Friday, December 7, 2012
A Look at the Wide World of Sports
Recently, George Solomon, former sports editor at The Washington Post and current professor at the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland, and John Walsh, a former editor of Rolling Stone magazine and current executive editor at ESPN, held a wide-ranging discussion on the world of sports at the Newseum. The discussion was moderated by Shelby Coffey III, a national newsman of note and the vice chairman of that museum.
"When it comes to differences you have the ubiquity of sports," said Walsh, who in the ESPN role he has held for 25 years has played a large part in the growth of interest in the subject. "And then you have sports as a business. I don't think it will be long before we will be be using the 't' (for trillion) word. It's a whole different game now."
Solomon concurred with that assessment, but said that there are downsides to the changes, especially the emphasis on money. "Tradition is no more," he said.
The ratings, and the power that comes with such an audience, proved Walsh right. "ESPN is a sports giant. It sets the table. It can do anything it wants," Solomon said.
Obviously, personality plays a huge role in sports, whether you are considering the players on the field or the sports reporters who cover them. Solomon said that during his time as sports editor for The Post he tried to cultivate top columnists to bring their take to DC's sports scene. By most accounts, when you consider such writers as Sally Jenkins, Tony Kornhesier, and Michael Wilbon, he was successful. "The voice of the town sportswise are your columnists. They make the (sports) section," Solomon said.
Like all journalism, sports in the paper and on TV is being altered by the explosion of social media such as blogs, Facebook, and, perhaps most of all, Twitter, which allows for almost instant reporting of any event in 140 characters or less.
"In the old days, reporters were told to keep their opinions to themselves. But that's completely changed," Walsh said. "The best writers are encouraged now to have an opinion and share it. We live in an opinion universe. I looked the other day and we (ESPN) have more than 50 people with more than a million followers (on Twitter)."
Both veterans lamented the fact that in differing ways ratings lead to over-coverage for some sports and athletes and under-coverage for others. "Editors see the clicks (of people reading stories on the internet) and act accordingly," Solon said.
"Today, too much is based on focus groups, audience and ratings instead of vision," Walsh concluded.
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
As narrator, Coffey had the 2 veteran journalists engage in a lighting round discussion of a series of sports history questions. Here are the the questions and responses
What is the greatest sports event you witnessed?
Solomon - Ben Jonson beating Carl Lewis in the 100 meters (Jonson was later disqualified for using performance enhancing drugs) and the fights of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard
Walsh - as youngster seeing Don Larsen of the New York Yankees pitch a perfect game in the World Series
What about the biggest chokes?
Solomon - "What athletes do is very hard. I don't pinpoint chokes, I like to say surprising failures."
Walsh - again, as a youngster, watching his then-favorite baseball team the Phillies lose 23 straight games and then, just a few years later, blow a seemingly insurmountable lead and not get into the 1964 World Series. "I still have my tickets for that series (that wasn't)."
Best individual athlete?
Solomon - Muhammad Ali
Walsh - Bill Russell
Solomon - the Red Auerbach-led Boston Celtics basketball dynasty of the 1960s
Walsh - the Pittsburgh Steelers football teams of the 1970s
- ► 2014 (247)
- ► 2013 (241)
- Monkeys Grasp for the Moon
- Zoolights Make for Bright Nights
- Dining in DC: We, the Pizza
- Kennedy and King Coming to Newseum in 2013
- Dining in DC: Scion
- Very Like a Whale
- Will Hoge at Jammin' Java
- Ways to Keep Christmas Lasting a Little Longer
- Roy Lichtenstein: The Art World's Prince of Pop
- Dining in DC: The New Big Wong
- A Trip to the Moon
- Newtown: What Do You Say?
- The Impact of Social Media on Journalism
- Shame on the NRA
- Season's Greetings from Ronnie Spector
- Merry Tuba Christmas 2012
- Shock of the News
- The Presidential Race Goes to the Dogs
- Dining in DC: Ray's to the Third
- Spelunking in Downtown DC
- The Civil War and American Art
- A Look at the Wide World of Sports
- Season's Greetings from the U.S. Botanical Garden
- Celebrating the Repeal of Prohibition
- A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Monday Night Football
- Nomads and Networks
- Dining in DC: New Orleans Po Boy Shop
- The Tone Rangers
- ▼ December (28)
When Kwame Alexander started Virginia Tech University majoring in bio-tech, he was all set to become a doctor. But 2 developments in his s...
It began in the 1940s in the Spanish town of Brunol, where a band of young men engaged in a brawl grabbed tomatoes from a vegetable stand ...
This painting captures some of the the horror of WWI For Lowell Fry, the society-shattering and world-altering impacts of World War I a...
Suppose it is a beautiful Spring (Summer, early Fall) day in D.C. For lunch, you want to dine al fresco (sidewalk seating, patio and r...
Welcome 2013. The beginning of a new year is always a great time for reflecting on the year that just concluded. So here we present some ...
Claude Nadir - DC educator We often think we know people, but many times we don't know them as well as we think we do. Case in point...
With Nam June Paik's massive Electronic Highway: Continental United States and Alaska and Hawaii installment piece flashing and blink...
Fake fictional heroes ... .. are no match for the real thing. From left, Weber, Wynberg, Mayer. In 2009, film director Quentin Tara...
Beach Boy Brian Wilson on piano with guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck (in white with white guitar) In the history of rock, there have been so...
Conflicts are part of human life. Some are relatively common, affecting most of us. But what if a conflict is more specific to exactly who...