Bryant Gumbel Lambastes ‘Terribly Sycophantic’ Sports Journalism, Talks Gay Athletes

TCA 2015: “We tend to not ask the same difficult questions of people in sports.” Gumbel tells roomful of reporters

Bryant Gumbel took aim at sports journalism in general during a panel for HBO’s “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel” at the Television Critics Association on Thursday, slamming much of sports coverage as “terribly sycophantic.”

“You know, there’s so little of it practiced unfortunately, it seems to me,” Gumbel replied when asked about how sports journalism has changed over the years. “So much of what passes for sports coverage, in my opinion, is terribly sycophantic. We tend to not ask the same difficult questions of people in sports that we do of politicians or business people or even people in the entertainment industry.”

As a result, Gumbel opined, “We have some abuses that go unreported and unaddressed.”

The state of modern journalism wasn’t the only topic on which Gumbel expressed strong opinions during the get-together with reporters. The “Real Sports” host also went on, at length, about the lack of financial compensation for NCAA athletes, which he called “shameful” and “embarrassing.”

“There is no other arena that you can name in which people are asked to do so much and get so little,” Gumbel reflected. “We’re coming off a weekend where we had the two highest-rated cable shows of the year with the NCAA playoff games … the schools made a ton of money. The networks made a ton of money. The sponsors made a ton of money. Oh, by the way, the kids? They get nothing.”

Gumbel also discussed the recent phenomenon of professional athletes coming out, and whether it should have happened sooner.

“To a certain extent, it’s dependent on who’ll talk to us about what,” Gumbel offered. “You can’t show up at somebody’s door and say, ‘Excuse me, we want to talk to you. Are you gay, by the way?'”

He did, however, suggest that the topic of gay and transgender athletes could at some point become commonplace enough that it’s not newsworthy.

“It’s an interesting topic, I think, about the times we live in: That our arguments now are, ‘If we do another transgender story, do we risk being exploitative?'” Gumbel posited. “At a certain point, we have to ask ourselves, ‘Are we doing it because of its sensational value?’ Which I think is a very mature question to have to ask.”

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