Monday, August 9, 2010
By Jay Cronley
Special to ESPN.com
Somebody get a flashlight and a magnifying glass, let's go look for some horse racing coverage.
Horse racing gets rotten media coverage.
Sometimes the reasons are right there in front of us, cracking jokes and trying to interject themselves into the stories: hack media members.
Turn on the television. Switch over from the weird site on your computer. Pick up a newspaper. Sports story judgment is horrific. And that's on a good day. On a national level, anchors and reporters often seem more interested in "Komedy Klub" material than thoughtfulness. Hours are devoted to Brett Favre, will he or won't he? What does it matter; he won't hold up a month, anyway. The time wasted on the same old hypothetical sports junk could be better used on most anything from taking a nap to aiding mankind. Alley rats caged and subjected to hours of sports talk radio would experience ill health and go insane, simply from the tone alone. And local sports -- talk about slaphappy. Local sports on TV gets about three minutes between the weather and a tear-squeezer closer news story. The weekend local TV characters spend much of their airtime trying out catch phrases for their audition tapes: "Bingo Long, that one's out of here!" Actually that's not a bad one, as it refers to one of the great semi-lost sports movies, "Bingo Long and the Traveling All-Star Motorcade," starring Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor and James Earl Jones. It is a film about great African-American baseball players who had to put on a variety show on the field just to get a game.
Getting back to debatable sports coverage: In the city in which I live, the sports anchor and director at a local TV station is on the payroll of one of the major universities that he covers, doing color game commentary for bread. It's true, I swear it. Imagine a reporter being hired by the mayor to cover city hall.
Somehow along the way, much of the media, TV in particular, has lost track of the fact that it's the games we like, not the production.
On Aug. 7, a day when Zenyatta, possibly the best racehorse ever, won by a neck in a stunning race by the Pacific for her 18th victory in a row, and the fabulous Quality Road was defeated by a new star in upstate New York, here's what the national media gave us for highlights: dented fenders in a who-cares NASCAR race; golfers positioning themselves for the FedEx Cup, whatever that is; WNBA results; coverage of college football media days; and this universal quote, "We can do it." Here's a golf question: Why do Tiger and Phil hit shots from the practice tee? They should practice from a weed field.
In the newspaper for which I write a general interest column, the weekend horse race results weren't below the fold, they were under the fold, way inside, in other sports news bits.
When it comes to picking video with which to lead a sports report, nothing is more exciting than Zenyatta winning. You wouldn't even have to know how to bet to recognize that.
Horse racing is due some good publicity in the fall, with the release of the Secretariat movie, which has to be good, and the Breeders' Cup to be raced under the lights at Churchill. Will Rachel Alexandra show?
All-around great sports coverage used to be about the viewer.
Too often now, it seems to be about the presenter.
Write to Jay at firstname.lastname@example.org.