Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Media sees sports families as fair game

If you are married or otherwise related to a sports figure, get ready for the media to reveal the most intimate details of your life.

Whether it's an alleged foot fetish, a faux divorce or charges of physical violence, it seems like the family members of players and coaches are considered fair game by the media. But do we really need to know all the intimate details of their families’ lives? I don’t think so. Not unless they have some bearing to a player's on-the-field performance or decisions by a coach. There are exceptions to this rule but too many members of the media have no restraint when it comes to making those decisions.

Rex Ryan's implied foot fetish is not the reason the Jets got thoroughly humiliated on national television by the Patriots. Yet there is a prominent story about a woman who looks like Mrs. Ryan getting a lot of attention for her feet. Even if it is the Ryans in the video, does Mrs. Ryan deserve to be publicly embarrassed by having that information splashed all over the tabloids? Of course not. But such a story is guaranteed to sell more than a few extra newspapers so that’s why they run it.

Then there’s the story of AJ Burnett’s faux divorce. I don’t put this one in the same category as the Ryan story because a bad divorce could have been the reason for Burnett’s on-the-field struggles with the New York Yankees in 2010. But the real problem is that the story is untrue. ESPN radio host Colin Cowherd apparently did not even attempt to verify its authenticity. And the worst part is that he referred to AJ’s wife as vindictive and spiteful. What the hell did Mrs. Burnett ever do to be publicly branded that way? Just because she’s married to an athlete and public figure doesn’t mean she herself should be treated the way AJ is treated. Cowherd didn’t even bother to publicly apologize to her and he really should.

Yankee families were big in the news last week. Charles Jeter was accused of battery by a photographer attempting to photograph his famous son. Unlike the Burnett situation, the media were on solid ground reporting this story as a police complaint was actually made (although no charges were filed). Derek Jeter has done his utmost to keep his personal life private, but his family, including his dad, has been open to media interviews time and time again so they can’t really complain when the attention turns negative. Even though the incident had nothing to do with Jeter’s on-the-field performance, a physical altercation is big news when it even remotely involves an athlete and that makes it fair game.

I wish reporters would be a little more thoughtful about stories involving family members of sports figures. Just because a person has a famous relative or spouse, doesn’t mean that person should automatically be fair game.

Thanks to Keith Allison via Wikipedia for the photo.

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