News that the Associated Press Sports Editors is establishing a national headquarters and a “Hall of Fame” at Indiana University’s National Sports Journalism Center made me want to have another press-box bratwurst and a cup of bad coffee.
It made me want to yell at a copy editor, close a hotel bar, and nearly miss an early-morning flight to Green Bay.
The announcement made me want to have my shoes spit on by a cornerback; be confronted by a college coach’s irate wife for some presumed journalistic crime; be told by an assistant sports editor that if I was in Seattle I could “swing by” Los Angeles on the way home to Chicago and cover the Rose Bowl.
Memories are made of this.
I wrote sports columns for three papers for about a decade some time ago, primarily with the Chicago Tribune. It was mostly a great job where I came to admire talented folks on newspapers big and small.
Organizations such as APSE never seemed like much help, however, generally passing around high-sounding titles, conducting panels on diversity (not much), and—most years—giving awards to the writers with the highest public profiles.
That said, I imagine that the APSE headquarters will be as serious as medial collateral surgery, covering the Games of the Roman Numeral Olympiad, or listening to the NCAA dons discuss those pesky recruiting violations.
And the timing is sports-editor perfect. It comes at a moment when sports sections are shrinking, first-rate writers and editors are being thrown over the side, and fans of the mainstream sporting press are being offered less while the industry figures out a business model.
For example: The Washington Post did not cover the recent running of the 135th Kentucky Derby, won by a 50-1 shot. The paper used a Baltimore Sun stringer.
When asked about this, the paper’s ombudsman politely told me the Post had been “losing money.”
Not at the racetrack, apparently.
Still, the creation of a genuine mausoleum for sports journalism lifted my sagging spirits. Maybe former IU basketball coach Bob Knight will be there for the ribbon cutting, cursing and questioning the ancestry of the attendant scribes (except for a few national voices he would suck up to, as was his pattern).
And I could not help but think of some artifacts that would raise the reality threshold at IU (Hey, Dan Quayle!)—for me, at least.
• A compilation of every sports column ever written about Pete Rose getting into—or not getting into—the Baseball Hall of Fame. A new building will likely be required for this feature.
• A template of the speech given to the press by legions of teary-eyed college coaches as they decamped for bigger schools, warmer weather, and more money, leaving their recruits behind.
• A photo of two- to three-dozen professional golf writers covering the annual tournament at Pebble Beach, Ca. and never leaving the comfort of the press room, golf and the pounding Pacific Ocean notwithstanding.
• An oil painting of The Absinthe House bar in New Orleans at 2:30 in the morning during any Super Bowl week in that great city. The real press center.
• A wall inscribed with celebrated quotes from Yogi Berra, hilarious one-liners that Yogi never, ever said.
• A series of pop quizzes for visitors, with prizes for the fans who can, for example, identify:
- The last five winners of the National Basketball Association championship.
- The names of all the Monday Night Football announcers on ABC since Howard Cosell left.
- The commissioner of the National Football League.
- The heavyweight champion of the world.
• And a compendium of the many words devoted by the sporting press to their deep personal disappointment, based on their boyhood love of baseball, in the presumed druggy misdeeds of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Eric Gagne, Rafael Palmiero, Manny Ramirez …
It’s all about the kids.