The Sports Reporters, a Sunday morning talk show in which boomer columnists who stopped actually watching sports when Michael Jordan retired for the second time take turns benevolently donating their dignifying Pensive Faces to the vulgar ball-games, will be canceled, according to a report by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.
For fans of a certain age (aging ones), The Sports Reporters was sorta like This Week with David Brinkley but for sports, only, somehow, with the latter show’s performative grown-up-edness turned up to 93, and with Mitch Albom’s brown football-helmet coif standing in for George Will’s bowtie as the indicator that no one who couldn’t remember Woodstock should bother taking it seriously. Its central premise was that what makes sports interesting is that sometimes Serious News Journalists Like Mike Lupica grace it with their attention. It was great fun, actually, if you watched it with the right frame of mind. Jason Whitlock was on it literally dozens of times.
In his SI column on the show’s cancellation, Deitsch places it in the lineage of the sports-arguing shows that came later, like First Take, Pardon the Interruption, Around the Horn, All Takes Matter, and whatever all the other shows are in which sports idiots very loudly pretend to disagree each other. I don’t think that’s quite right, although The Sports Reporters deserves credit for its role in opening a career pipeline from local newspapers to national prominence for sportswriters—a phenomenon that, among other things, has been filling the panels of the sports-arguing shows ever since. (And, yes, credit is the right word there; if nothing else the local-column-to-afternoon-arguing-show sluice provided a way for at least a few washed-up, cranky old farts to clear out and make room for new voices and perspectives, and that’s not nothing.) The juice of The Sports Reporters, though, never was disagreement or debate, but consensus and membership: it was a country club you could join by watching ESPN at a certain time of day on a certain day of the week, and thereby learn the gestures and expressions of sober grownup sports enjoyment.
Anyway now it’s canceled. Between that and the death of Grantland, I don’t know where you’re supposed to go when you feel like wearing a tweed jacket over your replica jersey anymore.