Monday, December 13, 2010

Pony Show

ESPN's "30 for 30" series of documentaries continues to impress, especially the latest installment which focused on the Death Penalty given to SMU's football program in 1987.

ESPN interviewed both Eric Dickerson and Craig James for their reactions, which in the case of James is a conflict of interest. James works at ESPN as a college football analyst. For the record, both men denied ever receiving anything improper from SMU boosters, which is almost laughable given the fact that every single former SMU player interviewed for the program admitted to receiving money.

The film also made the interesting point that media competition may have been SMU's undoing. In the mid-1980s Dallas was still a two-newspaper town, and the Times-Herald waged a furious war with the Morning News to see who could be the first one to expose the scandal (the Times Herald ceased publication in 1991). Local television also played a major role, as WFAA aired an interview with former player David Stanley that proved to be the smoking gun.

In 1986, 47 U.S. cities had two or more separately owned newspapers that were not chain-owned or newspaper operations in which the two newspapers were owned by the same company, a number that had declined to 20 by 2000; that number continues to shrink in a tough media economy.

Could SMU "get away with it" today in one-newspaper Dallas? Even without two newspapers, there is still plenty of media competition in the Metroplex, especially now from bloggers and citizen journalists. Someone, somewhere would have found out the truth (or rumor) about SMU and posted it on the Internet. It took nearly a decade for the 'traditional' media to find out the truth about the Mustangs' football excess; it probably wouldn't take near as long in today's cyber-media.


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