Cross-posted from Blue News Tribune.
Despite his fondness for Rocky IV and tendency to bash John Turturro (OK, he did it once), Bill Simmons, the Sports Guy, is pretty sharp.
But this really surprised me in his column about Kevin Garnett.
There’s a hidden sub-story lurking here: It involves the fall of newspapers, lack of access and the future of reporting, not just with sports but with everything. I grew up reading Bob Ryan, who covered the Celtics for the Boston Globe and remains the best basketball writer alive to this day. Back in the 1970s and early ’80s, he was overqualified to cover the team. In 1980, he would have sniffed out the B.S. signs of this KG story, kept pursuing it, kept writing about it, kept working connections and eventually broken it. True, today’s reporters don’t get the same access Ryan had, but let’s face it: If 1980 Bob Ryan was covering the Celtics right now, ESPN or someone else would lure him away. And that goes for the editors, too. The last two sports editors during the glory years of the Globe’s sports section were Vince Doria and Don Skwar … both of whom currently work for ESPN.
Simmons works for ESPN now too. I don’t actually associate ESPN with hard reporting, I think more of the cheerleaders making out in the women’s room. But I don’t read their coverage enough to say. I read Simmons.
For the past few years, as newspapers got slowly crushed by myriad factors, a phalanx of top writers and editors fled for the greener pastures of the Internet. The quality of nearly every paper suffered, as did morale. Just two weeks ago, reports surfaced that the New York Times Company (which owns the Globe) was demanding $20 million in union concessions or it’d shut down the Globe completely. I grew up dreaming of writing a sports column for the Globe; now the paper might be gone before I turn 40. It’s inconceivable. But this Garnett story, and how it was (and wasn’t) covered, reminds me of “The Wire,” which laid out a blueprint in Season 5 for the death of newspapers without us fully realizing it. The season revolved around the Baltimore Sun and its inability (because of budget cuts and an inexperienced staff) to cover the city’s decaying infrastructure. The lesson was inherent: We need to start caring about the decline of newspapers, because, really, all hell is going to break loose if we don’t have reporters breaking stories, sniffing out corruption, seeing through smoke and mirrors and everything else. That was how Season 5 played out, and that’s why “Wire” creator David Simon is a genius. He saw everything coming before anyone else did.
I can’t comment on The Wire either, other than to say all my friends think I’m an idiot that I haven’t watched it yet. And I’m with him on the chill (emphasis mine).
Ultimately, Garnett’s injury doesn’t REALLY matter. It’s just sports. But I find it a little chilling that the best player on the defending NBA champion could be sidelined for two solid months, with something obviously wrong, and nobody came close to unraveling the real story. We still don’t know what’s wrong with his knee. We just know it’s screwed up. And, yeah, you could say that Garnett has always been guarded — with just a few people in his circle of trust — and yeah, you could say that only a few members of the Celtics organization know the truth (maybe coach Doc Rivers, GM Danny Ainge, majority owner Wyc Grousbeck, the trainers and that’s it). But this was a massive local sports story. Its coverage is not a good sign for the future of sports journalism or newspapers in general.
Bravo, Sports Guy, for making the leap here. You are absolutely right.