Editorial: Honesty more important in sports than image

“It is what it is” has become a popular, sassy comeback recently.

If someone doesn’t like a particular circumstance, he is told, “It is what it is,” and that’s the end of it.

In sports, “it is what it is” describes the numbers on the scoreboard after the game. You win or you lose and afterward. It is what it is.

In the world of journalism, that black and white statement begins to gray beyond wins and losses.

For example, in September of 2009, generations of people who wore a Chicago Bulls jersey with a 23 on it and dreamed of being “like Mike” were exposed to the real Michael Jordan.

His Hall of Fame induction speech was different from any before it, full of disrespectful thank yous for those he was still angry with after decades.

For example, his sophomore year of high school, fellow sophomore Leroy Jones, at a towering 6 feet 7 inches, beat Jordan out for a spot on the varsity basketball team.

While Jordan settled for the junior varsity team, that grudge made him work harder to be successful.

When he was finally inducted into the Hall of Fame, Jordan invited Jones and pointed him out to the entire crowd.

Sadly, that’s just the kind of person Jordan is, but no one outside of close contact with him knew.

Why is that? Isn’t it the job of the sports media to make sure the public is getting the clear picture?

Maybe not.

Think about it. If Jordan would have been exposed, would people still buy all of his gear and tickets to go to his games?

Would kids still want to be “like Mike,” or would parents use him as an example of the character not to have as an athlete?

Sports teams definitely want to have the best role models, bringing in cash from ticket sales and memorabilia sales.

If a sports reporter were to report on what truly was going down with a person or an organization, he or she would not be able to obtain top information anymore.


Because the sources would be mad at the reporter, wanting only positive things published about a player or team.

Here’s another example.

Baylor football won its first conference game last Saturday against Kansas.

Most every newspaper around Waco reported on how fantastic the victory was and how put together the defense looked.

The reality of that ball game was that Baylor was playing the 121st-ranked offense in the country.

Was that question asked in press conference following the game?

No, because good relationships have to be maintained or else things can go downhill.

For instance, after the Texas game, everyone in the room was curious about the status of defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, but only one reporter asked the question.

He received a one-sentence answer from head coach Art Briles, and his remaining answers were quick and frustrated.

This is not an indictment of Phil Bennett or Art Briles. They have a job to do and are doing it to the best of their abilities. Also the Bears are still lightyears ahead of where they were 10 years ago.

But people will talk, and they will grumble and they will make suggestions about staffing changes. None of that does anyone any good.

In fact, it can hurt a program much more than simply being open about it. That might not have been the best place to ask that question, but it was something that was on everyone’s mind and Baylor sports public relations department is much too skilled to have not seen that coming.

When the media does its job well it asks tough questions, and answering them well can quell a lot of doubts in the minds of the fans.

Yes, the truth can hurt sometimes, but it heals in the end.

The media and the sports world will work together as long as Americans will watch both. So it makes sense for both groups to work together. Sometimes the media has frank questions and harsh things to say in commentary, but it’s good to answer the questions quickly and honestly and stop the rumors before they can start.

We’ve both got a job to do that’s not always pleasant, but it is what it is.