This post is going live at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, in honor of The Sports Reporters, which is being canceled.
It’s a show that was a part of my life growing up. Sunday mornings were, in a way, structured around it. Church first thing in the morning, then my paper route, and home by 10:30 a.m. to watch The Sports Reporters. As many people have noted, this was essentially Meet the Press for the sports world. It was the first time, at a national level, that sports writers were given the same kind of stage as TV broadcasters. At the time, the split between print and TV was much more of a hard line than it is today. This was the pre-convergence era. There was a seriousness, a sobriety, about the show. These were serious print journalists talking about the issues of the week.
For people my age, it was an introduction to a generation of sports columnists. There was Mike Lupica, loud and abrasive and full of opinions. There was Mitch Albom, striking a more serious, literary tone. There was Tony Kornheiser and Bob Ryan, big fun personalities. There was Bill Conlin, who even then seemed a little creepy and cranky. In the middle of it all was Dick Schapp — smart, measured, in control. He was replaced by John Saunders, whom I never watched much but was well respected.
The Sports Reporters is an insanely influential show. It was the introduction of sports writers to TV on a national scale. It was the precursor to PTI, Around the Horn, His & Hers, and every columnist on TV show you see. It increased the star power of the sports columnist. There were rarely, if ever, reporters or feature writers on the show. It was a columnist show.
But looking back at it on a more personal level, it’s the kind of show that should fell more influential to me than it really was.
I watched it every week. I enjoyed it every week. But the more I think about it, I can’t say that it was influential on me as a future sports writer or sports journalist. It didn’t make me want to be a columnist. It didn’t influence my thinking or my writing. It was just part of the media landscape. This isn’t a criticism. It’s just odd to me. By all accounts, this should have been a formative show for a generation of sports journalists, and I don’t think it really was.
Looking back on it now, there’s of course plenty to criticize about it. The panel was hopelessly homogenous — it was the middle-aged white guy show, for the most part. It was very east-coast centric. But as much as anything else, that was a product of its time.
And while the show maybe isn’t as influential as I would have expected, it’s not to say it had no influence. I know of Novotel, the Times Square hotel, because they provided accommodations for the panelists. In the pre digital age, when you read the local paper and that was it, I knew of Lupica and Albom and Kornheiser and Ryan and others.
For years, I spent Sunday morning with the Sports Reporters.