- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 31, 2009

SATURDAY’S BEST BET ON TELEVISION

This is a bad time for the Caps to face Detroit, one of the West’s best. At least Washington is 19-3-1 at home. 12:30 p.m., CSN

No ethics in the press box

Overlooked in the morass of pre-Super Bowl gibberish is a story that shows when it comes to sports journalism, ethics have about as much relevance as a third-string quarterback.

On Sunday, there will be two Larry Fitzgeralds at Raymond James Stadium - the star Cardinals wideout and his father, a sports columnist for the weekly Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. The elder Fitzgerald has written about his son at least 23 times since 2003, Slate’s Josh Levin reported this week. Those articles include such rah-rah statements as “the consensus is that Larry Jr. should have won the 2003 Heisman Trophy” and “he is just 24 years old, and he’s already one of the best in the game today.”

In each of his last three columns, Fitzgerald has gushed even more about his son’s achievements. Not until this week, however, did he offer the disclaimer that he’s writing about his own offspring - going on to call him “one of the best … to play this game.”

A cadre of national columnists, including ESPN’s Rick Reilly and the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon, have not only marveled about the ability of a sports writer to raise a star athlete, but also held Fitzgerald up as a paragon of journalistic ethics, not once questioning the situation.

This isn’t about a proud father extolling his son’s triumphs. It’s about a conflict of interest that wouldn’t be permitted in most professions. But in this cash-gorged sports atmosphere, apparently, cheering in the press box is something to be rewarded.

TWT Five Things to Change About the Super Bowl

1. Media day - Trent Dilfer called this “a day to find creative ways to say nothing.” He’s right - it’s nothing but inane questions and people nobody cares about.

2. Off week - This isn’t about rest, actually - it’s about creating more hype. Besides, many of the teams that get this far had the wild-card round to rest.

3. Commercials - The game used to be a proving ground for advertisers, but the iconic commercials (Macintosh, Budweiser frogs) dried up years ago. Get a sponsor for the whole game and fill the downtime with interviews and featurettes.

4. Rotating networks - Another money grab by the league - instead of giving the job each year to the best broadcasters (i.e., not Joe Buck), they share, diluting the quality of the broadcast.

5. Halftime show - Since Nipple-gate in 2004, the list has been: Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Prince, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and now Bruce Springsteen. For an event that used to be groundbreaking, that lineup is anything but.


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