Richard Sandomir

He’s been one of the most influential and most tenured writers covering the sports media beat. But after today, Richard Sandomir of the New York Times will have a new assignment and that will be writing obituaries for the Gray Lady from now on.

When you think about Sandomir’s career, it began in 1991 before ESPN became the sports media behemoth with a giant Death Star building in its midst, before Fox Sports became a huge player by outbidding CBS for the NFL in 1993, before networks began creating their own cable sports networks to compete with ESPN, before NBC began using multiple networks and platforms to bring the Olympics to the American people and way before internet streaming became a thing.

When Sandomir joined the sports media beat, ABC, CBS and NBC were the main players with ESPN, Turner Sports and SportsChannel battling it out on cable. But as Fox entered the fray, Sandomir saw a new network amassing properties thus beginning a sharp rise in media rights fees that continues to this day.

During his time, Sandomir has seen the emergence of Fox, the rise of ESPN to the point it swallowed ABC Sports and eventually shuttered the division and seen many technological changes in the industry.

He’s also covered some colorful characters like the late Pat Summerall who “confessed to fascinating feats of ribaldry and told me I was free to write it all.” In addition, he’s ridden on John Madden’s bus (“eating the gaseous food he took aboard”), being on hand for Ernie Harwell’s final game and admitting he texted Keith Hernandez during a game on SNY to help him name the actors who played Mr. Freeze on the Batman TV series.

As he writes, the rise of ESPN was one of the biggest developments that he’s covered:

I wasn’t covering ESPN from its start in 1979, but over the past 25 years, it has become the sports equivalent of the Pentagon. It is an intertwined mix of games, entertainment and news that, for so long, looked as unstoppable as a fleet of Air Force bombers.

Was there a regret in his 25 years in writing about ESPN?

My greatest regret about ESPN is not that I wasn’t harsh enough about Jon Gruden of “Monday Night Football” (I still have reams of unused, really critical notes I’m willing to sell to the highest-bidding TV critic), or that I was too tough on Chris Berman’s unwillingness to change his clownish act.

No, my great regret is that I was not more accepting of Stuart Scott’s hip-hop-infused creativity. I didn’t appreciate it until he was a year from dying and we spent an afternoon together. Scott was sui generis, a very rare anchor talent. But it took me too long to see the joy in his work, and that came well after his many fans already knew how unique and riveting he was.

Perhaps I’ll take up Sandomir’s offer to bid for his notes on Gruden, but overall, he’ll be missed. He leaves behind a beat that has grown to the point where websites are devoted to covering sports media. In his 25 years, Sandomir has certainly influenced many who have followed him and he’ll continue to watch games, but not with the same intensity, “For sure, I’ll still be watching sports — but without a pen and a notebook at my side.”

It won’t be the same without Sandomir and hopefully, the New York Times will name a successor to him soon. Whoever follows Sandomir will have huge shoes to fill.

[New York Times]

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

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