You should be familiar with Ballhype, a website that makes it easy for us to follow popular sports stories. It's a very good site.
Here's what you'll find right now on the first page of the Ballhype NFL page (right now: by the time you look, it may be different):
11 of the 15 stories feature Michael Vick.
2 others are about a hit against Redskin QB Jason Campbell.
1 other is about a player getting a DUI.
1 other features some commentary on a preseason game.
I realize it's just before the third week of preseason; there might not be a lot going on the in the NFL right now. Furthermore, it was just today that Vick's plea agreement became public (see it at the Smoking Gun).
But 11 of the 15 most hyped stories?
Is this why we follow sports? Is there not more real football that could break up the monotony of one athlete's crimes? Aren't there positive stories out there? Aren't there hopeful stories out there?
This isn't why I follow sports. This will never be why I follow sports. Am I childishly innocent (I do, after all, still collect football cards)? Is this what we want?
Does this make sports fun?
I hope when the real games start, we can focus on the games and the players. When that happens, I hope that instead of focusing all our energy on criticizing lousy performances, we can take the time and energy to praise and admire the great performances. I want to watch the great players that I can tell my children about someday. I want to appreciate and understand what makes these players great. I want to enjoy my favorite team, and I want to enjoy quality football around the league.
So why are you following sports? For the fun? For the hope? For the possibilities and inspirations of greatness? For the technical brilliance?
Or is all that a distraction from mocking athletes and commenting on their crimes?
Addendum: This one example of a day at Ballhype is just an illustration of the larger problem. Vick stories have dominated Ballhype's rankings for a long time. Every possible Vick story gets a post at Fanhouse (and why not? These stories elicit tons of comments). Several Vick stories have been prominantly featured at SI and ESPN--pushing other football news aside. But the Vick story is just the greatest example of internet sports coverage's focus on athlete misdeeds. All Vick has done is push PacMan Jones further down in the headlines; for a long time the focus has been too much on athlete misdeeds and a focus on the negative.
I just don't want that to be why we watch sports. And as bloggers, we have some (however little) control over how sports are covered on the internet. We'll be critical of things, don't worry (obviously we enjoy critiquing sports writing and cliches). But we want the focus to be on the games and players, and we want to make sure our sports spectating focuses some energy on the parts of sports we like, not just the parts we don't like.