Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Epic Failure Of American Journalism

You know how you can tell when he's lying?
Yeah, thats right, his lips are moving...
The Lance Armstrong case represents an epic failure of American sports journalism. Armstrong was not only a user of illegal drugs but the organiser, pimp and enforcer of a massive, sustained and extensive campaign of doping. Like Jimmy Savile and Jerry Sandusky Armstrong hid his criminality behind a facade of charity work. These facts were becoming apparent by the early 2000's and were common knowledge throughout the Peleton and indeed amongst casual bike enthusiasts. The French newspaper L'Equipe repeatedly broke stories about Armstrong's steroid and EPO use and the attempts he made to cover this up (Armstrong threatened fellow cyclists and apparently bribed drug enforcement officials). L'Equipe's stories were dismissed on this side of the pond as the rantings of an anti American tabloid, which is utter nonsense as much of its reportage on Armstrong came from Greg LeMond, Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and Frankie Andreu who are, of course, Americans. The USADA case against Lance Armstrong makes amazing reading not because anything in the report is particularly shocking or new but because so many people were cognizant of what Lance Armstrong was up to. Lance Armstrong's drug use was, seemingly, common knowledge and yet it took one determined guy at USADA to break this story not, crucially, a crusading American journalist.
I've been watching ESPN for the last week or so to see what their response would be to the Armstrong case, but a week of watching ESPN is seriously damaging to your mental health and I've had to stop. ESPN is good at producing bloated idiots who can spout jibberish about the Giants running game but that's about it. It is a joke network, the sports equivalent of Fox News and is not the place to turn to for serious journalism. The broadsheet press has been no better. No mea culpa from The New York Times or Sports Illustrated or The Washington Post or any of the so called papers of record. HL Mencken would be spinning in his grave. American sports journalists take themselves very seriously but they shouldn't. They are cowards to a man (and woman). Lazy, complacent cowards at that who are fit only for writing tired copy about ARod's decline in run production. If there were some kind of anti Pulitzer Prize (just as there is an igNobel science prize) I'd give it to the producers of ESPN's Sport Center for their Lance Armstrong coverage over the last decade. As Orwell said "to see what is in front of your nose requires a constant struggle" or, you know, even just some basic old fashioned reporting.