Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Funny Finance and Not-So-Funny Media

Well, we can’t say that 2010 will be a boring sports year.

We’ve started with more on The Golfer, Gilbert Arenas reprising Bishop from “Juice” on a teammate, Pacquiao/Mayweather taken of the table (for now!), coaches allegedly abusing players, those and other coaches getting fired/hired/passed over and Mark McGwire’s steroids admission.

Heck, Bret Hart returned to the WWE!

Yesterday provided some of the bigger “what in the world” moments so far and I want to mention two of them: an ultimatum for the Florida Marlins and a question of what should be dominating the news cycle right now.

In my first week with The Perpetual Post, Chris Pummer and I debated the legacy of Bud Selig. As said by both of us on live radio and online, he’s a very difficult person to defend because of the steroids/PED debacle among many other issues baseball has been shellacked with in his time. Something I left out, however, is what I think he can do to at least go out on a positive note.

The public wrist-slap given to the Florida Marlins & owner Jeffrey Loria regarding the team’s use of received revenue-sharing funds. As the venerable Maury Brown explains for Biz of Baseball, this can possibly set a new direction for teams that have received monies from the luxury taxes paid by teams such as the Boston Red Sox, Anaheim Angels and both New York franchises over the years.

Something that I do ask myself when reading this: is it possible that while many still cry for placing some sort of salary cap in MLB, is this the beginning of creating a salary floor just as the National Hockey League? If it’s true – this Scribe believes it to be so – that some of these teams such as the Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates have essentially pocketed the money instead of spent it on payroll and player development, then what will be the next steps? How can and will owners keep tabs on each other? What role will the Player’s union take? How much of this will be left on the next Commissioner’s lap in 2012?

The second thought is related to the three major news stories in the media yesterday. A friend on Facebook wondered why it seems that more people care about the “problems” of two fairly rich white men compared to the problems of a nation struck by an earthquake and subsequent aftershocks.

When Conan O’Brien released his letter regarding NBC’s horrendous handling of its late-night quandary, he found a flood of supporters to his plight – including myself, admittedly – and every major media outlet had something to say. Jay Leno, Jeff Zucker (the programming boss at NBC) and the network itself have taken a tremendous and deserved public relations flogging for years of terrible decisions that have come to a head in the last week.

For the Peacock, millions of dollars have been lost and trust from their affiliates has been shattered (but can be rebuilt). Many TV writers and producers will speak to the lost jobs because of The Jay Leno Show. Rival networks, bloggers and other internet pundits and the print world are having an absolute ball.

Why is this more important than the devastation in Haiti?

From Knoxville to Los Angeles to Seattle, Lane Kiffin and Pete Carroll have essentially taken the sports world hostage –McGwire’s admission is more punching bag than lightning rod, isn’t it? – due to their new jobs. As you know, Carroll’s nine years at the University of South Carolina were highly successful, but the NCAA is threatening to take a proverbial magic eraser to it all because of a multi-sport investigation. Though no one can change what happened on the field, the NCAA’s sanctions can harm USC’s program over the next couple of years. The shocking firing of Jim Mora (Jr) led to the hiring of Carroll and a domino effect in the college world.

Kiffin shocked the country by bolting to take over for Carroll and it appears that USC is trying to bring most of the band back together (notably a possible return of Norm Chow as offensive coordinator). Once a sympathetic figure in Oakland going against Al Davis, he’s become persona non-grata after one season in Tennessee and multiple secondary violations in his short time there. Another rich college coach bolting to a school for more riches, more control and more ego-stroking has stoked the flames in sports media. Literal flames burned in Knoxville as idiot students decided it would be a good time to riot to show their anger at Kiffin’s departure.

Why is this more important that the devastation in Haiti?

The truth is that neither situation is. At times, however, we think certain stories are a bigger deal because of who we are surrounded by at a given moment.

Working in the media world or anything connected to it means that while there are more tragic stories that should take greater precedent, we've developed an ϋber-analytic perspective of anything involving such characters as Leno or O’Brien, Kiffin or Carroll. It helps prop up these "problems". It gives more hits and page views. It kicks up ratings for a moment because we’re more interested in people that aren’t us than people that are.

As for everyone else outside of those realms, just listen to what's talked about at the water coolers, the corner, the classroom, etc. The priorities of a media outlet differ from those of individual consumers FAR more often than perceived. And as much as it’s easy for many of you to believe, there are people in media who actually care about what’s happening in Port-au-Prince.

The even more bitter and harsh truth according to many people is that the earthquake in Haiti is a sad event, but not of utter importance to them as being unemployed and on the brink of homelessness themselves. You don’t need any more reminders of the Great Recession except that donations won’t be as plentiful today as they would have been when we were swimming in Monopoly money.

Sports networks aren’t going to discuss Haiti unless the aftermath touches a game significant outside of Haitian interest. Broadcast networks, already in flux, will discuss Haiti for a certain period, then jump back into the late night tussle. Yet, that’s why we have so many sources for information; we can decide what stories matter depending on which outlets we choose and the time we use for them.

Say What?!?!: Some of us want to help, some of us don’t. Some of us can lend a hand, some of us can’t. Yet, if you are considering donating to relief efforts to Haiti, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE examine who you are giving money to. There are a lot of predatory people who exploit tragedy and goodwill in their scams. I implore you to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE give carefully.

Picture courtesy of the New York Times

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