Something pretty interesting has happened to sports opinionating in recent years. You can see it in the torching of Sterling just as you can see it in R*dskinsgate and the fight to end NCAA amateurism and the welcoming of openly gay athletes and the defense of Richard Sherman. A certain opinion — and I’d argue that this is, in nearly every case, an opinion that falls on the lefty side of the political spectrum — is articulated. It surfs Twitter. The opinion builds momentum until it becomes, with a few noisy exceptions, the de facto take of the entire sportswriter intelligentsia (perhaps the wrong word).
That opinion then becomes something like a movement. Pressure is exerted on people and institutions — in this case, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, Sterling’s fellow-owners, even Michael Jordan. The sportswriterly consensus doesn’t necessarily match the fans’ take — see the case of NCAA amateurism, where I’m pretty sure the writers are ahead of many or most of their readers. But watching the speed with which this happens has been astounding. It’s something like the sports-page equivalent of community organizing.
Veteran readers of the sports page know that social justice wasn’t always Topic A, and if it was, it was often that only for a few lonely crusaders. What changed?
I feel like I should let you know what you’re in for. This is a long story about a juggler. It gets into some areas that matter in all sports, such as performance and audience and ambition, but there’s absolutely a lot of juggling in the next 6,700 words. I assume you may bail at this point, which is fine; I almost bailed a few times in the writing. The usual strategies of sportswriting depend on the writer and reader sharing a set of passions and references that make it easy to speed along on rivers of stats and myth, but you almost certainly don’t know as much about juggling as you do about football or baseball. We’re probably staring at a frozen lake here.
A few juggling videos are embedded below. I hope they help. We may fall through the ice anyway.
You had us at ‘juggler’.
Journalism ethics is nothing more than a measure of the scurrilousness your brand will bear. That’s it. Ethics has nothing to do with the truth of things, only with the proper etiquette for obtaining it, so as to piss off the fewest number of people possible.