Of all the differences between New Orleans and the rest of the country, my favorite has to be the unabashed pride people in all walks of life have for this city and anything related to it. The Saints press box is no exception. Before every game, an announcement is made that reminds people of the old sports journalism adage: "There is no cheering in the press box." Bobby Hebert somehow didn't get that memo and people not from New Orleans seem tickled that something like this is allowed to happen. Meanwhile, people from Louisiana get a real kick out of it.
That's a video of Hebert at the Saints game on Sunday and it was a ludicrous scene to witness in person. Not so much for Hebert, but for the palpable cone of uncomfortableness that he created around him. But is anyone really surprised? This is a former Saints player that wears Saints-themed t-shirts to practices and games and who talks about the Saints to Saints fan on a Saints-themed radio show. Why shouldn't he be excited about his team? And having grown up in Louisiana, and having such roots with the organization, are we to expect him to suddenly bottle his emotions because - why again? Because of some arcane rule that made sports journalist think they need to be real serious as they do their real serious business?
The idea that sports journalist have any sort of real responsibility to cover teams "objectively" is kind of silly when you think about it. A winning team provides great copy for papers and boosts television ratings. Winning teams are also a lot more fun to deal with after games than losing teams. Many local journalists grew up in the market they cover and, hence, grew up rooting for that area's sports teams. And seeing as how so media outlets now take financial stakes in teams or hire a team-owned agency to sell its advertising, you could say it's in everyone's best interest for that media outlet to root for that team to win - conflict of interest be damned.
Sure, when you're dealing with a national media outlet (say, a FOX or ESPN), I can understand not wanting to anger any affiliates with on-air personalities favoring one team over another, but even then it's a rule that's often broken (see: ESPN coverage of the Dallas Cowboys or that Brett Farve fellow). Of course, not everyone covering the Saints is a fan of the team (present company included) and a vast majority of the people that cover the Saints do so exceptionally and professionally. But when a great play (like, say, a sack and a fumble recovery in the end zone) happens, watching people who love sports to just sit around and act they're above making positive exclamations is almost sad. After all, who covers sports if they don't enjoy watching them?
Now, was Hebert's display unprofessional, not to mention slightly obscene? Sure. Is it distracting - and possibly even a little embarrassing - for reporters sitting near Hebert as they take game notes or write up their stories? Most likely. Is it something that anyone should make a fuss over? Not at all. Unless Hebert starts running up and down press row smashing laptops and deleting stories, this is a non-issue. But, as I said at the top of this post, he could probably only get away with this in New Orleans where the media presence is smaller and not as tight-wadded some other markets . Also, while the press box in the Superdome is hardly filled with loud, cheering homers every game, but it's no funeral home and many a cheer can be heard when the Saints do something good.
Oh, and did you notice how close the fans are to the press box? Between their cheering and banging on the wall in front of us, you can barely hear Hebert over them anyway.
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