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Kevin Iole

Pittsburgh sports editor shows why newspapers are failing


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The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is my favorite newspaper, largely because it's the best place to get coverage of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers, Penguins and, yes, I'm brave enough to admit, Pirates.

But the P-G's sports editor, Jerry Micco, apparently doesn't care to check his facts. In his weekly sports chat with readers, he took a shot at mixed martial arts while exposing his ignorance about the sport.

His thoughtless reaction is the very reason newspapers are losing circulation faster than the Pirates lose games. Asked if he would assign a reporter to cover MMA, Micco wrote " … the fact that most people treat it like a step above pro wrestling makes it a tough nut in my mind."

Uh, Jerry, we have some news for you. Nobody with a shred of knowledge about the sport treats it as a step above pro wrestling. Since you don't know, MMA is a combination of several current or former Olympic sports: boxing, freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, judo and taekwondo, while also mixing in jiu-jitsu.

The athletes are every bit as well-trained and as skilled as those in sports that Micco chooses to cover.

He mocked Brock Lesnar's poor behavior post-fight at UFC 100, but suggested people were talking about it "because the event lasted what, a minute? The whole purpose is to get a guy down and pound the crap out of him? Where is the sport in that?"

Micco's paper does cover boxing, although horribly. And Micco should know that the death toll in boxing is just a teensy weensy bit higher in boxing than it is in MMA. The Journal of Combative Sports reported that there were nearly 1,500 deaths in boxing matches through November 2007.

Care to guess how many there were in sanctioned MMA matches, Jerry? Try one. Sam Vasquez died from injuries suffered in an Oct. 20, 2007, fight in Houston. In the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the top-level promotion in the sport in which Lesnar is the heavyweight champion, there have been zero deaths and zero serious injuries worse than broken bones and torn ligaments and tendons.

For the record, Jerry, the Lesnar-Frank Mir bout to which you so smugly refer didn't last a minute but rather six minutes and 48 seconds. The Lesnar-Mir fight was only 1:04 shorter than the Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns middleweight championship boxing match, which many consider the greatest fight in history.

But the event, as you called it, lasted more than five hours, since the first fight began around 4:30 p.m. PST and the card didn't end until nearly 10 p.m.

I get that fighting is not for everyone. But you're losing a ton of readers, Jerry, by ignoring a sport that is so popular among young people, who are going to be the ones who keep your newspaper alive. I guarantee you they're more interested in MMA than the U.S. Women's Open golf tournament, which you saw fit to cover with a staff reporter.

Mixed martial arts is a legitimate sport with world-class athletes and, despite the stone-age thinking of journalists like Micco, is quickly and inexorably moving into the mainstream.

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