Starr Gazing

Dr. Dan Starr
Retired Director of Athletics and Professor Emeritus of American History at Canisius College.


Musings on Sports

I just received the latest Sports Illustrated magazine, yes, a hard copy in the regular mail. It’s a pretty good issue, much more sensible than so many recent ones. It got me musing about the state of sports and particularly the business side. A few observations follow.

Magazines, like newspapers and most products of the media, have undergone revolutionary changes in recent decades. And not always for the better. Some have fallen under the banal influence of the woke zealots. Especially for seniors, the decrepit state of the publishing industry has been a source of irritation.

But occasionally there is an exception to the downward trend of the popular media, as is the case with the most recent Sports Illustrated issue. In recent years, as Jim Burke asserts, the magazine has faltered, its legendary writers having left or passed on. Most recent issues have been devoted to stories of negligible significance. The end of the magazine, the back page, once written by award winners like Steve Rushin and Frank Deford, has become a page of dribble.

In the current issue, apart for the usual woke and nonsense, there are some entries worthy of comment.

An opening pictorial piece focuses on “fan of the year.” The 32 NFL teams are represented. Interesting! Next, a story titled “Inside the Mafia” - obviously, this story about Buffalo is welcome. There is a story on the NBA - most WNYers could care less.

And a Super Bowl story about the huge game in Arizona between the Patriots and the Seahawks. Lots of behind-the-scenes details furnished by the author but he’s not up to the excellent writing of the SI contributors of earlier days. The story does focus on good ol’ Marshawn Lynch, who never did get that “game winning” handoff.

For me, the two most significant and timely SI stories were: “So You Want a Job In Sports?” and “New Direction.”

“New Direction” pertains to the position of NCAA Executive Director. Walter Byers ran the NCAA for decades, beginning with the post-War II years. Money poured in and big football exploded in size and popularity. But the issue of amateurism clouded the NCAA sports agenda for years. There was not a lot of dissatisfaction with old Walter’s iron rule but eventually all the controversy got to him. After a couple of short term sports types tried their hands as head of the NCAA without much success, Mark Emmett took the reins. He lasted a dozen years but his tenure was shaky. Dissatisfaction grew and Mark recently resigned.

Now, for the first time, a politician, outgoing Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker, will take over as head of the NCAA. Hence the title, “New Direction.” Will things in the NCAA improve? Will cheating, and scandals vanish? Will there ever be such a thing as a real amateur athlete again (in the NCAA)? Stay tuned. With so much money flooding our sports scene, one doubts if there will be much improvement; the former governor will have his hands full.

The “So You Want a Job In Sports?” story on sports jobs is fanciful. It cites a number of people who found their dream careers in sports come true, maybe. The sports industry is bigger than ever. Check the sports sections of the local papers, especially the weeklies like the “Bees,” and you will find thousands of youths seeking glory on the field of play, and not just as athletes. Or check the sports administration departments of major universities. Ohio State lists over 900 employees in its sports department. Hundreds of other institutions of higher learning are similarly staffed. The original 1947 Buffalo Bills staff had four coaches, today more than 20. Look at the college basketball bench - the “suits” outnumber the players.

So, yes, there are sports jobs out there. The SI story lists them: organist, blimp pilot, stockcar crew chief, major league mascot, front office executive, boxing judge, teenage ball boy, and poker dealer. Why did SI list those? I don’t know but probably to show the variety of jobs available. Today there are hundreds of college sports administration or sports management programs, turning out thousands of grads eager for a high-profile job in the sports field. A few will make the big time. Most of those job seekers may work initially in an entry or mid-level type job but later move on to a different field. One wonders if Congressman Santos claimed he was an assistant athletic director at Siena College until caught.

A few concluding updates:

Josh Allen 17 jerseys are nationwide the number one seller at present. Back in the 1950s, it was the 108 jersey worn by fierce lineman Tony Illos which was a best seller. Andy Moynihan, the all-High halfback from St Joe’s, saw his entire uniform sent to the Smithsonian.

Bob McCarthy, yes, the celebrated Bona grad, retired after decades at The Buffalo News. Bob has long been recognized as a first-class reporter, a legend. His swan song column in Sunday’s News is a gem. Now his was truly an example of a sports-related job that panned out. Congratulations for a terrific career.

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