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Back in the day, people used to ask Frank Deford who he thought was the greatest boxer. Nowadays, nobody even asks about boxing. (Getty Images)

Sports Reporting: The Way It Was ... And Is

Apr 23, 2014 (Morning Edition)

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When I was a young, cocksure lad in this business, one thing I hated was for anyone in the Old Guard to preface an observation about sports by saying, "It used to be ... "

Invariably, the point was that it used to be better.

I promised myself that I'd never become a "used-to-be" guy. But for the benefit of today's young, cocksure lads in the business, here I go:

It used to be that people always asked me if athletes weren't making too much money. Nobody ever asks me that anymore. The only money issue I hear now is, "Why aren't college athletes paid?"

It used to be that people always complained to me about how television was taking over sports, with TV timeouts and different starting times. All they complain about now is when they can't get a game they want to see on TV.

It used to be that people asked me how many games were really fixed, because they'd heard it was lots. As if I knew. Instead people ask me how many athletes are doping, because they heard, for sure, that its lots more.

It used to be that people would ask me why Americans didn't like soccer. Now people ask me why the American media won't give soccer its proper due.

It used to be people wanted to know if athletes actually cheated on their wives that much on the road. Nobody ever asks me that anymore. Instead, they ask me if I think sports contribute to misogyny, because so many athletes are involved in brutal sexual assaults on women.

It used to be people always asked me who I thought the greatest boxer was, as if I knew. They stopped asking that, and then it used to be they'd ask me if boxing was ever going to come back. Now, nobody ever asks me anything about boxing.

It used to be that people would tell me all the time how sports build character. Now that athletes are regularly arrested for violent crimes, and that so many college athletes are participating in a giant fraud that the academic community supports, people don't tell me that anymore. Instead, they ask me, dubiously, "Do you really think sports build character?"

It used to be that people would always ask me who I thought was going to win the game. As if I knew. Now people always ask me who I think is going to win the game. As if I know.

Well, some things never change.

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