What a week it’s been for ESPN’s Ed Werder. When he reported last week that there was tension between Tony Romo, Terrell Owens, and Jason Witten, he probably couldn’t have imagined the level of backlash that would follow. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that the Cowboys were Vegas favorites to win the Super Bowl, so coming off a particularly bad loss to Pittsburgh, hearing about their unhappy locker room shouldn’t have really surprised anyone. Assuming it was, you know, true, his report wasn’t really all that incendiary.
Sure, Werder might have expected to catch the eye of hard-core sports-media watchers, thanks to his use of anonymous sources, which ESPN frowned on not all that long ago. But instead, the real backlash came from the Cowboys themselves — not to mention their fans.
After Sunday’s win against the Giants, the three players appeared together for a post-game chat on NBC, with Owens using the platform to call out Werder. (He also called him a liar during his post-game press conference.) And this was after Werder had been heckled in a made-for-YouTube clip by a fan, “Cowboy Chris,” who insisted that Werder “be a man” and reveal his sources. (We didn’t know that compromising journalistic integrity was part of being a man, but we do now. Thanks, random Cowboys fan!)
But the best take on the Werder situation came from SI.com’s Arash Markazi, who highlighted another slap in the face, this time by Werder’s own network. Let’s just say it’s unlikely Werder and Stephen A. Smith are going to be sipping milkshakes from the same straw in the ESPN cafeteria:
There’s no way Werder can properly defend himself against Owen’s allegations, and for ESPN to continue to put him in that position is unfair. Werder simply reported a story that he heard from “multiple team sources.” What is he supposed to do? Name his sources? When Werder asked Owens if he would comment on what he heard and answer just a couple of questions last week, Owens said, “Nope.” So if he turned down an opportunity to defend himself to the reporter actually covering the story, why should he be able to do so with someone he and his agent may be more comfortable with?
Meanwhile, Ed Werder sits alone in a room, flicking the light on … and off … and on … and off.
But not every sports journalist is having as crappy a holiday season as Werder. Take, for instance, the NHL media, who are invited to lace up their own skates and take the ice at Wrigley Field two days prior to the league’s January 1 Winter Classic. Honestly, this is just flat-out cool; we don’t even have a joke here. Except to say this: You know how, during the 1998 Mark McGwire home-run chase, they used to show batting practice on local television, even though it technically wasn’t actual athletic competition? We hope this gets televised, too. It’ll be sports media meets the Ice Capades, and it better be on YouTube no more than an hour afterwards.