That Might Not Be a Bad Thing, But Still....
New York Times, as I have often stated, has the quirkiest sports section going. On the one hand, you have some top-flight writers (Tyler Kepner, Jere Longman, Harvey Araton) who make the sports pages destination reading.
Yet, the paper has essentially done away with regular columnists--even though it had some of the best over the last two decades--in favor of long, sometimes very long, features that demand your time, which is often a lot easier said than done, even when they are worthy (see "Snow-Fall" and "Jockey."
Maybe those efforts create a resource issue, and a serious one at that. The Times often appears to be covering New York teams grudgingly, as if it is resentful that the "New York" in its title somehow clouds its designs to be a truly national (and international) paper. That sentiment is often on display this time of year after the Mets have long since entered their irrelevant stage for the season. And that, for a newspaper, can be a dangerous thing.
The Times did not even have a reporter at last Friday's away game against the Cleveland Indians. Instead, it relied on a short story from the A.P. A stringer was wrangled to cover the last two games of the series, while Mets beat writer Andrew Keh was dispatched to cover the U.S. men's soccer team's attempt to qualify for the World Cup.
Even if Mets diehards like myself are not hanging on every pitch in September, that doesn't mean the faithful care any less about the team. The Daily News knows that. So does the New York Post. The team stinks, but it's still covered. And they do. Because, hey, you never know. And that's because what a lot of people are buying the papers for.
Still, last Friday could have been the night rookie Zack Wheeler pitched a no-hitter. Or Daniel Murphy hit three homers en route to a 19-1 rout. Or (fill in the blank) suffered a devastating injury. Hey, what about that bench-clearing brawl? And so on. That the Mets lost that game 8-1 is immaterial. Something big could have happened to arouse the Flushing Faithful. But a Times reporter would not have told them about that.
Last night's home loss was also short-shrifted. It was relegated to one graf and a line that there was a "staff article at nytimes.com." There was, though promising rookie Tim Rohan's dispatch lacks a quote. I wouldn't have minded hearing manager Terry Collins fulminating about his team's absence of offense, anyone's thoughts on playing on 9/11 or Wheeler approaching his innings limit. But who cares? It's the Mets, right?
Similarly, there was not a single story about the Jets in last Saturday's paper, the day before the season opened. There was only a short piece about the Giants. True, they were covered Sunday, but this is the time of the year when fans are foaming for any nuggets on Gang Green or Big Blue. Why should they have to buy a second paper or go online to get their fix?
I actually took the bait this year for a deep-discount subscription deal from the Daily News to ensure my sports needs were met through the year. The paper hasn't disappointed, with at least two reporters covering the Jets and Giants, along with NFL columnist Gary Myers. And the tabs are positively lousy with writers tripping over themselves in the press box preening at the Yankees' flickering hopes for a wildcard berth.
Meanwhile, the Times never got around to replacing national football writer Judy Battista when she decamped to NFL Media. That leaves Jets beat writer Ben Shpigel and Giants scribe Bill Pennington to pick up the slack. Battista's job is in dire need of filling. What about backup freelancer Tom Pedulla? His several decades covering football for Gannett should count as sufficient seasoning for the Times. And, hey, it's a national beat. He'd never have to type in New York if the Times didn't want him to.