SBD/5/Sports Society

THE STATE OF SPORTSMANSHIP TAKES CENTER STAGE ON ESPN

          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).

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