Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel has been a standard in sports journalism for 20 years. Launching on HBO twenty years ago, the monthly sports news magazine has won numerous Sports Emmys for journalism. Bryant Gumbel has called Real Sports the show he’s most proud of in his long broadcast career:
“I’ve never hid or tried to disguise the fact that this is the best show on which I’ve ever worked; I really mean that,” he said. “I’m enormously proud of this broadcast. I really am. And not just because it’s my baby. I just think we have in the main tried to do serious journalism, good storytelling, and do it well.”
Recently, HBO celebrated Real Sports’ 20th anniversary with a dinner in New York. Newsday asked Gumbel what he thinks about the sports journalism genre in the 20 years since Real Sports began, “I wish I could say, boy, there’s a lot of folks doing it now and we’ve really taken a serious look, but I’d be lying,” Gumbel said. And he didn’t stop there:
“I still think so much of what passes for sports coverage is so sycophantic it’s nauseating. But that’s me. You tune into any Sunday and watch before the football games, and come on. I mean, really. Really.”
But what about ESPN’s Outside the Lines which came before Real Sports and the vast amount of sports documentaries which have popped up recently? Gumbel wasn’t buying it:
“It’s true, you’re right,” he said, “but in the vast scheme of one hundred percent of sports coverage, how much of it is real journalism? An infinitesimal amount.”
And he continued noting that there are more outlets for athletes to make an end run around the traditional methods of sports journalism:
“There are a lot of people who don’t want to play ball, because they have vehicles like the NBA Network or the NFL Network or the MLB Network or the NHL Network or The Players’ Tribune,” he said.
“They’d rather go through it unfettered, not face anything difficult and then basically say, well, I’ve addressed that, I’m not going to talk about it again, let’s move on, it’s on to Cincinnati, rather than actually trying to answer something. That’s unfortunate. It really is. It’s sad.”
Gumbel may be known more for Real Sports now than his previous incarnations as an NFL pregame host on NBC and a co-host on the Today Show. When asked about the state of morning TV today, including Good Morning, America which leads the ratings over his old stomping grounds at Today, he called it “almost laughable” how it heavily depends on social media trends:
“That’s all it is: Let’s sit around and let’s laugh and let’s joke,” Gumbel said. “Let’s talk about what was on the computer last night and what the latest makeover is. Look, God bless them, it’s not for me. Not for me.”
“…”They’re doing what they think is in their best interests. Is it something that I’d like to be doing? No, it’s not a show that I’d like to be doing.”
Gumbel has hosted over 220 editions of Real Sports over the past 20 years and he hopes to continue through 250, but as for 300, he said he didn’t know.
Real Sports usually airs on the last Tuesday of the month at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.