I don’t know about you but headlines impress me, oftentimes even more than then articles they represent.
There is a special skill set assigned to those who can align 5-7 words and immediately reserve the next five minutes of your life.
Daily I fall prey to these simple combinations of bold text that, after the mouse click, never really deliver the goods. It happened Sunday, prior to the Women’s World Cup final:
“Carli Lloyd is the Weirdest World Class Athlete Ever”
I bit, because I’m a sucker.
It was reasonable to foresee an article stuffed with odd behind-the-scenes stories regarding a professional athlete we know little about. Maybe she owns 50 snakes that sleep under her bed, likes pecan pancakes before each game or heck, she likes to train in the nude.
I was up for anything that would represent this person as the ‘Weirdest World Class Athlete Ever’.
The headline was misleading. It was in fact a full-on, uncomfortable at times, attack.
“Lloyd is often so poor that people who have watched nearly every single one of those 201 games she's played for the national team forget the point of her.”
“And then there are players like Lloyd, a relic of a time gone by.”
“I don't want to insult Lloyd, who has brought me so much joy as a sports fan, but there isn't any better way to put it. She doesn't look like she knows how to play soccer.”
Of course, a few thinly veiled compliments were thrown in to make it appear measured, but this was nothing more than a journalistic catharsis. A soapbox moment to express why this particular author was frustrated by this particular athlete.
Please someone tell me (Edward R. Murrow if you’re listening…), why does this author get to be frustrated? She isn’t playing so you can validate her - she’s playing for herself, her teammates and her country.
If you have a source telling you her teammates hate her – report it. If you found out she was drinking the night before a game – report it. If you hear she is about to be benched for insubordination – report it.
But to surmise that she doesn’t know how to play soccer? That people that watch forget the point of her?
Who the... what the...this isn't journalism, it's leading a scorched Earth campaign.
Why Is This The Tone of Sports Journalism?
Contrary to the way this appears to be headed, this is not an assault on the writer, a sports journalist with tactical soccer knowledge who has reported on more of Carli Lloyd performances than I have.
No, this is about the systemic problem happening is sports journalism today. Carli Lloyd isn’t the relic of a time gone by, the talent of reporting, while removing yourself and your biases from a story, is.
His piece wasn’t wrong because she had a great game – it was wrong because it was so unnecessarily personal.
Just another example of sports journalism turning into tabloid fodder. US Weekly headlines with First Take yelling. #EmbraceDebate and #maybesprinklesomefactsinthereifwehavetimebetweenscreams
We separate sports from the hard news cycle, because it isn’t life and death. We separate it from the world of celebrity stalking (re: Entertainment) because at the end of the day in sports we have facts, stats, winners and losers.
But that line we claim as our own, the one that separates sports journalism from the rest of the agenda-riddled muck and mire, is getting blurrier by the day.
Alas, this is what we, the people want.
WE vote with our clicks. WE set the agenda for the journalists. If no one supports this style of journalism it will stop. If no one watches First Take, it will get cancelled. But they all exist, so it must be what we want, right?
I don’t for one second think Carli Lloyd read the aforementioned article prior to the biggest game of her life, nor do I believe she was motivated to perform the magnificent way she did for any reasons other than her highly refined skill, personal pride and world-class teammates.
But there is a side of me that hopes she did, that she read the "Weirdest Athlete" article before the game and responded in the only way she knew how - with fury.
During the final the same author published an article headlined, "Carli Lloyd is an American Hero" - sorry, not falling for it this time.