Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In Which the Venn Diagram of SportsCenter And News Shows No Overlap

Back when I was in college, I had a first date that involved going over to some friends' living quarters (the word "habitrail" really was appropriate) for some board and card games. The last game came down to me and my date, and as we got down to the finish, it became clear that I was not going to take it easy on her in order to increase my chances of late-evening canoodling. I won the game, the evening wrapped up, and as I walked her back to her dorm, she asked me to apologize.
"For what?" I said.
"For not letting me win."
I very politely (because she was a very attractive young woman) told her that there was no way in hell I would apologize, and that I wasn't going to insult her by "taking it easy on her because she was a girl."
And she asked me again to apologize, and I told her that I wouldn't.
And then for the third time, she asked, and I said, no, and she said, "Good. If you'd actually apologized, I wouldn't have wanted to go out with you."

Fast forward to tonight, and the lead story on SportsCenter. (Don't ask me why I was watching SportsCenter. I never watch SportsCenter any more; there's too much Center and not enough Sports these days.) Now, admittedly, any night where the biggest game is UConn-Providence isn't a big sports night, but still, they led with the fact that Dwyane Wade had apologized to Kobe Bryant for accidentally breaking his nose during Sunday's All-Star Game.
Now, I'm not a big believer in the cult of ultimate macho, where you regard the guys in the other city's sweat pants as the eternal enemy and don't allow yourself to admit to feeling bad that you might have, you know, hurt him. These guys know each other off the court; they hang out, they do commercials together, they play on Olympic teams together, and they're hopefully well-rounded human beings who still exist once they're off the 94 feet of hardwood. In fact, I think it's an admirable gesture on Wade's part, and considering Bryant's well-known proclivities for being perhaps a trifle rude, possibly more than he would have gotten in return had the situations and nasal passages been reversed.
And yes, it was announced later that Bryant had a concussion, which is indeed big news, considering that the Lakers had only recently rounded into form, and without their best player they're the third-best team in LA, behind the Clippers and Long Beach State. Leading with the concussion announcement would have been eminently understandable. It's sports-related, it has a direct impact on the games, and it's news.
But instead, we got the apology. The perfectly sincere, absolutely respectful apology, which had about as much to do with actual sports news as, well, anything Skip Bayless says. I'm sure that someone at ESPN saw the opportunity to lead with an item that involved the names "Kobe" and "D-Wade" and got all fluttery over it, but it was barely sports and it was barely news, and it certainly didn't deserve to be the top headline.
I mean, yes, an injury in an All-Star Game could be news. The litmus test here sits at the intersection of Rose and Fosse, wherein baseball's all time hit leader deliberately and with hard-nosed intensity aforethought, leveled a guy right out of his playing career in order to win the game. Wade, on the other hand, committed a pretty generic foul without malicious intent. Rose didn't apologize. Wade did. There could have been news, but there wasn't, and leading off with that - implying that anything that follows is going to be less newsworthy and less about sports - is a great indicator that anyone actually looking for sports news ought to change the channel.
So I did.
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