Friday, July 6, 2012

Dan Wetzel: Setting the Standard

Many in the sports industry consider Yahoo! Sports to have the best collection of sports journalists, so it makes perfect sense for one of their own to be leading the way in the field.  Dan Wetzel’s investigative journalism has been earning critical acclaim for some time now, but this year has really been Wetzel’s time to shine. 

Corruption has become a niche in the sports field that Wetzel has more or less dominated.  Back in 2000, he and Don Yeager wrote the book Sole Influence which documents the corruption that companies such as Nike bring into the “amateur” athletics of college and high school.  The interest in corruption of college athletics seemed to continue growing when Wetzel began to take perhaps the biggest and most obvious form of college corruption, the Bowl Championship Series.
Throughout the NFL season, Wetzel is known to take a quick break and write about the NFL.  Last year, Wetzel wrote on the legal troubles of Detroit Lions defensive lineman Nick Fairley.  Whether it is the NCAA or the NFL, Wetzel has corruption in football on complete lockdown.

Death to the BCS is the highly successful book that Wetzel wrote along with Josh Peters and Jeff Passan.  The book clearly lays out not only the corrupt system and brash suits behind the system, but also an alternate system.  The alternate system was a basic form of a playoff that, unless the suits were deemed mentally incompetent, would have to be put in place because it made them more money than before.  It took a few years but eventually they realized what needed to be done.  Whether or not the book was of any influence remains to acknowledged, but it was inherently critical in fueling the fire.

Interestingly, Wetzel was one of the very few (maybe the only national) sportswriters covering the Sandusky trial on a daily basis.  We aren’t talking a simple one column summary of the day.  Wetzel was going two-a-days during many of the days during the two week trial (check out his archive here to see the incredible work).  Even after the verdict, Wetzel is not waiting until the sentencing to continue his stranglehold on the story nationally.  He has written columns about the Paterno Papers and every detail that has come out since. 

To make his work on the BCS and the Sandusky trial even more remarkable, he was working on parts of both of them simultaneously.  College football agreed to a four team playoff on June 26.  The Sandusky trial’s verdict came on June 22.  The grumblings of college football began long before the final approval which meant that it needed to be written about multiple times per week.  The Sandusky trial was a two week affair whose aftershock was written about weeks after the verdict was reached.  He went back and forth each topic fluently and did not sacrifice content along the way.

The reason that Dan Wetzel is such a great journalist is that it’s clear he does not write with some hidden agenda.  Wetzel tells the story how it is.  He doesn’t preach about how these guys are ruining the sports they play.  He doesn’t make vast generalizations that get the media talking in circles.  Wetzel, plain and simple, reports the news.  In this day and age of media where everything is done based on number of views or retweets or ratings, it is refreshing that there is somebody at the top of the journalism game that doesn’t worry about all the “popularity” stuff.  Wetzel lets the stories speak for themselves.  His writing is well-crafted yet it isn’t overbearing.  Dan Wetzel is one of the best investigative journalists in the industry as we speak.  It’s time for everybody to take notice.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with you Kevin. Wetzel and Passan are two of my favorites. Of course I am a little Yahoo! biased because I have done my fantasy sports there for my entire life, but I am thankful that has led me to their columns.

    His coverage of the Sandusky trial was second to none. Even though, as you said, there may not have been much, if any, competition. But even if there were, I'm pretty confident he would have blown it out of the water.