Thursday, October 20, 2005

SI reporter out of bounds on Wie's disqualification

The general public has always had difficulty understanding the role of a sports reporter.

Following the events of last week, they’re likely to be as confused as ever.

As you probably have heard, the actions of Sports Illustrated reporter Michael Bamberger resulted in the disqualification of 16-year old golf phenom Michelle Wie from her first professional event.

After Wie landed in the brush adjacent to the seventh green during the Samsung World Championship, she took a drop which was later determined to be illegal.

But, only after Bamberger, the only “impartial” witness to the event, investigated Wie’s actions and brought them to the attention of tournament officials.

The line between journalistic integrity and responsibility was once again blurred.

Even the greenest wet-behind-the-ears cub reporter knows this rule:

No cheering in the press box.

But, it goes much deeper than rooting for a particular team or individual and thus compromising your impartiality as a journalist.

Bamberger’s only responsibility is to his employer; Sports Illustrated. He isn’t, unless I’m mistaken, a paid rules enforcer. He shouldn’t have any personal stake in the success or failure of any team, individual or event.

Report the news. Don’t make it.

Let’s be clear, Bamberger did a wonderful job reporting on Wie’s discretion. He made a keen observation that Wie’s drop was too close to the hole. He asked questions, reviewed video tape and examined the area to determine if a mistake had been made.

Bamberger’s work was well within his rights as a reporter. That is, until he approached tournament officials and fibbed on Wie.

Truth is, Bamberger’s reporting and follow-ups are really the property of only one entity:

Sports Illustrated.

If he believed that Wie made an illegal drop and had the evidence to prove it, then he should have written it.

If there was a foundation in fact that suggested Wie, intentionally or not, cheated, then write it.

Let rules officials read it in SI and decide how to respond.

In reality, Golf is the only sport in which something like this can occur because there exists no statute of limitation on rules violations. Days, weeks, months and conceivably years can pass before an admission is made and it still can result in a disqualification.

Most parties involved in Wie’s DQ agree that she did not maliciously cheat. In her defense, Wie handled the entire situation with dignity and maturity well beyond her teenage years.

But, Wie’s only mistake was being Wie.

Unlike any other player at the Samsung event, her every step on the course was recorded, analyzed and scrutinized. Every time Wie so much as sneezed there was a camera present to capture the action.

Wonder how many other infractions occurred on the course that day by lesser-known golfers who were able to stroll anonymously from hole to hole?

We’ll never know, probably because Bamberger didn’t have time to enforce them all.

Is it Hal McCoy’s job to serve the greater good of Major League Baseball?

No, his job is to report on the Reds for the Dayton Daily News.

Is it Mark Curnutte’s job to act in the best interests of the NFL?

Nope, it’s to report on the Bengals for the Enquirer.

Just the facts, man.

Golf needs to get over itself. This has been apparent for quite some time. But, Bamberger’s actions establish a dangerous precedent for other sports.

Should he make an observation while covering an event and then report his findings in Sports Illustrated?

Absolutely. That’s what he’s paid to do.

Should Bamberger make an observation while covering an event and then report his findings to rules officials in an attempt to alter the results?

Absolutely not. It’s not his job. Nor should he care.

Write a column. Write a feature. Start a BLOG. Use the headline – ‘Teenage Cheat!’.


But, do not under any circumstances cross the line of journalistic responsibility and willfully impact the results of a game or event.

Many have said Bamberger, who is a former caddie on the pro tour, was simply protecting the integrity of the game of golf.

They’re wrong.

Games don’t have integrity. People do.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Paula Faris: Our loss, Chicago's gain

While her move was formally announced weeks ago, a few of us in the local media "officially" bid farewell to WCPO sports anchor/reporter Paula Faris following Marvin Lewis' press conference today at Paul Brown Stadium.

Paula will be taking a similar role with WMAQ-TV in Chicago and we wish her the best of luck. Her last day at WCPO is Sunday, October 16.

I was fortunate to work alongside Paula at various local sporting events. Whether it was standing in the pouring rain on a prep football sideline or in the clubhouse at Great American Ball Park, Paula was always the ultimate professional. In addition to being extremely good at her job, she is equally as great a person.

In this case, Cincinnati's loss is, without a doubt, Chicago's gain.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Griffey grateful for award

Ken Griffey Jr. was both gracious and grateful in expressing his thoughts after earning the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award on Thursday.

“I didn’t think about trying to prove to anybody I can still play the game," he said. "It was more just proving to myself that I can compete at a high level and produce and help a team win. I’m not going to waste somebody’s time and be out there just to collect a check. That’s never been me and it never will be me."

