Thursday, February 24, 2011

Never Ending Sports Rumors = Cornbread?

Have you ever loved a food which you only ate every so often? In my younger years, that food for me was cornbread. I never planned on eating cornbread, but every so often I enjoyed the pleasant surprise of coming across some cornbread on my plate as a side to my meal. One day though, I made the crucial mistake of telling my mom I LOVED cornbread.

After that I received cornbread on my plate every few days as a side to either my lunch or dinner. This was a terrific development (being 10 years old at the time). It eventually became a problem however as it didn't stop there. My mom quickly noticed how much I enjoyed it, so she kept buying it until it eventually got to the point that I had it everyday as a lunch and dinner side. I guess in my moms mind, it was a better option than candy or potato chips.

Meh... Not a fan
Eventually, the sweetness and deliciousness of cornbread wore off. Be that as it may, I still ate it, as it was better than anything else on my plate. My mom's cooking isn't the best. Alas my mom didn't notice that I grew sour to the idea of having cornbread with every meal and what was worse, everyone else in my family began eating it since there was always some in the kitchen. I had created a tipping point of sorts. So my mom kept buying more.

After a while, I couldn't help but be disgusted by the sight of cornbread. It became this symbol to me of over-saturation and the idea of ruining a good thing. From that point forward, I wouldn't even look at it, let alone, touch it. 

Eventually, everyone else in my family began reacting the same way and a year after that, my mom stopped buying cornbread. Why did she wait so long to stop buying it? I assume that it made her job easier as she didn't have to worry about thinking too outside the box on which supermarket items to buy. Real tough, I know. But in all seriousness, I'm fairly certain she thought this at the time.

It may not seem like it at first glance, but I have just described the state of interactions between fans and sports journalists when it comes to reporting sports rumors. Like cornbread once was for me, sports rumors pertaining to transactions used to be this little side dish fans got every so often that was the perfect complement for the actual sport itself. It was generally small and left you craving more, only you wouldn't get another one until just the right amount of time had passed. 

At first, much like my consumption of cornbread with every meal, I found "The Decision" and its coverage brilliant. My friends and I even joked months prior to the announcement that it would be the greatest television spectacle in history if they did an hour long special with Lebron, where he picked a hat up from the table like many high school recruits do when they announce their school choice on national signing day. Hell, I even tweeted this to Newsday writer Alan Hahn when he half jokingly suggested the idea during the 2010 playoffs. I was excited for the prospect of getting a constant feed of rumors and speculation unlike anything seen before. But unexpectedly, the more rumors I heard, the more annoyed I became. They became this incessant noise you couldn't avoid if you put on Sportscenter or went to
You bastard

Nevertheless, I listened, as I knew the importance of the moment in the grand scheme of things. There would never quite be another piece of free agency like it again. Had I not been buried in rumors for so many days in a row, my head probably would have been spinning.

Then, "The Decision" came and I was right. Unlike anything else I had ever seen, it dramatically changed history, legacies and unfortunately sealed my fate as a struggling Knicks fan for the next decade. A positive note at the time though, or so I thought, was it finally ended. No more rumors to be had. We could finally watch and talk about sports again instead of speculating about the surrounding nonsense. Little did we know this moment sealed every sports fan's fate in the future of sports journalism. 

Due to the buzz surrounding the free agency period last year, many reporters saw their careers immensely benefit due to being on top of the Lebron decision and calling his move to Miami before anyone else did (i.e. Brian Windhorst and Chris Broussard). Combine that with the absurdly high ratings ESPN received on "The Decision" and you essentially have yourself eating an entire tray of cornbread in one sitting in front of your mom. We dug our own graves.

Did you think ESPN would let these moments pass again with only limited coverage? No, of course not. They are going to force feed this stuff to us no matter what we say from now on because they know the ratings don't lie. As much as fans may dislike the constant feed of rumors, we are perpetuating it as we cannot help but listen.

Now lets flash-forward to this years topic of conversation, Carmelo Anthony. Over several months ESPN and other media outlets reported meaningless developments and several possible trade scenarios "according to sources". When it finally ended on Monday night, everyone took a sigh of relief. The speculation ended and people were thrilled at the thought of not hearing about Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Chris Paul for at least another few months.

Then something weird happened. Less than 36 hours later, the Utah Jazz traded Deron Williams to the New Jersey Nets with no prior media speculation. There weren't months of swirling rumors. Few if any people knew. In fact, even Deron Williams himself was caught off guard as he was notified through ESPN rather than his own team. 

The Sports Guy agrees

Now ask yourself, which news story did fans enjoy more? The shock of a trade that caught them off guard or the nonstop buildup of a trade fueled by speculation? Both results were the same, only one genuinely surprised fans while the other was celebrated because it was no longer a topic of excruciating speculation.

When all is said and done, I don't care what an unnamed source says. I care about the results. Hopefully someday we can all agree and force mom to take away the cornbread.

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