Journalism is full of these black sheep. Some of them make better livings than we do.
Rick Morrissey made it clear in a Sun-Times* column this week he's embarrassed by some of his brethren on the Internet. He wrote, "SportsMockery.com is the website that 'broke' the news about the alleged turmoil inside the Blackhawks' locker room, centering on Patrick Sharp and what the writer of the article says are his infidelities. Isn't that lovely? Just what EVERYBODY was dying to read. Welcome to the Internet."
True enough, the SportsMockery posting was odious. It reported nothing beyond the existence of rumors involving Sharp, which it spread with a mop while pretending to clean them up. "Beware, there is a lot of stupid out there," wrote Brian Foran. His advice was "not to believe anything until it is proven." But fear not—"In a world polluted by bullshit, the truth always finds a way to claw itself to the surface and make its way into the limelight." Therefore, "Be patient, don't be stupid, and don't spread false rumors."
If language had the power, this would make me break out in hives.
And SportsMockery isn't alone out there. Poking around the 'net for more on Sharp, the Hawks' left winger and assistant captain, I came across a site that gives SportsMockery a run for its money. On talk-sports.net there's a forum titled "Patrick Sharp's Girlfriend." It wonders: "Does Patrick Sharp have a girlfriend? Is he dating someone? Is he married? Single? Divorced? Would you date him? Did you date him? Who is his wife? His fiance?"
Then it instructs, "Please do not post inappropriate comments, this is a friendly forum for fans." Sure. The site immediately links to a cluster of forums devoted to Sharp, including the "Girlfriend Forum," the "Sucks Forum," and the "Dirt Forum."
My heart's with Morrissey. But sad to say, journalism's inconsistencies make for a very sharp blade—and it sliced him. He writes:
Those of us involved in professional journalism have higher standards and should be held to higher standards. Sometimes we fail, badly, and we are taken to task, as we should be. But there's a distinction between what we strive to do and what is going on with the Sharp story. It's that we rarely delve into athletes' sex lives because, and this can't be overstated, who cares?
If nobody cared, the Internet wouldn't either. But we do care, and if a sex life affects a player's performance or a team's performance, we have a right to care. As awkward as it might be, the beat writers have an obligation to tell us.
But Morrissey insists we don't care and have no reason to care—a pretty thought, and if only it were true. He goes on, "But if Sharp was guilty of any of it— and this is what I keep coming back to—why should we care? How are we better for a website having thrown this into the public square? Because it explains why Sharp has been having a bad season? Because it explains why the Hawks don't seem to be quite all there? Please. This was written and tweeted for no other reason than because it was salacious."
But what if it does explain—or partly explain—Sharp's bad season, the Hawks' curious lack of cohesion? Does the explanation go unreported because in lesser hands it's simply salacious? "Listen, buddy," Morrissey tells us, "if we in the mainstream media loved this kind of thing, we would have been looking into these rumors a year ago. I've been hearing them for at least that long."
Of course he doesn't love this kind of thing. I don't love this kind of thing, and I thank God it's not on me to report it. But if the rumors SportsMockery went to town with are borne out on the ice by the performance of Sharp and the Blackhawks, a year is a long time to stubbornly refuse to look into them. And now that they've been salaciously peddled by a website, upright mainstream journalists are in no position to contradict them.
*Ed. note: the Sun-Times and the Reader are owned by the same parent company.