New York Times' Work Is Pulitzer-Worthy
Perhaps it was that way in Cosell's day, when the games were carefree. However, in modern life, with millions of dollars often riding on a free throw or touchdown pass, with performers seemingly as likely to show up on arrest logs as on injury lists, sports has gone past pastime status into an essential piece of the American fabric.
Yet, the unwillingness of some factions of the journalism fraternity to recognize their sports brethren as serious practitioners of the craft continues to this day.
To wit, it's been 24 years since a purely sports story -- a series of articles in the Lexington Herald-Leader that revealed cash payoffs to University of Kentucky men's basketball players -- captured journalism's highest award, the Pulitzer.
(A feature of MLB umpire John Hirschbeck and of his two sons' battle against a genetic ailment won a 1997 Pulitzer for The Baltimore Sun's Lisa Pollak.)
Nominations for the new round of Pulitzers are due Feb. 1 and one of them, as well as serious consideration for the award itself should go to Alan Schwarz of The New York Times for his stories on head trauma in football.
Schwarz's stories have touched off a national discussion about a heretofore under-publicized aspect of life in the NFL, for both active and retired players.
All Schwarz's work has done is force Congress to drag Commissioner Roger Goodell to Capitol Hill to explain what the NFL has done or is doing to reduce the instances of head trauma.
Indeed, Schwarz's reporting has touched enough nerves that league officials have repeatedly complained to Times editors about his work, or so he told the Columbia Journalism Review in a Q&A running this month.
Schwarz, who was hired by the Times three years ago after he had written a number of freelance articles on head trauma, has done what good journalists do, namely find a problem and hold it up to the light for public scrutiny.
For that, Schwarz should be recognized by his peers -- all of them.
Off the Pace
Lost in all the late night drama at NBC is word that its upcoming coverage of the Winter Olympics may lose money.
NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol said earlier this week that the network expects, for the first time since it began airing the Games in 1988, that it will lose money on the proposition.
The network paid a whopping $2.2 billion for the rights to the Vancouver Games and for the Beijing Summer Games two years ago, which is believed to play a factor in the loss, though Ebersol did not specify why. Ad sales for the Games have risen slightly recently, so the loss may not be quite so large.
In all, NBC expects to broadcast 835 hours of competition next month, nearly twice the number of hours it aired from Torino, Italy, four years ago, when it garnered the lowest Olympic ratings in history.
As has been the case in recent years, events will be spread among a number of NBC-Universal platforms. NBC, for instance, will take the marquee events of men's and women's figure skating, as well as Alpine skiing. USA will take curling and hockey, with all the games of the United States men's and women's teams airing live there.
MSNBC and CNBC will each take about 100 hours of coverage of hockey, curling, speed skating and biathlon, with a significant amount of coverage being shown online at NBC's Olympics web site.
Of the four NFL divisional playoff games this weekend, the Baltimore-Indianapolis contest Saturday (CBS, 8 ET) may have the most intrigue.
That's because the Colts, who started the season 14-0, essentially pulled their collective feet off the gas pedal, electing to rest key players down the stretch to keep their players rested and healthy for the playoffs.
Dan Dierdorf was present at Lucas Oil Stadium for the December game when the Colts yanked starting quarterback Peyton Manning and others in the third quarter of their loss to the New York Jets. Dierdorf distinctly recalls the reaction that afternoon, one that could be duplicated if the Colts get off to a slow start Saturday.
"It was pretty shocking to see how that crowd reacted," said Dierdorf, who will work with Greg Gumbel. "The fans wanted them to go for 16-0. They wanted it desperately and they expressed their dissatisfaction."
Fox gets the early playoff slots this weekend, airing Arizona-New Orleans at 4:30 ET Saturday and Minnesota-Dallas Sunday at 1 ET, while CBS airs the Jets-San Diego nightcap Sunday.
ESPN kicks off its Saturday college basketball "College Game Day" series with its first trip to a women's game, the meeting between top-ranked Connecticut and No.3 Notre Dame. The game tips at 9 p.m. Eastern, with one-hour, pre-game shows airing at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.