Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Nascar's silence on Jason Collins says it all

Monday was a groundbreaking day for all sports, not just basketball, when N.B.A. player Jason Collins became the first professional athlete in a major team sport to come out as gay. It was a moment that many had been preparing for and anticipating for a while, a door that finally opened and began a process that will make it easier for others to come out in all sports someday.

And it wasn't hard to see the immediate impact of that opening sentence in the Sports Illustrated column authored by Collins: "I'm a 34-year-old N.B.A. center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

President Barack Obama personally called Collins and First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted about it; President Bill Clinton put out a statement. Athletes and others in the N.B.A. and N.F.L., Major League Baseball and tennis, among others, were quick to show their support as well with tweets and official statements from Kobe Bryant to the Boston Red Sox, who invited Collins to throw out the first pitch at a game at Fenway Park.

What was missing from this national conversation? Nascar.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Don Cherry should be banned from the locker room

I've had my share of battles with coaches and athletes over the years, from Scotty Bowman and Keith Primeau in Detroit to Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith. If you're a sports reporter long enough, and you ask tough questions or write stories that challenge the status quo, that's going to happen.

But as far as I know, the disagreements have never been about my mere presence in a locker room. Except once.

So when I heard the outrageous-just-to-be-outrageous hockey broadcaster Don Cherry had said on Saturday night that women don't belong in a locker room, I couldn't help but think of the only athlete in all the decades I've been in this business who made the locker room an ugly issue.

The day I went over a cliff

I wrote this last year after hiking through the Utah wilderness with Nick Smith of Seldom Seen Adventures. It is already posted on his site, but I wanted to repost a version of it here for those who might be interested in traveling off the beaten path:

When I hired Nick Smith to create an adventure, I never expected him to push me off of a cliff.

Then again, I didn’t know what to expect when I discovered SeldomSeenAdventures.net while planning a trip to southwest Utah in April. I knew I wanted to see the extraordinarily beautiful Zion National Park and Mars-like Bryce Canyon while I was there. Trail maps could guide me through easily enough.

Still, I wanted to see something more of Utah than that. But as a novice hiker with little sense of direction and no appreciable survival skills — unless you count crossing the streets of New York City — I had no interest in getting lost in a remote canyon somewhere. So I needed a guide who knew the area to take me there. After reading through SeldomSeenAdventures.net, I chose Nick. My only instruction to him: I wanted to see something I would never encounter on those much traveled hikes through the national parks. And I wanted to live to tell it.

The rest was up to Nick.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

This is my f*cking blog!

Count me among the masses relieved to read that the F.C.C. would not come down hard on David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox for that little speech he gave before Saturday's game.

With the lockdown over, the second alleged Boston Marathon bomber captured and the games allowed to go on once again, Ortiz addressed the crowd at Fenway Park and told them, "This jersey that we wear today, it doesn't say 'Red Sox,' it says 'Boston.' We want to thank you Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick, the whole police department for the great job they did this past week. This is our f*cking city."

After all Boston had been through in the last week, Ortiz gave them a reason to finally smile and laugh again.

And maybe, for once, Big Brother understood how important that was to the people there. Because the F.C.C. chairman, Julius Genachowski, actually posted on Twitter Saturday afternoon,

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Today's Journalism: Better to be first than right

Wednesday was a bad day for journalism, whether you were covering the Boston explosions or following the news from your computer or mobile phone. Depending on which media outlet you were clicking on, you could have read that a suspect had been arrested. Or was close to being arrested. Or was going to be arraigned in federal court. Or none of the above.

For those who thought we had learned a lesson from the mistakes of Newtown (remember the brother who was reported to be the shooter?), nothing has changed. And it won't change.

Here's why getting it first is always going to matter enough to risk

Friday, April 12, 2013

Brad Keselowski, the N.R.A. and news of the day

I have to admit I was a bit surprised when Brad Keselowski said he didn't believe the National Rifle Association's title sponsorship of a Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway was a story.

Keselowski, the reigning Cup champion and an important voice in the garage, made the assertion in a press conference on Thursday in advance of Saturday's N.R.A. 500. And maybe inside the bubble that is Nascar, it doesn't seem like it's that big of a deal. After all, the N.R.A. has been around racing for a while and is a welcome partner to many.

But outside that bubble and away from the stakeholders who help market the sport, the N.R.A. is a national story right now. The organization's role in lobbying and shaping the gun-control argument in Congress has made it one of the most watched and covered in the country. That's why its sponsorship of a Nascar race at this time matters.

Media outlets from The New York Times to USA Today, the Charlotte Observer and Sporting News, among others, are dutifully covering the story. As they should.

Because unlike race results, Twitter banter and driver spats -- the fodder that make up the bulk of daily Nascar coverage -- this isn't just a story. It's news.

And right now, there isn't a bigger news story involving Nascar than this.

You can follow me on Twitter @viv_bernstein

Monday, April 8, 2013

Ryan Newman accuses me of stealing. Seriously.

The first time I ever met Nascar driver Ryan Newman, I asked him if he was a cheater and he asked me if I was a thief.

It was 2004 and I was in Daytona Beach, Fla., working on a story for The New York Times about Newman following up on his eight-win season the year before. I didn't know much about him at the time beyond his racing success and engineering degree from Purdue. I certainly didn't expect Newman to have a dry sense of humor. He's from the Midwest, after all.

Ryan Newman Media LuncheonNewman had drawn suspicion around the garage in 2003 for finding a way to extend his fuel run longer than anyone else. His team was never caught cheating, but the questions about his performance lingered. So I asked him about it in our interview and he laughed at the suggestion, brushing off a certain four-time Cup winner in his response.

At the end of what turned out to be an entertaining interview, Newman took a lighthearted shot at me for some reason. I can't remember exactly what he said, but I'll never forget what happened next.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Beauty and the blonde

As a fairly ordinary brunette, I could never experience nor fully grasp the power that comes from being blonde and beautiful. Of course, I've seen plenty of pretty blondes and always knew they had some intangible advantage over me in life because of their appearance.

But I never actually understood how that power worked -- what it was like, how it changed people, how it could be used -- until the day Elle came into my life.

Oh, you can say she's just a dog. But I have owned many dogs over the years, sweet and wonderful and beautiful creatures all, and none has had the power of Elle. A jaw-droppingly gorgeous golden retriever with light-colored fur and a face that draws you to her, Elle has opened my eyes and my world to the privileged existence that comes from being a blonde beauty.

I knew the day I brought Elle home as a 12-week-old puppy three years ago that she was special. I couldn't help but smile every time I looked at her. Turns out I wasn't alone.

One day not long after she arrived, I was walking Elle down the street of my neighborhood when I heard someone running toward me from behind. Actually running to catch up to me. It was a neighbor, someone who had never bothered to say hello to me in all the years I had lived there.

She just had to meet Elle, she said.

I thought it was sort of odd but funny. And then it kept happening.