Woody: Cheering By Press Has Always Gone On
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
SI.com’s firing of reporter Tom Bowles for cheering in the press box is absurd.
In case the suits at SI.com haven’t been following the sport for the past 40 years or so (that’s as far back as I can personally testify to) cheering by reporters in racing press boxes – and all other press boxes – has always gone on.
Usually racing reporters aren’t cheering for an individual as much as they are for an incredible triumph, which was the case when young Trevor Bayne became the most unlikely Daytona 500 victor in history.
I cheered too, and I imagine millions of others joined me.
I’m not saying lines are not sometimes crossed. I’ve heard my TV buddy Darrell Waltrip roundly criticized for cheering his kid brother Michael to victory in the closing laps of the Daytona truck race.
But that’s no different than Ned Jarrett, one of the sport’s greatest figures, cheering for his son Dale’s victory in the Daytona 500 several years earlier.
That’s the unique nature of a sport in which relatives of racers are working in the broadcast booth. It’s called human nature. Granted, sometimes they go a bit overboard, but it’s understandable in the excitement of the moment.
While serving a 40-year sentence as a newspaper writer, I covered Southeastern Conference college football and basketball in addition to NASCAR. Every press box had a rule against cheering.
But cheering still went on, especially among the media of the home team. Every time the team made a big play, an excited buzz would ripple through the press box. Sometimes the buzz was accompanied by a shout or a clap.
If it got out of hand, the sports information director would click on the PA mic and remind the media, “No cheering in the press box.”
I also covered the NFL for three years and the same thing went on in the pro press boxes all around the country. If anything, the cheering in NFL press boxes was even more boisterous than the cheering in the college press boxes.
Is cheering by the media unprofessional? Depends. Who gets to define “unprofessional?”
Personally I don’t care if the media cheers in the press box as long as they don’t cheer in their reporting. I’m a lot more concerned about the biased reporting I witness on every nightly newscast than I am about some sportswriter cheering a stock car winner.
In the case of Sports Illustrated, it’s OK to shamelessly gush about the Super Bowl champion in a glowing “special issue” that the executives hope to sell to giddy fans and earn a bundle of dough.
SI considers that kind of cheering-for-profit OK. But a writer in a press box can’t applaud an incredible feat by a bright young athlete. Absurd.
Trust me: if every press box reporter who ever cheered the accomplishment of a team/athlete were fired, the ranks of the ink-stained wretches would be riddled.
SI.com over-reacted by firing a good, professional reporter who made the “mistake” of showing a bit of passion for the sport he covers, and an appreciation of an incredible individual triumph.
Maybe SI.com should assign a robot to cover racing.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments