October 21, 2009 // Uncategorized

A thinking man’s guide to writing about, cheering for the team

There’s never been a day in the last 28 years that I’ve regretted entering the field of journalism, in particular, sports journalism.

Although I’ve been reminded by some boisterous football fans through the years that my career of choice is occupied by a despicable band of athlete wannabes, I am proud of my work and believe that I have provided a service to Notre Dame football fans everywhere while pursuing a path that is rewarding and fulfilling.

That’s not to say that I’ve always written the most informative and most accurate depiction of the action on the field, nor would I defend those in the business who have chosen biting and cruel commentary as their route to fame and fortune.

Somewhere along the line, “telling it like it is” became “look at me.” Instead of reporting the story, reporters-analysts have become the story with the microphone and camera now pointed at us instead of toward the field of play.

Likewise, today’s sports fan has become equally obnoxious when it comes to expressing opinions about his favorite team and the coaching prowess (or lack there of) of their team’s coach. Much time is spent and anger is vented on Internet message boards toward fans whose “crime” is cheering for another team.

I once was on the other side of the sports fence. As a teenager, I was the raving fan criticizing players, coaches and those cheating referees. Nearly three decades in football press boxes tamed the animal within since, as the cliché goes, there is no cheering in the press box. As a member of the media, your perspective is forced to change.

I wish the sports media were a little less judgmental. In most sports (hockey and soccer are two exceptions), there is always a winner and always a loser. Many times, it comes down to one play tilting the outcome. The perspective of the winner and loser often is flipped by one play — or replay.
When Notre Dame lost to Michigan in early September this year, Sports Illustrated depicted Michigan as being “back” while Notre Dame and Charlie Weis were still wrapped up in their losing ways. But if the official had called interference on a Michigan defensive back (from my perspective, that was the right call), Notre Dame would have kept the ball, would have run the time off the clock, and would have won the game over Michigan.

Would, then, Notre Dame have been “back” while Michigan remained wrapped up in its losing ways? Such is the all-encompassing judgment based upon one play, one brief moment in time.

I wish fans were less fanatical and observed the game as opposed to taking emotional stands based upon rooting interests. It’s great to cheer for your team. It gives people a way of escaping the everyday problems in life and the drudgery that often accompanies it. But can’t we just observe athletic competition, take it for what it’s worth, accept that there will always be a winner and a loser, and move on?

I’m amazed at the people who attend high school or college sporting events with the sole intent of badgering the officials/umpires, as if it were their right, their duty. Why do we do this? Why do we take a sporting event and turn it into a public beheading of a guy who is making $40 a game and simply trying to do his job?

In covering Notre Dame basketball the last 28 years, I’ve heard the same familiar voice each home game, and at some point in the game, this gentleman questions the integrity of the officials.

Every game? Every official? How childish.

How about a more civilized approach to observing sports? Cheer for your team, pull for a victory and sure, go ahead and moan when a call goes against you. But in the end, how about accepting the outcome, feeling disappointment that the game didn’t turn out the way you had hoped, but keeping your integrity intact?

Those who blame the officials or a coach for every loss is a symptomatic reflection of society: blame someone else for your own shortcomings.
I realize it’s too late to turn back in a world of non-stop public commentary, and that certainly adds fun and excitement to a sporting event. But the next time, before you berate an official or coach, stop, think, use reason and good judgment, and recognize there will always be a winner and a loser in a sporting event.

Common sense is a much better — and healthier — approach to cheering for your team and evaluating the action on the field.

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