Sunday, August 19, 2007

Makes Me Wonder

Growing up here in the L.A. area, I had the great privilege of watching, listening to and reading from some of the best in the sports business. I got to hear the great Dick Enberg do Los Angeles Rams football and California Angels baseball. Chick Hearn gave his "words-eye" view of the Lakers' basketball games all the way up until his death in 2002. Bob Miller has given us the equivalent of Hearn in his coverage of Los Angeles Kings hockey games for over 35 years. And lest I forget that we are still blessed to have one Vin Scully painting his pictures as he's done for 50 years in broadcasting the Dodger baseball games. Needless to say, I gained a lot of wisdom from each and every one of these greats over the years.

I gained a similar wisdom growing up from reading the sports section of the Los Angeles Times. For 37 years, up until his death nine years ago this past Friday, Jim Murray provided candor, humor, wit and his own unique perspective on the sports scene both locally and nationally. Fourteen times, Murray was named Sportswriter of the Year by his peers... He was a man of great intelligence, class and was respected all over the world. For the most part, the rest of the Times' sports section was well-written, full of other insightful articles by sportswriters who followed Murray's classy lead.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's though, the tone of the Times' sports section began to change as they hired people without Murray's class, dignity or knowledge of sports. This new breed of sportswriters wasn't interested in building up heroes; their main goal was to cut them down!!! The best visual I can think of when describing this new breed of "sportswriters" is to think of ESPN's classless Jim "Chrissy" Rome in print. All talk and no substabce - yes, a perfect analogy!!

Flash forward to 2007. The two lead "sportswriters" for the Times are now "men" named T.J. Simers and Bill Plaschke. Simers has been "writing" for the Times since 1990. The truly sad thing with Simers is that he actually thinks he's funny. His articles rarely are researched, and never have much of substance. I liken reading Simers to picking up the latest edition of the National Enquirer from your local grocery store... Plaschke has been dishing out his abrasive and heartless brand of commentary for 19 years now... Though he writes sports articles, there is almost always a rude and sort of condescending tone to them. He also occasionally attempts humor, but fails miserably. Plaschke is also well known to have a hatred for certain L.A. sports people. He and Simers actually managed to successfully run Dodger GM Paul DePodesta out of town in 2005. He and Simers have also been trying to run Lakers' star Kobe Bryant out of town for about four years now. Why???? Why does one of the nation's largest newspapers have two lame wanna-be comedians writing their sports columns? In addition, their articles are almost always full of holes or inaccuracies - and even incorrect grammar and typos! It truly makes me wonder sometimes what exactly the requisites are to become a professional sportswriter today.

What prompted me to write about this today? Well, it's been building for quite some time and perusing the Times Sunday sports section for all of 10 minutes finally pushed me to the breaking point. I go to page two, where Simers' Sunday column always appears, and see this huge picture of the aforementioned Bryant with the caption:

DEFENDING KOBE: Many readers e-mailed and in no uncertain terms told Page 2 to lay off the Lakers' All-Star guard.

Here are a few of the more interesting e-mails he received:

"Dear stupid, you are such an idiot. You're old, ugly, and people don't care about you, stupid. Get this through your stupid skull, knucklehead, LA LOVES KOBE BRYANT, LA HATES TJ SIMERS."

"I've had the extreme pleasure of watching the greatest modern player in the game, Kobe Bryant. I've watched a strong-willed, excellent athlete excel in a highly competitive game under very stressful conditions. I wonder what you have done in your profession that comes near to what Kobe has accomplished in his career?"

"Kobe is a GIANT while you are a NOBODY."

Now, since I'm no longer a regular reader of the Los Angeles Times - I liken their "journalism" today to that of the New York Times, and not that of a respected publication such as the Washington (DC) Times, I do not know exactly what Simers wrote recently to get everyone so mad at him. Then again, past experience with his (and Plaschke's) columns tells me all that I need to know: The hate mail was well-deserved!!!

Plaschke had his own little gem(s) today... Page one started with an article entitled For Gagne, the reception in Beantown has been icy. Eric Gagne is the former closer for Dodgers who from 2002 thru 2004 set a major league record of 84 consecutive saves. Injuries limited him the past two seasons, and he signed with the Texas Rangers in the off season. Gagne pitched well for the Rangers in his stay, but was traded to the Red Sox at the trade deadline. His stint with the BoSox has been anything but a bed of roses, as his ERA coming into today with them was 15.00. As of Satuday's games, hitters were batting .452 off of him. Once blessed with a fastball that was clocked in the 97-98 MPH range, Gagne's fastball now hovers in the 90-92 MPH range. No, he's not the same pitcher he once was. As if to insult his and the readers intelligence, Plaschke asked this "question" of Gagne: "at one point you were the best reliever in the history of the game, remember?" Now what in the world was the point of that??? Just to make him feel worse??? Asking that kind of "question" is an insult to the intelligence of Gagne. Publishing it is an insult to the intelligence of every reader of the Times' sports section. This is the problem with Plaschke and ALWAYS HAS BEEN. When an athlete is down, he tries to keep him down! Why is that??? Aren't we as human beings and fans supposed to encourage and root for people when they are down?

Not only that, but there were some rather serious grammatical errors in Plaschke's article. Check this out:

"People need to let Gagne breath," said David Ortiz, the grand-slamming hero of the Red-Sox 10-5 Saturday night win over the Angels.

Hmmm... let me think about that for a second... is it just me, or shouldn't that last word have an "e" at the end as in B-R-E-A-T-H-E??? Do you want to know what's truly sad? That same grammatical error appears again later in that same paragraph:

"Everyone knows he has great stuff... let him breath, let him be confortable, let it go from there."


Yes, this is what I get to put up with here every Sunday, and what a lot of the Los Angeles sports-loving market gets to deal with every day. Isn't a sportswriter supposed actually to LIKE sports and APPRECIATE the athletes he or she is covering? I know that Jim Murray is frequently rolling over in his grave, seeing what a wasteland his once proud and happy home has become! Where have all of the good sportswriters gone? As Maroon 5 would say, it makes me wonder... Well, one thing I do know is that there's one good sportswriter right here waiting in the wings...


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