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:
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.
Games don’t have integrity. People do.