Can you make me laugh?

I don’t know. For me, on command it might be difficult to make you laugh. I think I’d need you to hang around with me for a while and I might have you laughing.

What had me laughing recently was ESPN the Magazine’s foray into Olympic athletes’ history of hooking up in the Olympic Village: “Will you still medal in the morning?”

I mean, really?

I know this was the Mag’s “Body Issue”—where they highlight the physical forms of athletes’ bodies. This to me, is their answer to Sports Illustrated’s (SI) “Swimsuit Issue.” I understand very well that sex sold in the past, sells in the present and will always sell in the future, too. That’s just the way it goes in the marketing world.

My issue (pun gently intended) with ESPN is that I subscribe to the Mag for sports journalism. I know, silly me.

I can, um, tolerate (wink wink) SI’s swimsuit issue and even the Mag’s images of beautiful, athletic female forms, and perhaps even an article on the “making” of these issues.

What bothers me is that by reading this Olympian love fest article fully (only way for me to weigh in, really), the Mag is now reduced to the likes of the National Enquirer, TMZ and any other gossip rag or source that is out there.

A couple of years ago I cancelled my longtime subscription to SI. They kept jacking up the cost each time it came time to renew, and I felt the quality of the writing had deteriorated in recent years. I know budgets and deadlines are tight. Magazines sadly don’t employ professional proofreaders in the numbers they once did, typos never seen previously reared their ugly heads all too often and they had begun to lose credibility with me–it was losing value to me. I also found myself not really interested in some of the sports they were covering far too much for my liking, such as NASCAR.

Even if I try to get interested in NASCAR, it’ll probably die before I do. Spectator and sponsor numbers have been in decline in recent years, despite Danica Patrick’s (yes, I had an SI subscription during her swimsuit issues participation) singlehandedly keeping the sport alive without too much actual success as a driver.

I had gotten a good deal on ESPN the Mag shortly before my SI subscription was set to expire. I liked what I saw. I mean, it was like a digest of sorts in that you didn’t find articles of the length that were in SI. But still, I found myself interested in a lot of the articles.

Over time, I felt my decision to drop SI in favor of just the Mag as a printed sports source was a good one. I felt I was getting value and I eagerly lifted it from my post box upon each edition arriving.

There is a lot of good sports journalism out there, still. Good young writers are coming up through the ranks, but the frat boy journalism that posed as sports writing for this tale of Olympic athletes’ apparent sexcapades, left me wondering, “Did I just read that?” With sponsor dollars being so tight in this fragile economy, too, is that the kind of Olympic athlete story we’re trying to convey in order to garner financial support for our athletes’ participation in the games?

I don’t think the announcers on TV will be playing up this angle of the Olympics any time soon.

I admire Olympic athletes for their athletic prowess, the challenges they face and the personal and professional obstacles they overcome by just making it to the Games. Many times, if one scratches even barely beneath the surface, a decent journalist can easily uncover a story that makes for a wonderful feature article. Why do we settle for the easy way out as writers and cave to the public’s basest instincts?

Maybe I am alone in thinking ESPN the Magazine “jumped the shark” with this story. I won’t be renewing my subscription when it expires. I expect better from their writers, editors and publisher.

So, yeah, their article was laughable.

But this guy could always genuinely make me laugh.



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