“It’s like they’re running all over the sports landscape trying to money-whip everybody into their barn” says Sports Illustrated’s Terry McDonnell of ESPN’s recent attempts to raid the world of print journalism for pricey talent, with notable acqusitions including Howard Bryant (Washington Post), Rick Reilly (Sports Illustrated) and T.J. Quinn (New York Daily News). The New York Times’ Richard Perez-Pena takes note of the competitive environment…and expects us to swallow the following :
“It’s the exact same model as what happened to athletes,” said Leigh Steinberg, a top sports agent. “We’re seeing free agency for sports journalists.”
He and Scott Boras, the agent for Alex Rodriguez and other stars, said that change had no doubt already produced an unnoticed milestone: In a sports locker room somewhere, in an interview between a prominent reporter and a low-level player, the scribe is the better-paid person in the conversation.
Aside from the likes of Reilly spending very little time in locker rooms (save for their own health clubs), it might’ve been interesting to have just one example cited. Other than Joe McEwing being quizzed by anyone who isn’t on welfare. But Perez-Pena isn’t the only one overly excited by the brave new world of writers-raking-it-in. Darren Heitner (above) of the ferociously unreadable Sports Agent Blog is eager to fill a niche.
It is just a matter of time before agents become a staple of the negotiations for up and coming journalists. Who knows¦some day I may get a call from Will Leitch of Deadspin.com or a blogger who does not actually go by a name, like TBL of TheBigLead.com, asking for representation. These bloggers may end up being the future big time players making top dollars in the media market. Jamie Mottram, writer of Mr. Irrelevant and host of The Blog Show, went from heading AOL’s FanHouse to being in charge of Yahoo! Sports’ new blogging platform. There are success stories out there in the blogging world.
But even if blogging ends up being a fad and slowly dies away, companies like SI, ESPN, and Yahoo! are banking that internet sports news is going to be the main way that sports fans receive their content. They are displaying this faith by paying large sums of money to sports journalists, prying them away from traditional media entities. As a sports agent and journalist, I am very interested in what future sports journalist contracts end up looking like, and hope that I am one day involved in a sports journalist’s contractual negotiations.
Regardless of my personal feelings about Leitch’s work, I have a hard time believing a thrice-published author and widely-recognized TV pundit is without the benefit of representation (perhaps, y’know, a lawyer?). And even if that were the case, I’d have an even tougher time imagining Leitch putting his career in the hands of a delusional internet troll, particularly one whose own blog makes the average Deadspin commenter come off like Red Smith by comparison.
Still, the old adage, “there’s somebody for everybody” comes to mind in this instance, and while I love the idea of Heitner getting a call from “a blogger who does not actually go by a name”, I see no reason why Alex Benesowitz would need to remain anonymous.