Alex Rodriguez. Lebron James. Tiger Woods. Aaron Hernandez. The same few stories play on repeat every 20 minutes. With little insight or analysis, ESPN’s flagship program SportsCenter merely rattles off a series of the latest buzz and highlights.
The lack of substance in sports media is hardly limited to SportsCenter. The uninspired reporting reaches all corners of it, from television to print to radio. The humdrum appears inescapable. Change in the industry would require a revitalized prioritization for intelligent journalism — not just clicks and views. A few of today’s journalists, such as Bill Simmons and Scott Ferrall, are hopeful examples.
ESPN recently shut down their website Grantland, a rare publication that featured in-depth sports and pop culture stories focusing on long-form storytelling. After Grantland founder Simmons was let go by ESPN after 15 years with the network in May, the unprofitable website’s demise seemed imminent.
“[The] end of Grantland seemed to spell the very end of meaningful content in an online world littered with nothing but quick-hit filler and click-bait junk,” the Milwaukee Record said.
Simmons has since joined HBO, where he will find greater journalistic freedom when he begins his new talk show on the network next year.
More reliant on personality than print media, sports radio still affords a few outliers to the mundane. Ferrall, a provocateur who previously had a show on Howard Stern’s Sirius channel, now hosts “Ferrall on the Bench” on CBS Sports Radio.
He is known for his easily recognizable raspy voice and his fervent opinions. He swore like a sailor on his Sirius show, and he has had to re-acclimate to FCC regulations on CBS. Fortunately, his cleaned-up act has not come at the cost of his rambunctious, confrontational personality.
Bryan Curtis more than adequately characterized Ferrall in an article titled “Your Buddy, Your Boy, Your Bookie: Scott Ferrall on the Art of Sports Radio” for Grantland in May.
“Ferrall’s voice, gravelly in peacetime, sounds like a gas-powered Weed Eater when he gets angry,” he said.
According to Curtis’ article, Ferrall loves being on-air late at night, when all the evening’s games are ending and he gets to share his excitement and disappointment live with his listeners. More importantly, however, he is happy to avoid all the 9-to-5 types.
“I never have to be around suits,” he said in his interview with Curtis. “I never have to listen to them small-talk me and ask me questions. They slither their way in and start talking to you about your show and what’s wrong with it.”
Ferrall certainly appreciates — and even exploits — his independence. He will pour a cold one for his listeners, and he even sells his sports betting picks on his website. Deviating from the norm in sports broadcasting, Ferrall, who has been on the air for over two decades, is still a breath of fresh air in comparison to his mundane counterparts. Ferrall — obnoxious, obscene and intelligent — serves as a beacon of hope for sports media.