THE COUCH SLOUCH

Here's why sports journalism has changed so much

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Editor's Note: Today's Couch Slouch column is not suitable for readers of all ages; children will be bored to death, and certain adults might prefer to think about death. It involves journalism, which no one cares about.

In the hypercompetitive world of NFL inside information, the big boys – ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, NBC's Peter King and Mike Florio, Fox's Jay Glazer – are watched by millions on TV and followed by millions on Twitter.

The goal? To beat the other guy to bring us the latest scoop.

It's a rough-and-tumble business.

Actually, it's somewhere between dirty business and the price of doing business.

Journalism 101 has been replaced by Journalism 101k – the former teaches professional standards, the latter teaches how to earn six figures a year.

In the old days of manual typewriters, pens perched on top of your right ear and fedoras with press passes attached, you would report without fear or favor. Nowadays, you report with fear of losing your sources and with a favor here and there.

Sometimes NFL TV guys become big business all on their own. Naturally, they have agents or representation, and often their agents also rep NFL coaches and players. And this is not good.

Sometimes NFL TV guys exchange information with sources – the source, say, will help a reporter on a story if the reporter tells him what he's heard about another team's interest in a team or a draft pick – to curry favor with the source. And this is not good.

Sometimes NFL TV guys will "carry the water," so to speak, for someone else, perhaps further some anonymous source's agenda to maintain a good relationship with that individual. And this is not good.

Sometimes NFL TV guys will throw out the old adage, "It's better to be right than to be first," for the new adage, "It's better to be first than to be right."

In the black market for NFL information, there are shades of gray everywhere. It's all about access – it can be bought with trust, or less-than-holy alliances.

Best I can tell, these fellas live by the dictum, "It's not a conflict of interest unless it conflicts my interest."

Let's start with Schefter. Before hitting the national stage, we got a whiff of his modus operandi. While covering the Denver Broncos, Schefter wrote books with Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan and Broncos running back Terrell Davis, then kept covering them. They were essentially his business partners, so one might wonder about Schefter's objectivity; also, I like his chances to be first on Shanahan and Davis news.

Mortensen has been an unofficial presence at the Manning Passing Academy for several years, run by the Archie Manning family quarterback dynasty. Uh, how could Mort not get Peyton Manning scoops first?

Glazer trains NFL players in mixed martial arts in the offseason. Let me see if I have this right: They pay him for training expertise, then he reports on them as an "insider." Got it.

Then there's King, the former Monday Morning Quarterback guru at Sports Illustrated. He's a human pretzel of twisted allegiances and mysteriously sourced misinformation. Air-traffic controllers and NFL insiders should bat close to 1.000; if King – a career .262 hitter – were a controller, the friendly skies would be chaotic.

During the Ray Rice flap several years ago – in which King bungled the reporting – he began an SI.com piece with the quote, "Roger [Goodell] has determined that he will be a leader in the domestic-violence space." And to whom did King attribute this comment? "A source with knowledge of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's mindset."

1. Who uses language like that?

2. A source with knowledge of Goodell's mindset? Really? Heck, that could be Goodell himself!

My goodness, who watches these selectively watchful watchmen?

OK, I'm done now. You can bring the kids back in.

Ask The Slouch

Q. With the NCAA deciding to permit athletes to cash in on their name, image or likeness, do you think that Eric Dickerson and Craig James will now be allowed to access their retirement funds set up at SMU? (Jeff Dent; South Charleston, W.Va.)

A. What are you, nuts? Those payments have already been maxed out.

Q. I'm assuming MLB will have at least 30 jobs next year in the New York office monitoring electronic strike zones. Can I use you as a reference when I apply? (Kirk Cornwell; Delmar, N.Y.)

A. As a rule, listing me as a reference is high risk/low reward.

Q. If you were invited to the White House after winning the Pulitzer Prize, would you go? (Michael Turner; Evanston, Ill.)

