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THE STATE OF SPORTSMANSHIP TAKES CENTER STAGE ON ESPN
Published November 5, 1997
ESPN aired a special "Outside the Lines: Is Winning the Only Thing?" last evening, which was followed by a two-hour "ESPN Town Meeting" hosted by Bob Ley. The "Town Meeting" panel included: Liberty F Rebecca Lobo, NBA Senior VP/Basketball Operations Rod Thorn, NHL Senior VP & Dir of Hockey Operations Brian Burke, NFL Dir of Football Development Gene Washington, Hurricanes LW Stu Grimson, Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Indians P Orel Hershiser, Bears LB Bryan Cox, Jaguars LB Jeff Lageman, Baltimore Sun columnist Milton Kent, basketball TV analyst Quinn Buckner, NCAA Exec Dir Cedric Dempsey, USOC Exec Dir Dick Schultz, GWU men's basketball coach Mike Jarvis, and ESPN college football announcer and former coach Bill Curry (ESPN, 11/4). QUOTEBOARD: Joe Dumars, '97 NBA Sportsmanship Award Winner, on the state of sportsmanship in the NBA: "I don't think it's as prevalent as it used to be. It's taken a back seat." More Dumars: "You [ESPN] can do a special, and we can talk about the values of sportsmanship on one hand, and on the other hand, the leading shots, highlights ... that you see in sports every night, are the outrageous and unsportsmanlike, so I think there's a double standard here. On one hand we complain about it, and on the other hand, it's the first thing you see every night." Brian Burke, asked if violence is necessary in the NHL: "What distinguishes hockey in North America from hockey anywhere else in the world is the amount of contact, which is not only expected, but encouraged. We don't back away from that. Our fans demand it, we expect it as part of the game ... and without it ... hockey in the rest of the world, in my opinion, is very boring." Burke said the NHL uses player "suspension way more than the fine" for discipline. Burke: "The backbone of our system is -- you want to act up, you're going to sit." Rod Thorn, on suspensions: "That's the biggest deterrent you can use" (ESPN, 11/4). THE MEDIA'S ROLE: Baltimore Sun media columnist Milton Kent: "They [the public] say on the one hand that they are repulsed by violence ... and yet, can anyone imagine watching ... 'SportsCenter' without seeing those clips of the smashmouth violence, of a person like a Bryan Cox sort of popping off?" Cox: "There's nothing wrong with ESPN showing those highlights because, again, that's their profession, that's what they do." NFL's Gene Washington: "It's ratings driven, and I don't think any of us are naive enough to think otherwise. Companies make money by selling advertising, it's ratings driven." Burke, on the media's coverage of violence in the NHL: "It drives me nuts. It drives me out of my mind every night. I'm at a game ... I see a great game ... I go back and turn on 'SportsCenter,' and the first thing they show is a fight, and it drives me crazy. ... Fighting is a part of our game, [but] that doesn't have to be the lead story every single night on ESPN." Orel Hershiser: "Why can't we in sports have the silent majority that loves sportsmanship and wants to see more of it in the game raise our voices and say, 'There is another way.'" ESPN Managing Editor Bob Eaton: "Our job at ESPN is to cover sports, to cover it as completely as we can, and in a manner that will interest our audience." Jeff Lageman responded, "Why not show some positive side of an athlete? Why not have a show called 'Outside the Lines: The Great Things About Athletes?'" ("ESPN Town Meeting," 11/4).