INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 112: Poor Sports.


INDIGNITY VOL. 3, NO. 112: Poor Sports.

There's Nowhere to Read About the Ballgame Anymore

THIS MORNING, THE New York Times announced it plans to dissolve its sports department. The Athletic, the national sports website the paper bought in January of 2022, will serve as the Times' de facto sports desk, while the existing sports staff will be dispersed, so that, according to the Times' news story on the change, "a group on the business desk will cover money and power in sports, while new beats covering sports will be added to other sections."

In the process, the announcement said, the paper "will scale back the newsroom’s coverage of games, players, teams, and leagues.”

What is sports, exactly, if not games, players, teams, and leagues? It's a reasonable question, but not a new one, especially if you've already been subscribing to New York Times sports coverage. As soon as I heard the news, I got the sports section out of my Monday morning paper. I hadn't looked at it before that, because I never do.

Almost all of the section front, page D1, was taken up by a picture of the tennis player Chris Eubanks, accompanied by a story from Wimbledon about his run of success. Eubanks' most recent match in the tournament was two days ago, on Saturday. Page D2 had a feature story about a dispute at a fishing tournament last month. Page D3 was devoted to a retrospective on Megan Rapinoe's soccer career; at the bottom, a story datelined from the women's World Cup friendly match in San Jose spent 12 paragraphs describing how Rapinoe was not playing on Sunday before it mentioned what her teammates did on the field to beat Wales, 2–0.

Then came a spread of a page and a half, with photos, describing how the Wimbledon grounds crew deals with rain (they cover the court with a tarp).

After that came a baseball story: reporter Scott Miller, traveling with the New York Mets, reported from San Diego on how Mets pitcher Justin Verlander felt about the Detroit Tigers, his original team, throwing a three-pitcher combined no-hitter on Saturday. What did the Mets do in the ballpark in San Diego on Sunday? The paper didn't say.

Nor did the paper mention what the New York Yankees did in their Sunday game, the last game before the All-Star break. There was no writeup of anything that had happened in the entire sport of baseball on Sunday, and no small type listing the standings or the league batting leaders going into the break.

There was an account of an Ultimate Fighting Championship event, though most of the story dealt with scheduling and marketing considerations, rather than the action; also it failed to mention what day the fights had happened (Saturday). There was a story about Victor Wembanyama's NBA Summer League debut, which was mostly about the atmosphere around Victor Wembanyama's Summer League debut, in a game that happened Friday. Finally, there were two honest-to-goodness Sunday sports stories: one about Stage 9 of the Tour de France, and the other about the British Grand Prix.

How can you shut down a sports department that's already stopped covering sports? I used to make fun of the Times' doggedly parochial coverage of the local teams—the reporters had a knack for writing up Yankees games without reference to any of the players on the opposing teams—but after the paper acquired the Athletic, it abandoned doing even that much.

The Athletic, meanwhile, was originally supposed to bring back the era of genuine local sports coverage, with beat reporters everywhere. The Times story about the sports desk described what's happened with that:

In June, The Athletic laid off nearly 20 reporters and moved more than 20 others to new jobs. Its leaders said the outlet would no longer assign at least one beat reporter to each sports team.

The sports fan who wants to read about what their favorite team did yesterday is now lost in a news desert. The Athletic did at least publish a game story about the Mets—"Mets end first half in an all-too-familiar way"—but all I could find about the Yankees was coverage of the firing of their hitting coach. The game I actually cared about, the Baltimore Orioles' 15–2 victory over the Minnesota Twins, got nothing but a scoring summary and a comment thread.

Things have been trending this way for a long time. The abundance of sports information—you can get the baseball scores and highlights anywhere, instantaneously—has led to a complete devaluation of sports news. Where a game story used to be one chapter in an ongoing account of a team's season, now it's just a data dump, something the AP can delegate to robots.

Or else it's an item on a league- or team-owned house organ, like, written in a stilted sort of Pravda style:

Orioles close 1st half with dominant sweep of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS – Prior to the weekend series in Minnesota to finish the first half, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde told reporters that the first half of the season had gone by quickly.

As the saying goes, time flies when you're having fun.

Baltimore had plenty to enjoy in a first half that saw them enter the All-Star Break just two games behind Tampa Bay in the American League East. The three games in Minnesota were capped by a Sunday fun day.

What about the showdown between the disappointing Mets and the disappointing Padres?

Machado ends first half with 2 homers off Scherzer

SAN DIEGO – Here's a relatively surprising development considering all that went wrong for San Diego in the first half: The All-Star break arrived on Sunday afternoon, and the Padres greeted it feeling largely optimistic about where things stand.

The first half wasn't what they hoped it might be. Not even close. But at the tail end of it, the Padres at least provided reason to believe that things might be different in the second.

Maybe the old approach wasn't cost-effective, under 21st century media economics. What's replaced it, though, is worthless.

Correction: This post originally said the soccer story was about a World Cup qualifying match; it was the last friendly match for the United States before World Cup play began.


New York City, July 9, 2023

★★★ The sloshing and rattling of the air conditioner in the night made it seem as if a big, conclusive rain had come through. But the morning was dry, with the radar extravagantly and raggedly specked with ongoing tiny showers. The younger boy came back from taking out the trash to report that the area around the new bins was boiling with flies. The heat had abated enough to shut off the air conditioner and open the windows. The radar map resolved into a solid mass of showers, just inland, parallel to the coast. The boundary was up around Ossining, not advancing but ominously near. A breeze tossed branches and braced the body on the walk downhill. The lawns in the Park were relatively empty. Red berries grew on the brambles but nothing reachable looked quite ripe and nothing ripe looked quite reachable. Grackles rummaged in the leaves. Wood seemed to be rotting with extra alacrity. Rain spread ripples on the Loch as a confusing section of path rejoined the familiar one. The rain subsided and picked up again until it was almost a real shower. By dinner, after fading out and in a few more times, it finally became one.


Indignity Morning Podcast No. 103: The Wall Street Journal editorial page is here to tell you not to get excited.

Tom Scocca • Jul 10, 2023

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WE PRESENT INSTRUCTIONS for the assembly of select sandwiches from Nine Hundred Successful Recipes, by Lulu Thompson Silvernail, Domestic Science Teacher for The Southwestern Milling Company, Inc. Published in 1923, this book is in the Public Domain and available at for the delectation of all.

Cut thin slices of bread and toast only lightly. Butter slices, then lay thin slices of cheese on bread and set back in oven until cheese melts. Poach eggs and season with salt and pepper. When cheese has melted, place a slice of toast on top of each cheese slice, pressing firmly together. Place sandwiches on plates and on top of each sandwich place a poached egg. Have on hand some hot milk, well seasoned with salt, pepper and butter. Over each egg and cheese sandwich pour a little of this hot liquid.

Take equal parts of peanut butter and soft cheese and spread between thin slices of buttered bread. A lettuce leaf between layers adds to flavor.

Spread crushed bananas mixed with pulverized sugar and peanut butter between graham slices of bread.

If you decide to prepare and attempt to enjoy a sandwich inspired by this offering, kindly send a picture to us at


19 FOLKTALES collects a series of timeless tales of canny animals, foolish people, monsters, magic, ambition, adventure, glory, failure, inexorable death, and ripe fruits and vegetables. Written by Tom Scocca and richly illustrated by Jim Cooke, these fables stand at the crossroads of wisdom and absurdity.

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