Shi: Sports media going too far

Aug. 2, 2013, 1:03 p.m.

As the summer news crunch begins to get grating, it seems more than appropriate that Pac-12 Media Day was scheduled for last Friday. I can’t say that the highlights of the event were out of the ordinary, nor can I speak for the event itself, since I wasn’t there. Nevertheless, the very fact that I was watching Pac-12 Media Day highlights on my computer underlines how incredibly slow sports news is right now.

Like any fan, I am a content consumer. I like sports, and I try to learn more about sports. I spend far too much time thinking about sports. I cheer my teams on, but I also immerse myself in the metaverse that surrounds the field, the court, the diamond and even occasionally the rink.

But I also find myself in the position of content producer – I write about sports. I produce content that consumers, well, consume. In fact, I am in the peculiar position of writing a weekly column during a time when sports news is hardly weekly. With the exception of the car crash that recently killed two college football players and threatened the life of a third, news has been slow. I hope that the media will give that tragic event some distance and the families involved some breathing room, and I trust that they will – a distinction that separates sports media from gossip magazines. In a less fatal situation, however, I am not so certain that the media will be discreet; consider the supposedly personal matter of Manti Te’o, for instance. (And remember the coverage of Lennay Kekua’s death when we all thought she was real?)

Looking at recent and supposedly up-to-the-minute sports headlines is almost headache-inducing at this point. I am sick of the Aaron Hernandez story and beyond exhausted by whatever steroids Alex Rodriguez may or may not be taking right now. I could discuss Bud Selig’s somewhat questionable use of authority in the latter affair – without a positive drug test as proof, Selig may well be denying players due process – and people have already argued to death the NCAA’s possibly extrajudicial punishment of Penn State. Besides, in both cases the facts are ambiguous, which is why if this column was on ESPN, my merely mentioning these topics would have generated a thousand-comment argument by now.

Especially in the professional arena, we reserve the right to criticize players whose salaries we help pay. But I do believe that we – the media, who need news to print, and the fans, who need news to discuss – have gone too far, as humans tend to do. In age of the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle (and don’t forget “House of Cards’” semi-joking reference to a 24-minute news cycle), it’s becoming harder and harder to find the music in the noise. Worse yet, we demand noise. Pac-12 Media Day is not entirely dedicated to the extension and preservation of boring, long-running storylines, but if an athletic department has done its job right, that is exactly what will happen. Why should Sonny Dykes or Mike MacIntyre make his big entrance into the Pac-12 by enraging the entire league? Why should Lane Kiffin or Jim Mora provide bulletin board material for his biggest rivals? Yet Media Day still occurs.

It is one thing to badger the spokesmen of the athletic department about the nature and severity of Player X’s ACL injury, but when I scroll through Twitter feeds on football recruiting trying to find out whether Player Y’s passing mention of University Z at a local gas station will change the world, I sometimes pause for a moment and ask myself what is really going on. News is, to a certain extent, my job. But I don’t have to be completely un-self-aware about it.

Winston Shi wishes he could go back to life before he became a famous, oft-scrutinized sports columnist. Some even call him the Johnny Football of sports journalism. To reminisce about the good old days, email Winston at wshi ‘at’

Winston Shi was the Managing Editor of Opinions for Volume 245 (February-June 2014). He also served as an opinions and sports columnist, a senior staff writer, and a member of the Editorial Board. A native of Thousand Oaks, California (the one place on the planet with better weather than Stanford), he graduated from Stanford in June 2016 with bachelor's and master's degrees in history. He is currently attending law school, where he preaches the greatness of Stanford football to anybody who will listen, and other people who won't.

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