Chron blows UH coverage, beat writer blames fans

On Saturday, the University of Houston men's basketball team achieved the school's 1,000th victory in the sport.

While the 1,000-win list is not a tiny club among men's college basketball programs, it was an impressive milestone for a relatively young program.

The Chronicle buried the coverage of the game in Saturday editions and coverage of the win in Sunday editions, prompting an outcry from local boosters, several of whom received the following response from the sports editor:

You are absolutely right. We did drop the ball by not having a story in advance of UH going for its 1000th victory on Saturday, and I apologize for the oversight.

Thanks for your interest in the Chronicle sports section.

Dan Cunningham

Sports Editor

Apparently, Cunningham didn't have much of a conversation with UH beat columnist Michael Murphy, who fired off the following blast today in what is supposed to be his column about Cougar sports:

Let me pause for a minute while I rummage through the closet for my umbrella. I'm going to need it to shield me from the tears of Cougars fans, who are again crying about the lack of respect UH athletics receives from the local print media (read: this paper) especially after Houston won its 1,000th game.

By beating Memphis on Saturday, the men's basketball team reached that milestone. Quite an accomplishment, but the 1,000-win club isn't quite as exclusive as might be imagined by those upset with the game story's placement on Page C10.

Schools like the University of Denver, Mount St. Mary's, Akron, Bucknell, Canisius, Jacksonville State, Dartmouth, Wisconsin-Milwaukee and all the Big 12 teams are among the almost 200 schools that have won at least 1,000 games.

My question to Cougars fans is this: If the game was that historic, that monumental, that earth-shatteringly important, then why wasn't it a sellout? The Cougars, who are doing their part by winning and playing an eye-catching style of ball, were playing a name opponent in Memphis, yet there were plenty of seats available (attendance was 4,927). And only about 1,000 showed up for the Lady Cougars' 92-47 victory over Saint Louis, after which Chandi Jones' jersey was retired.

Why is that? Perhaps UH fans can divert some of that brainpower they devote to complex conspiracy theories and use it to explain the lack of attendance at the games.

Murphy's editor admitted that the newspaper blew its coverage of UH's 1,000 men's basketball victory, and his editor was right.

So, why does Murphy use the newspaper's blown coverage as an opportunity to blast local fans and readers of his newspaper?

UH's basketball attendance has increased significantly from last year, because they are putting a compelling product on the floor. But UH men's basketball has not put a compelling product on the floor consistently for at least a decade, and one might argue it's been closer to two decades. Funerals have been more interesting than UH basketball for many years. The fan base has atrophied. With the arrival of Tom Penders and a scrappy style of play, that's changing, and it's reflected in increased attendance over last year. Anyone -- especially a local sports columnist -- who expects sellouts overnight at UH after what the program has experienced for years doesn't have much of a grip on reality.

In any case, it's a clumsy attempt to change the topic from the fact his newspaper blew its coverage of the team's 1,000th win, something the editor of the sports pages has conceded. In the future, Murphy might focus on covering the team, instead of criticizing the team's fans and potential readers of his newspaper and minimizing a milestone win.

Posted by Kevin Whited @ 02/09/05 10:21 PM | |

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