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A “story” broke on deadspin.com on Wednesday. I say “story,” because in my mind, this does not qualify as journalism. It is a series of videos of a man- likely New York Jets coach Rex Ryan- and a woman- likely his wife, Michelle- engaged in a police role-play where the man says the woman has pretty feet. Since that time, outlets as respected as ESPN and the Boston Globe, along with sports-talk radio stations like 98.5 the Sports Hub, have dedicated headlines and air-time to this ridiculous farce of news reporting.
To his credit, Rex Ryan has only had one answer to this question: “it’s a personal matter.” Want to know why he said it? Because it is! Whether or not it’s Rex Ryan in that video, this is absolutely nobody’s business but his and his wife’s. Whoever is in the video does not deserve to have a harmless “fetish” (if that’s what it is), something completely legal and between two consenting, married adults, aired over the internet for the world to see and gawk at. By posting this to its website, Deadspin basically violates the moral right of privacy that every individual, public or private, enjoys. In doing what it did, Deadspin shows itself to be nothing more than a smut-peddler (and pretty low-grade smut at that). Barstoolsports.com might do something like this, but they are primarily a humor website, and nothing more (their chief writer admitted as much to me in a seminar at Boston University three weeks ago). Deadspin claims to be a “sports news” site, but I have to ask: how is this news? What about this story is newsworthy? How is anyone benefited from this information in any way but a disgusting, humiliating form of schadenfreude (look it up)?
Of course, Deadspin might counter that their readers want information like this, so they’re just giving them what they want. That’s absolute crap. Yeah, Patriots fans might love to see the man from “Hard Knocks” be taken down a peg by having his personal sexual preferences publicly aired. You know what? They don’t get to decide what’s news. That’s the job of a news media outlet, a group of professionals trained to find stories. The journalist must remain above pandering to the basest urges of its readers, or else what’s the point? Why do we go through all of this training, both technical and ethical, if we’re just going to report junk like this? Even sports journalism- derisively and unfairly called the “toybox” by other reporters- should hold itself to higher standards than this. How does Rex Ryan’s sex life impact his coaching ability? Will his thinking his wife has pretty feet affect whether he decides to go spread or use the power “i” against the Bears on Sunday? If not, then it has no place on a sports news site, anymore than it has a place on a regular news site. Shame on Deadspin for humiliating a private citizen for its own ends. This is bottom-feeding, muckraking bulls**t, and if Deadspin had any self-respect or respect for its readers it would never have given this story a moment’s notice.
Sports of Boston will not be covering this story. Whatever our readers might expect from us, this is a story we find beneath our ethical standards. We hope our readers will respect that. If you want trash, go to Deadspin. If you want solid analysis and reporting, come to us. No matter how titillating garbage like this might be, I still believe that given the opportunity, readers will choose to elevate themselves and reject their baser urges. Otherwise, why bother reporting the good stuff if all people want is crap?