4:33 PM  

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