Before you call me "too old school", I want you to know that I'm 25 years old. Okay, cool, now that's out of the way.
Over the past few months, the glorious world of sports has created some electric and incredible moments. Budding superstar golfer Jordan Spieth won two majors. Serena Williams is working on increasing her mark as arguably the greatest women's tennis player of all time while looking to complete the single-season Grand Slam. The Golden State Warriors played beautiful team basketball and defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron has been to the last five NBA Finals and put up absurd, historic Finals numbers.
The Chicago Blackhawks won the 2014-2015 Stanley Cup and established themselves as a legitimate hockey dynasty after winning their third championship in five years. The MLB season has been ripe of incredible performances and historic milestones being approached and surpassed. The Special Olympics brought us weeks of unification, as sports was used as a method to bring awareness to those suffering mental and physical disabilities.
Sports stories happen every day, both on a national and local level. Stories of perseverance, achievement, and responding to adversity are everywhere.
We just don't hear about them.
An alarming trend has begun. This is a trend that, as a sports consumer in America, you probably have noticed. There has been a shift in the fundamental philosophy of sports media giants from producing quality sports analysis to producing socially-driven content.
These stories of achievement are overshadowed by stories like Russell Wilson and Ciara not having pre-marital sex, Tim Tebow doing a leg workout shirtless, and the softcore porn that ESPN labels as their "Body" issue.
Strong written work has been replaced by "click-bait". On-air presentations do more gossiping and false reporting than ever. Reporting is done using "emojis" and tweets from unverified sources as references.
The giants like ESPN, Fox Sports 1, and Bleacher Report all do it. And frankly, it's sickening. It's all about the viewers and the clickers and the listeners. It's all about making stories out of non-stories, being controversial, and cashing in with their ratings.
Social media gives us in the sports media world a unique ability: to use first-hand accounts from players, coaches, team officials, and those immersed in the industry to our benefit. It allows us to look into their perspectives and write and talk about it. In no way am I debating that social media shouldn't be utilized or that it's harming the sports industry (I'm a big fan of social media myself). It's the way in which it's used that is becoming a major problem.
But, at what point should a line be drawn? At what point does a tweet or Facebook point actually produce news? Reporters and writers around the country make stories out of non-stories and the big networks have no issue featuring it.
SportsCenter, which was my go-to show as a kid who grew up in Connecticut, has become unwatchable. Video of Tim Tebow working out shirtless, while impressive, is not headline news. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. getting engaged is not headline news. Which One Direction member likes the Raiders is not headline news. Yasiel Puig playing a baseball video game instead of soccer is not headline news. Arian Foster being an atheist is not headline news. Contrasting Ronaldo and Messi's suit game is not headline news. "Deflategate" was more of a topic on SportsCenter than illegal immigration and gun control combined is on Fox News.
By the way, those above examples were legitimate headlines on ESPN over the past month (Click the links to find out for yourself and comment "how on earth is this news?". After all, that's what they want you to do).
At what point will we see a regression back to the way quality writing used to be? At what point will the American sports consumer say "enough is enough"? It's understandable that the "whatever gets more clicks" concept works from a business perspective, but what about from an ethics perspective?
Sports can be extremely unifying. At a time in which our country has shown a tendency to be completely divisive especially concerning race relations, sports should be a way for all fans of every race, ethnicity, religion, and creed to rally together.
An "Entertainment Tonight" or "TMZ" philosophy towards reporting puts us on a very slippery slope, a slippery slope towards sports media becoming entertainment media, towards "x's and o's" becoming "who wore it better?" and interviewing becoming Twitter reactions.
It's time for a change. It's time for sports media to show off its true potential.
Dan Karpuc is the founder/CEO of The Sports Blaze, Inc. TheSportsBlaze.com launches on September 1, and its mission is to provide quality purely-sports content to American consumer.