If The Athletic’s head honchos cash out, what was the point?

May 25, 2021

If the New York Times ends up buying The Athletic, as Axios reported is in the works, it could be good for readers. There’s a scenario where the NYT simply absorbs The Athletic as a sort of sports vertical and lets all the local journalists they’ve hired the past few years continue as they have been. There’s also a chance they make a series of cuts in an attempt to “right-size the business” when it becomes part of a public company and is no longer propped up by venture capital, and readers, local news outlets, and journalists are all left out to dry while a few executives and their VC backers make a tidy profit off the NYT’s optimism.

Either way, the primary lesson of The Athletic saga that I think not enough people have learned is how much news ⁠— radio, television, digital ⁠— is built upon the foundation of local general interest newspapers, and that the entire ecosystem goes to hell without that foundation.

Imagine college athletics existed for the benefit of students

May 10, 2021

For more than a decade, I’ve been convinced that big-time college sports and the NCAA are a predatory racket and we’d all be better off if the entire system was dynamited. “Big-time” is doing a lot of work in that statement, since I also believe organized, sponsored sports can serve a valuable purpose for students. The key, of course, is that if a university’s sports programs were truly oriented to serve students then they wouldn’t look like most Division-I schools’.

Every time I read about how these athletic departments are run, it’s clear that they don’t exist for the direct benefit of athletes or other students. Take this recent New York Times article about the athletics program at UC Berkeley. It specifically refers to the NCAA’s “anachronistic notion of amateurism,” which is about as edgy as it gets, but beyond that one reference, once you take in the entire picture there’s a gaping hole that remains unaddressed: Why go to all this trouble?

Giannis and the Bucks have reached 'boring, but good' status

May 2, 2021

Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t win the NBA’s MVP award this year even though his statistics indicate production and impact essentially equal to his past two MVP-winning seasons. That’s because Nikola Jokic has played transcendent basketball, Joel Embiid has also played fantastically when healthy, and Stephen Curry has bounced back to put up tremendous numbers for an otherwise terrible team following a lost season.

But I also suspect another big reason he won’t win the award is that Giannis and the Bucks have become boring to the NBA circles that decide such things, and American sports fans tend to underrate the talent of athletes or teams they deem boring.