I turned the TV on this Sunday morning, as I have for much of my adult life, and tuned in to the Sports Reporters on ESPN. The Sports Reporters is a 30-minute semi-intellectual look at the week in sports, often focused on the stories behind the headlines. In its 4th decade, the show has consisted of a rotating panel of print journalists from the sporting world.
Being basketball season, I tuned out much of the show this morning until the final segment. They call that last segment Parting Shots. It’s when each of the reporters takes 60 seconds to soap box about something they felt was significant in the week of sports. The Parting Shots might take aim an issue, a person or an event of the week prior, and on rare occasions, perhaps a well-deserved accolade on behalf of a sporting person or event that otherwise went largely unnoticed by the sports media that week.
As they went ‘round the table with their parting shots this morning, it was immediately apparent, and I was just as quickly stunned, that they were saying goodbye – a fond farewell to the run of a show that was just minutes from concluding for the final time. I was in the same kind of shock and disbelief I might be on learning that a neighbor, a teacher or coworker whom I appreciated had passed away. The Sports Reporters was a casual friend – one that I trusted, admired and appreciated from day 1.
There had always been an intelligence about the show that rose above the trivial headlines, personalities and stories that were the superficial draw of sports for so many.
Ironically, last week I had begun a derogatory essay on the selection of journalist Mike Lupica to host the show, after the passing of the previous host, John Saunders last year. I thought Lupica was a poor choice, but that essay has since been deleted from my hard drive, as well as from my mind. The Sports Reporters is no longer.
Dick Schaap was not the show’s original host as is commonly touted, though he was named host later in the first season, and remained host until his death in 2001. Schaap, a legitimate print journalist with an eye for details and a nose for facts, was the reason for the show’s success. By the time of his death in 2001, the show’s path and trajectory were so well established that I often spoke of the show to my friends, as one of the best products in media.
Every time I have walked away from professional or high level amateur sports, vowing to never waste my time on such nonsense ever again, I would still tune into The Sports Reporters each Sunday morning for an intelligent take on all I had missed.
I’m in one right now actually – a sports hiatus that is. I grow tired of crybaby millionaires, domestic abuse stories and the never-ending loop of shoe contract discussions that dominate sports headlines. Well, a partial hiatus, anyway. I will always make time for the Masters, college softball and the occasional triple crown event which might find its way to my TV.
Next Sunday morning I won’t be able to tune into The Sports Reporters to find out what went wrong or what went right in the world of sports this week. I will though, think of those panelists as I have each Sunday morning when I do my own writing. These men have always been front in my mind as I write my own little amateur column here on this blog. Dick Schaap, John Saunders, Mitch Albom, Jason Whitlock, Bill Rhoden, Bob Ryan, John Feinstein, Bill Conlin, Tony Kornheiser and Jeremy Schaap (Dick’s son) were journalists I admired and appreciated. Today, I even appreciate Mike Lupica. Farewell good men, and thank you… Jhciacb
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