A. Frankly, it all hinges on lane availability at the White House bowling alley.

Q. Once the climate change issue is resolved, do you expect the science community to shift its attention to inventing a sweatshirt with sleeves at a length Bill Belichick might find suitable? (Scott Shuster; Newton, Mass.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship

NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship good, bad and ugly

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The NFL Conference Championship Weekend is their Final Four. You don't get the games played in the same place, but there is a buzz in both stadiums because each team knows theyarethisclose to a Super Bowl. Here are my observations:

The Good

-Chiefs' quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the real deal. We gawk at his arm strength and ability to make throws in spaces and from angles that'll challenge physics. But his athleticism and escapability are underrated. Prime example was his 27-yard touchdown run right before halftime. Not only did he evade the rush and scramble to the outside, but he tightroped along the sideline, cut back inside, then carried a couple defenders across the goalline. He led the Chiefs in rushing yards with 56.

-49ers running back Raheem Mostert has played on five different teams in his five year career. In his second stint with the 49ers, he's turned himself into an valuable piece of that offense. Although they use a stable of backs, it was Mostert who set a new team postseason rushing record with 196 yards and there was still almost 20 minutes of football left to play!

-We will have a great matchup of coaches in the Super Bowl. Head Coaches/Playcallers: Chiefs' Andy Reid vs 49er's Kyle Shanahan; defensive coordinators: Chiefs' Steve Spagnuolo vs 49er's Robert Saleh. The meeting of the minds with two weeks to prepare should give us a good game. Key word: should. Please guys, no blowouts.

The Bad

-Derrick Henry was dubbed "King Henry" after his recent rushing performances. He was unceremoniously removed from his throne by the Chiefs' defense. 69 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown with a long run of 13 backed up the tough talk from Chiefs' defensive end Frank Clark who said earlier in the week leading up to the game that Henry wasn't hard to tackle.

-Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked a little off. He missed a few key throws, including an interception that ended any hope they had of coming back because it led to the 49ers having a short field and going up by four scores instead of the Packers being down by two scores. It was a minute before halftime, but the way the 49ers were running the ball, that pick was a backbreaker.

-The NFL fined Chiefs' offensive lineman Eric Fisher $14,037 for an unsportsmanlike conduct for his double-fist beer touchdown celebration during last week's win over the Texans. I thought they turned the corner when they started allowing more touchdown celebrations. So let me get this straight: you can choreograph a dance routine with the whole team, but can't pretend to chug beer from a league sponsor? Talk about hypocrisy.

The Ugly

-With the score 28-17 Chiefs with 7:44 left in the game, 3rd&6 on the Chiefs' 40-yard line. Titans' corner Tramaine Brock Sr. fell down and was called for a holding penalty on Sammy Watkins as he was falling. The worst part of that play: Watkins broke open and Mahomes found him for a 60-yard touchdown. Later when they were down by 11 with 3:59 left, Brock was called for a 41-yard pass interference on 3rd&10 with the Chiefs on their own 19-yard line. Those plays sealed the deal for the Titans.

-49ers running back Tevin Coleman was carted off the field in the 2nd quarter with an injury to his right elbow. An arm injury must be pretty damn bad if you're carted off. Thoughts and prayers to the running back I thought the Texans should've signed. Major props to him wanting to come back to the sidelines to be with his teammates wearing a sling.

-The 49ers outrushed the Packers 185 to 51...IN THE FIRST HALF! They were up 27-0 and had "only" passed for 40 yards. That's all they needed since the Packers couldn't stop the run. Mind you, they ran the ball 22 times to get the 185 yards. Packers defense looked like wet brown grocery bags trying to hold two gallons of milk.

And then there were two. Through all the strife and struggle, we have our Super Bowl 54 will be a matchup of arguably the best on their respective sides of the ball: 49ers and their defense vs the Chiefs high octane offense. However, don't sleep on the 49ers' ability to score, or how well the Chiefs' defense has been playing as of late. Ultimately, I have the sads. We only have one meaningful football game left. Hopefully the 49ers and Chiefs give us something to talk about. I won't mind seeing a 24-21 or 31-27 game. As long as we don't get a multiple score blowout, I'm good. Props to the Titans and Packers for putting up a good fight. It just wasn't good enough. From 32 to two. And there will only be one.

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