Griffey also expressed his gratitude to the fans who cast more than one hundred thousand votes to earn him the honor.

“Anytime somebody takes time out of their day, that means a lot," he said. "It means they care about you and want you to go out there and play. That includes the All-Star Game and things like that. I’d like to thank everyone who voted for me. That’s a great honor in itself.”

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Griffey's honor well-deserved

A press release just arrived in my e-mail inbox announcing that Ken Griffey Jr. has been named NL Comeback Player of the Year. He led the voting wire-to-wire and finished with 101,264 votes. Jason Giambi won the AL honor.

Griffey spent the past offseason recovering from a horrific hamstring injury. He played in 128 games and batted .301 with 35 homers, 92 RBI and 30 doubles.

Griffey posted a .528 slugging percentage and finished the year with 536 career homers tying him with Mickey Mantle for 12th all-time.

Not only did he perform well on the field, Griffey was as gracious as ever with the media and fans this season. He was fun to watch on the field and a joy to work with.

It's a crying shame that Griffey's first "full" season since 2000 was such a disaster for the ballclub.

Don't miss Dillon

When Corey Dillon declared himself a changed man before the throngs of media last Super Bowl Sunday, I wasn’t fooled.

When Dillon announced to the Boston media last week, “You won’t hear from me the rest of the year”, I was relieved.

Ah, where had you gone Corey Dillon? A nation turned its lonely eyes to you.

The Patriots were struggling at 2-2. The Bengals were 4-0. Rudi Johnson had rushed for 388 yards. Dillon had 223 yards on 73 carries.

After rushing for more than 1,600 yards last season, Dillon was on pace for fewer than 900 yards. His performance was partly to blame for the Patriots ranking last in the NFL in rushing. Dillon’s solution was to, well, not talk about it.

Big surprise.

If things get any worse, perhaps Dillon will finally make good on his promise to flip burgers rather than play for (insert losing team here).

A headline in a Boston newspaper said Dillon wasn’t going to “run from the slow start”.

Well, from the looks of his stats, Dillon isn’t running anywhere.

“The thing I admire and respect about Corey is that every day, he’s the same guy,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

Is this the same Bill Belichik that has been anointed a genius for leading New England to victories in two of the last three Super Bowls?

Couldn’t be.

“Whenever there was any negative situation down there (I think he means in Cincinnati), it always stemmed from not winning,” Dillon said. “It was never me going off. It wasn’t what people would call an attitude. They tied it into me having a negative attitude.”

Dillon rushed for 8,061 yards with the Bengals from 1997 to 2003 making him the franchise’s all-time leader.

He made it clear following the 2003 season that he wanted no part of Marvin Lewis’ grand plan. Lewis had just led the Bengals to their first non-losing season since 1996. It was no longer about Corey, so Corey left.

“People will view me how they want to,” Dillon said. “People didn’t think Jesus was Jesus, so who am I?”

Well, Corey, you’re not Jesus. Let’s just start there.

Running backs are recycled like old newspapers in the NFL; see Denver Broncos. The Bengals had Johnson who proceeded to rush for more than 1,400 yards after Dillon departed.

You’re either a team player or you’re not. There are fair-weather fans. There is no such thing as a fair-weather teammate.

What Dillon fails to understand is that his teammates need his leadership most when the ship is sinking. Such was the case with the Patriots after their 41-17 loss to the Chargers. But, as soon as the cabin springs a leak, Dillon is the first to snag a life boat.

One of Dillon’s more infamous declarations came during a heated contract negotiation when he said he’d rather flip burgers than play for the Bengals. The statement had little to do with losing. It had more to do with Corey.

Dillon the running back: Hall of Famer.

Dillon the person: Farce.

Lewis spent the past three years compiling this year’s Bengals. Throughout the process, he had to weed out a number of talented football players who simply were not willing to buy into his program.

Dillon was one. Takeo Spikes was another.

Lewis and the Bengals regret nothing.

“The best thing for this team was to do what we did,” Lewis said. “We got a pick. (Dillon) didn’t think he could function here. It worked out best for both sides.”

Dillon’s disposition was, perhaps, his best asset. He was an intense competitor with one of the most punishing stiff-arms of any running back in the NFL. He rushed for a then-NFL record 278 yards on October 22, 2000 vs. Denver at Paul Brown Stadium.

But, when Bengals fans see Johnson pedaling on the exercise bike behind the Bengals bench at Paul Brown Stadium, they should be thankful.

Thankful it’s not Dillon.

The undefeated Bengals were the NFL’s media darlings heading into the fifth week of the season.

Meanwhile, Dillon decided he was going to institute a gag order.

Corey, we don’t miss you in the least “down here”.