Adding “Insider” To Injury

“Hello, my name is Stephen, and I’m an Outsider.”

(In chorus) “Hello, Stephen.”

That is a scene not likely to play out in a church basement near you. Or near me, for that matter. Nevertheless, I do claim to be an “Outsider.” I never read the S.E. Hinton novel called “The Outsiders,” nor have I seen the movie that was based upon the book, nor do I look like Matt Dillon. But being an Outsider is the whole raison d’etre of The DFR; it’s supposed to be the voice of the average fan–that guy in the stands or at home watching the game on the TV who never gets to be heard otherwise.

Unfortunately, the sports world doesn’t think much of Outsiders these days. Nowadays, being an “Insider” is all the rage. Every outlet currently covering sports has a stable of someones upon whom has been bestowed the title of “Insider.” Which is all well and good, but it leaves an important question unanswered:

Insider? What the hell does that mean?

The DFR: MediaThis whole Insider business may, or may not, have started with ESPN. The Connecticut Clown College boasts an impressively large stable of Insiders, a few of whom I’ve actually heard of. Herm Edwards and Jay Bilas made names for themselves playing NFL football and NCAA men’s basketball, respectively. Bill Polian and Jim Bowden, as former executives (Polian in the NFL, Bowden in MLB), have clear insider credentials, clear enough that labeling them Insiders with a capital “I” makes perfect sense.

Things get murkier when we move past those guys. Chris Broussard, Todd McShay, Craig Custance…what makes them Insiders rather than just “reporters”? Because they made it past security and into “the Worldwide Leader’s” break room? That seems like a fairly low bar for having your status redefined from reporter to Insider.

…the average sports fan would be better served if members of the sports media–and their employers–spent less time giving themselves self-important monikers and more time trying to be better at their jobs.

Of course, what really makes these men “Insiders” is the fact that they provide content for ESPN Insider, a paywall-cordoned section of the network’s website. I guess the “inside” in question is the inside of your wallet.

Beyond matters of commerce, we are still left with questions–such as, what is wrong with being a reporter? For many a year, being a reporter was good enough for the guys (and gals) covering the games. ESPN still has a show called “The Sports Reporters” running at 9:30 AM each Sunday. How does that work? Do the Insiders deign to join the mere “Sports Reporters”? Is there a violent turf battle brewing between the wretched and lowly Reporters and the more glorified Insiders?

What makes someone an Insider grows murkier still if we leave Bristol and search for clues among the local sports affiliates.

I have not the means nor the inclination to pay for an expanded sports package, so the local affiliate CSN Bay Area must serve as my Insider source. They too have their stable of Insiders: Matt Maiocco on the 49ers, Monte Poole on the Warriors, Kevin Kurz on the Sharks, and others. These and the rest are, I’m sure, fine reporters in their own right, but how they can be called Insiders with regard to the teams they cover is somewhat baffling. Certainly, the idea of the smallish, skinny, almost mouse-like Maiocco having “inside” status in the NFL strains the imagination.

But let’s not stop there–CSN Bay Area didn’t. Not ones to pass up a chance to go one better than ESPN, the local source also employs veteran newspaper columnist Ray Ratto as their “Senior Insider.” Fancy. At roughly 60 years of age, Ratto may or may not qualify as a senior. His Wikipedia entry indicates that he serves as one of the voters for the AP college football poll. That seems pretty insiderish. Beyond that–and, it must be said, a long and distinguished career as a San Francisco newspaper columnist–Ratto’s status as an Insider seems to be based largely on his being inside the studio at CSN and KNBR (the local AM sports station) on a regular basis.

This is not to knock Ratto, nor Maiocco, nor any of the figures identified by that nebulous label Insider. (Except Mel Kiper Jr., of course; I strongly suggest everyone take brickbats to Kiper whenever an opportunity arises.) I wanted to address the Insider issue simply to raise this point: the average sports fan would be better served if members of the sports media–and their employers–spent less time giving themselves self-important monikers and more time trying to be better at their jobs.

It’s probably no accident that this Insider Era follows close on the heels of spectacles–courtesy the Connecticut Clown College–such as Rachel Nichols on Brett Favre’s lawn, or “The Worldwide Leader’s” fawning, masturbatory coverage of Tim Tebow in N.Y. Jets camp in 2012. It also comes after baseball’s steroids era, when the transgressions only received major coverage in retrospect. What other major stories have passed by unnoticed and unreported because presumed sports journalists were too busy achieving their “Insider” status?

Are “Insiders” better at covering the important stuff and letting the trivia slide? You’ll have to judge that for yourself. All I know is this: you have plenty of options, whatever may be your media outlet of choice, if you wish to put that question to the test.

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