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Journalism 101 has been replaced by Journalism 101k – the former teaches professional standards, the latter teaches how to earn six figures a year.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

A cheat sheet for success

Houston Roughnecks: a game day survival guide

The XFL is back. Photo by Paul Muth

Don't worry guys, I made it.

I'm six days removed from surviving the Houston Roughnecks' inaugural XFL game against the Los Angeles Wildcats. I've had time to process the moment, and I've come to an important conclusion:

The XFL is Muth-Approved.

The pace was better, the scoring was exciting, and the atmosphere in TDECU was absolutely electric. Who knows if it will carry over to this weekend, but one thing that's for sure is that I'll be there to find out. If you're planning on coming out this Sunday, here's a survival guide to help you enjoy week 2.

Parking

Here's a pro-tip: don't. Only park if you plan on tailgating. The METRORail can drop you off right in front of the stadium. The cheat code if you aren't tailgating is to park for free out in East Downtown (or EaDo, for the hipsters) and pregame at any number of the bars located around BBVA Stadium. The METRORail is free on game days, so hop on the purple line heading south and it'll drop you off in front the stadium within 15 minutes.

If you have to park, the cheapest lots are 9B and 9C for $25 and can be found at the corner of Cullen and Wheeler. All of the parking is close to the stadium, but because they only have a few lots open at the moment, congestion is terrible. It took about 30 minutes to get in and 30 more to leave out of 9C last weekend, so plan appropriately. Otherwise, make your family proud and tailgate like a true American.

Tailgating

Now if you plan on using the parking lots as they were intended, here's what you need to know. The tailgating lots are 9B and 9C (again, on the corner of Wheeler and Cullen). You can get there up to four hours before the game, and the same rules for Texans and UH Football games apply. Get there early and find a spot that backs up to Cullen Boulevard and you'll have plenty of grass and trees to set up under.

Inside the stadium

Personally, my cell phone reception was awful, so if you have digital tickets make sure you have them pulled up before you get to the gate. If you're looking to buy any merch, I recommend getting in a line at least 30 minutes prior to kickoff. The lines for everything were pretty awful. I had one buddy tell me it took him the entire first quarter to get a hoodie. If you're looking for beer, your best bet is to bring a bunch of cash and just walk around until you find an aisle vendor. They were so busy last weekend, they didn't have to move.

So to recap:

  • Don't park unless you're tailgating.
  • Tailgate up against Cullen.
  • Bring cash money.

Oh, and be loud. Like, really loud.

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