This past week sports’ fans were subject to three huge stories. Dexter Fowler signed on with the Baltimore Orioles. Peyton Manning was set to announce his retirement. The San Francisco 49ers were set to trade Colin Kaepernick, and both the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns were highly interested.
All reports were according to “sources”. None of the three proved to be true.
Social media has killed sports reporting. At least reliable sports reporting. Between Twitter and Facebook, and then shows like TMZ and ESPN, every reporter wants to be the first to report something.
These days it seems like it doesn’t even matter if it is accurate. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if it is true. As long as someone has a “source” they can go with the article. As long as they aren’t libelous in their assertions, most writers can recant their statements hours later.
Grantland Rice and his co-horts must be so pissed.
The Dexter Fowler story was outrageous. News broke quickly that he had signed a deal with the Baltimore Orioles. Everyone’s sources claimed it was true, so it went live and EVERYBODY knew that Fowler was the newest Orioles outfielder.
Everyone but Fowler that is.
Casey Close Statement Regarding Dexter Fowler: pic.twitter.com/z4wQ8q312U
— Excel Sports (@excelsm) February 25, 2016
Today’s big name reporters don’t understand how they are hurting the small, independent guys like me by this irresponsible reporting. It could have ruined Fowler’s negotiating tactics with false rumors of what he agreed to, but the Cubs used it to their advantage and were able to give Fowler what he wanted. It seems like there has to be some violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, but there is none to be found.
There is very little accountability. Jeff Passan is one of my all-time favorites in using “sources”. Since he is one of the lead writers at Yahoo! Sports, he will always have his stories, so he can break them how he pleases, but he has missed the mark a few times. He’s not alone, by any means. The fact that “my sources close to the team” or “high-ranking team officials” are legitimate sources for today’s sports media shows how far they have fallen.
Who are the sources? When the next “breaking news story” proves false, who is this source to be held accountable? Does this source even exist, or is he simply a big fan of the team that “heard something on Twitter”?
Later this weekend, it was reported by Ian Rapoport — whom I like — that Colin Kaepernick was on the market and that the Houston Texans and Cleveland Browns were interested.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 27, 2016
Since it was Rapoport — someone from the NFL Network that I have always trusted — I was furious. Many of you know that I think Kaep is a joke of a quarterback and that his best season was merely good by NFL standards. He was a flash in the pan that I felt from day one that the second NFL defenses figured him out, he would be done with his awful accuracy problems.
Many of you also know that I am a huge Houston Texans fan. After watching Brian Hoyer‘s dismal performance, and being notified that Kaepernick may in fact be the next step in “improving” the team, I was looking into new franchises to tie my bandwagon to. The story — since it came from a “reliable” source — spiraled out of control across news outlets like that game operator you played when you were a little kid. By the time I read it, one site reported that the Texans were very interested and likely candidates to acquire Kaep.
But guess what:
By the way, Texans have no interest in trading for Colin Kaepernick.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) February 28, 2016
If you don’t know who John McClain is, he is the Houston Texans beat reporter who pretty much knows what’s going to happen on the Texans before GM Rick Smith does.
So I guess that false lead meant that Kaep was Cleveland-bound. But guess what:
— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) February 28, 2016
If you don’t know Cabot, if it happens in Cleveland — which for such an awful franchise, there has been a lot happening the past few seasons — she knows about it. But because Rapoport is a usually reliable source, smaller markets that I read ran with the story. They felt that Rapoport had etched himself into sports media enough that if he ran the story that is must be true.
And it wasn’t. And small market blogs and websites were burned yet again as being unreliable.
Then Peyton Manning announced he would retire. Look, here is an entire article by Woody Paige — whom despite being part of ESPN’s TMZ-like sports channel is still widely considered one of the most reputable names in the business — that claimed that Peyton made his decision and was ready to hang it up.
But guess what:
Broncos dispute Manning retirement story, which is revised by the Denver Post https://t.co/1UmqCWv1EL
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) February 28, 2016
Paige is well known to have some of the best insiders in the game when it comes to Denver sports, so I will say this. It is highly likely that Peyton did in fact tell someone his intentions to retire. It makes sense. He finally secures that second ring and a whirlwind of controversy between PEDs and teabags ensues. There is simply no reason for the quarterback who has achieved everything to hang around the game.
But until it was officially said by Manning, the Broncos or one of their representatives, it is a non-story. No one will admit that it is true. And tomorrow, Woody Paige will be on ESPN. He will be paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do what I want to do — write and speak to athletes — but all of the smaller outlets and blogs that simply ran with his story will be crushed as unreliable.
The market for sports writers and new sports blogs is highly saturated. Most blogs and sites have one chance to show their reliability. That’s why my writers and myself all agreed that we will never rush to break a story. We want the facts, we want to know that there is a big X in the signature spot of whatever deal goes down and that all the Ts are crossed and all of the Is have been dotted.
It’s just a shame that this is how sports writing has evolved. It’s like Ricky Bobby’s daddy always told him:
Unfortunately, as Ricky Bobby finds out decades later, the phrase he lived and based his life on was said in a drug-induced haze.