October 1, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker (18) gestures in the dugout against the Atlanta Braves during the fifth inning at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Recent events illustrate how little sports fans know

As sports fans, we like to think we are more connected and well-informed than ever, and we’re right.

Mostly via online innovations like social media and team-sponsored coverage, there is more data and insight available now than at any point in the history of mankind.

This forward movement affects all aspects of society, and the realm of sports entertainment is no exception. However, even in a new era of openness, there is still much we don’t know.

A couple of recent news items from the Pittsburgh sports scene illustrate this.

Last week, Pirates second baseman Neil Walker made an appearance on Pittsburgh Tribune-Review columnist Dejan Kovacevic’s new online radio show. Walker was refreshingly candid during the interview, including an interesting revelation that team management has assured him that “moves will be made addressing some of the issues” that went wrong late in the season.

Now, Walker didn’t expand beyond that, so what he said could be easily dismissed as positive “athlete speak.” Maybe the young man who grew up a Pirates fan was simply trying to convince himself (and his hometown) that back-to-back collapses will not be brushed under the clubhouse carpet.

But Walker was adamant in his assertion that there will be significant change, which is a reminder of the countless conversations within an organization that will never be exposed to the general public – no matter the extent of media coverage and fan interest.

On the topic of interest, the Penguins also know a little about that, even with the NHL currently in lockout mode. The Tribune-Review’s Josh Yohe recently fed that beast some red meat with a post on Sulia.com that described management’s growing uneasiness with goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

April 20, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) dives to cover the puck after a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period in game five of the 2012 Eastern Conference quarterfinals at CONSOL Energy Center. The Pens won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

I hinted at this feeling in the summer when the Penguins signed veteran Tomas Vokoun to serve as a “super backup” to Fleury, as the latter has noticeably worn down in the playoffs when he plays a full regular season. However, Yohe’s post takes this shift in goalie deployment to a new level.

I’ve spent much of my media career working behind the scenes for hockey and baseball teams, and it’s often comical how much the public perception of an organization differs from the true internal operation. Much like in the political realm, the thoroughness of sports coverage doesn’t necessarily mean that the subjects are truly transparent.

No matter how much journalists like Yohe and Kovacevic may try to dig, there will always be parts of the sports landscape that remain unearthed.

That doesn’t mean their reporting efforts are in vain; conversely, I think the continued mystery makes following our favorite teams and players all the more interesting.

Tags: Marc-Andre Fleury Neil Walker Pittsburgh Penguins Pittsburgh Pirates

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