The Dubious Decline of TV Sports

With the glory days of TV sports reporting long gone, Philadelphia's local sports anchors swagger on.

AT THE CIRCULAR bar inside El Vez, Harris recalls a line from his sports director in Huntsville, who was arguing with their news director about what was more popular, highlights or forecasts. “Well,” the sports guy said, “after the show, you can join us at the weather bar and watch some weather.” Of course, it’s easy for Harris to defend his profession now; he’s not fighting with his boss to get a few more seconds or trying to keep a hot new meteorologist from cutting into his time. Though Clark won’t cop to it, it appears what he’s really doing these days is auditioning for a job at CSN, once that perhaps-inevitable future merger takes place. As for the other stations, their sports departments aren’t moving the needle, either; there’s no buzz, no breaking stories, no impact. If they’re not headed toward the grave, they’ve moved into the TV news retirement home, shuffling around on walkers and getting by on tales of the good old days.

Still, as long as there’s television, anyone on it will be a Philadelphia celebrity. That’s where the bar has been set for fame here, a place where losers from The Apprentice and Survivor live out second lives as VIP guests at steakhouse grand openings. As Harris finishes his second pink margarita, he laughs at the idea that he’s much different from anyone else. “I don’t really have much of an ego,” he says. “I’m just a regular guy living the dream. A bad day at work for me is better than a good day at work for 95 percent of the general population. Think about that. A bad day for me is better than a good day at work for 95 percent of the general population. We all complain sometimes, because it’s a job. But what am I really complaining about? Really? Really?

Single and ever-mingling, Harris checks his smartphone for texts from his pals and heads out the door on his way to Del Frisco’s and wherever else the night might take him. Any perks he’s getting as a star on CSN, he’s earned them. It’s doubtful that free drinks and autograph requests will help his colleagues at the local stations keep their TV sports dreams alive.