The line between sports fandom and journalism is as thin as ever

If you happen to be a sports fan in the Kansas City area then you’ve probably seen videos, tweets and rhubarb regarding the behavior of Nate Bukaty, co-host of The Broder Patrol on 810 WHB at the Kansas/K-State game Monday night in Lawrence.

Bukaty, an unabashed fan of the Kansas Jayhawks, was sitting court side for the all-important Big 12 contest when he was captured on film waving a stat sheet at Kansas State’s Xavier Sneed, a clear attempt to show up the player as Kansas was steam-rolling to victory.

Bukaty was apparently there as a fan and not as a credentialed member of the media, but has been met with staunch criticism from his colleagues at 810 and many fans who sent hateful tweets and emails.

The truth is, it’s difficult to draw the line between being a fan and being a journalist. I know this because I’ve been struggling with it for seven years now. I grew up with sports in my blood and don’t remember a time in my life where I wasn’t cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs or Missouri Tigers. My dream was always to work in sports media and I have had to scratch and claw my way into the business with tireless efforts writing blogs, spending thousands of my own dollars to produce sports documentaries, building a brand and website and learning all of it as I go along.

Incidents like these make me realize that sports journalism in 2019 is far removed from the unbiased presentation of information that I have long wanted to portray. Back in 2013, my business partner and I were fortunate enough to cover ONE DAY of Chiefs training camp. We were aware of the rules and presented ourselves with the height of professionalism despite having only a $200 camcorder to film interviews with.

In 2018, we found ourselves on the sidelines and in the press box for a handful of SEC football games while filming for an upcoming documentary. As a Mizzou fan, it did not dawn on me, while on the field at Neyland Stadium during a beatdown of the Volunteers, to show up a Volunteer football player that ran past me. That’s because, at some point, I had to decide whether or not I was going to be a fan or a journalist. I chose journalist because there’s nothing that I want to do with my life more than cover sporting events.

When I step into a press box or onto a sideline with a camera, I leave my personal bias at the door just as Bukaty should have done as a local celebrity that represents the brand of 810 WHB. Understandably, sports release a child-like passion within all of us regardless of what our job is, but it’s something that you simply have to repress if you’re going to be taken seriously in this business.

Bukaty has since apologized for the way he acted and, certainly, this is not something he should lose his job over or anything like that. Perhaps, what it should do is open up more conversation about what a journalist is in this day and age. Is it someone with a Twitter account that tweets non-stop opinions? Is it a blogger who has no access to games or practices but gets a lot of article clicks?

Maybe it’s harder to define now more than ever, but speaking as someone that has made many sacrifices in every aspect of life to live out the dream of covering sporting events, I would like to see more accountability for those fortunate enough to be in this business.

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Author: Clint Switzer

Full-time sports fan, part-time contributor to society. GASN Sports co-founder, podcast host, filmmaker and writer.

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