What is it about the sports media that compels them to exaggerate everything to the point of absurdity?
It's either doom and gloom or unwarranted euphoria. And whichever it is, it's always way, way over the top.
It's almost like they're trying to justify their own existence by giving the daily comings and goings of athletes and the games they play more credibility than they deserve.
The National Hockey League players' strike comes instantly to mind. As the strike dragged on and on, the media increasingly screamed that nobody cared about hockey anyway.
"What if they cancel the entire season and nobody even notices?" one sports reporter wrote.
If you think that's not an exaggeration, you need to talk to my next door neighbor, such a dedicated hockey fan that she started attending ASU hockey games because she couldn't get through an entire season without an occasional fix. If hockey didn't have its dedicated core of fans it wouldn't have lasted lo these many years.
The murder of Brandon Falkner is another case in point. When ASU running back Loren Wade gunned down his former teammate in the parking lot of a Scottsdale nightclub, the sports media went ballistic.
Day after tedious day we were treated to stories proclaiming the end of ASU athletics as we know them. One of Dan Bickley's columns in The Arizona Republic began:
"Once, and it's an accident (Hakim Hill). Twice and it's a coincidence (Loren Wade).
"Three times and you can say goodbye to Dirk Koetter and the Arizona State football program."
Excuse me, but what has Koetter done that every single major college football coach hasn't done? Take a chance on a kid of questionable character just because he can play football.
It happens every day across the country, and all in the interest of winning. At any cost. And we, the people, sanction it.
How many coaches, when they heard of Wade's foul deed, breathed a sigh of relief and said to themselves, "That could just as easily have been one of my recruits."
To suggest that Koetter's job, let alone the entire Arizona State football program is in jeopardy is absurd, and exactly the kind of exaggeration by the sports media that I'm talking about.
And then there's Pat Tillman, the ASU and Arizona Cardinals football standout turned soldier turned dead guy who the sports media instantly and gaudily turned into a demi-god because he did what patriots have always done -- give up everything, including his life, to fight for his country.
Poor Tillman, who never, ever wanted publicity for what he did, would be twisting slowly in his grave if that were possible. This is what Tillman's coach, Dave McGinnis, said:
"It was his wish that this not be something that would draw a lot of attention."
Whatever made the sports media think it was OK to violate this wish once Tillman was dead?
And here's something you might not have known about Pat Tillman: When ASU recruited him they knew he had spent 30 days in a juvenile detention facility for beating the living snot out of somebody. One guy with a questionable past commits murder; another becomes a hero.
And that's just how chancey this recruiting business is, and exactly why neither Koetter nor ASU can be blamed for what Loren Wade did, any more than you or I should be blamed for tolerating the win at any cost mentality of our universities.
But perhaps the best example of the gross exaggeration to which the sports media is too often prone is the monument to the NBA's 24-second shot clock that was recently unveiled in Syracuse, N.Y. That's right, sports fans, this sucker stands about 15 feet tall and is a genuine oversized replica of a shot clock.
If you care to know why an oversized timer has been so immortalized, the answer we're given is that it transformed the game of basketball -- speeding it up and saving it from death by boredom. Which may very well be, but have we built a monument to the hourglass because it transformed the cooking of eggs?
Former NBA star Bill Walton, in Syracuse for the unveiling, said, "I've always been the biggest fan of the 24-second clock. This is one of the most important days in the history of the game because it credits the evolution, it credits the teaching, it credits the chance for people's dreams to come true."
Guess what Walton does now that he's retired from basketball?
That's right: he's a member of the sports media.