Look Who's Talking

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By Norman Chad
Monday, August 13, 2007

A number of years ago -- maybe in the early 1990s -- I made fun of sportswriters' migration to television. We were a paunchy, balding, unsightly group helping fill cable's vast wasteland for a few extra bucks.

That was then. This is now out of control.

We've gone from minor nuisance to cultural menace.

What was once just "The Sports Reporters" is now a sports Armageddon. We've reached critical mass. Everywhere you look, there are sports journalists blabbing, gabbing, fretting, chatting, arguing, debating and, mostly, shouting.

On ESPN alone, you have "The Sports Reporters," "Pardon The Interruption," "Around The Horn" and "1st And 10," plus several other of its daily shows -- "SportsCenter," "Rome Is Burning" and "Outside The Lines First Report" -- include regular forums of talking heads.

(I woke up in a dead sweat the other night because Skip Bayless was in one of my dreams excoriating Mike Shanahan for a bad third-down play call. Plus, I saw an ear-nose-and-throat specialist last week in a desperate attempt to get Stephen A. Smith's voice out of my head.)

If ESPN got out of the sports business tomorrow, half of America's top sports columnists would have to send their children back to public schools.

Sportswriters have gone from the locker room to the green room, from "Get me rewrite!" to "Get me wardrobe!" We used to just write, eat and drink; now we just talk, eat and drink. Who has time to write?

(Heck, I've gone into some towns and seen sports editors with their own TV shows. Sports editors! Hey, I love those fellas -- without 'em, I don't get published -- but if you're turning on your Sony and seeing a sports editor, you might have grounds for consumer action against your local cable carrier.)

Every sports columnist, it seems, is also on talk radio daily -- talking, well, a lot.

After all, why type when you can talk? It's relatively tough to craft a sentence -- not for Couch Slouch; I just bang out my columns while watching Nick at Nite -- and it's relatively easy to speak nonsensically. Check that: scream nonsensically. That's right -- everybody's yelling. Because if you want to be heard over the roar of the crowd, you'd better be louder than the next guy.

In addition, with all of our sharpest scribblers becoming serial screamers, there is a huge talent drain out of newspapers. Which brings me to two of the best at both, my erstwhile friends Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon of "PTI."


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