By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Find a spark. See if it will turn into a fire. Watch everyone fan the flames. Then sit back and wait for someone to put it out. Rinse, repeat.

That’s the sports media cycle these days, and I can almost assure you it’s not a good thing.

More than ever, it’s not about what a player did on the court, it’s about what he said after the game or what he tweeted while on vacation. We are a nation of people waiting to pounce, and see if our heroes can withstand the sort of obsession and scrutiny that dominates sports news.

“We were trying to figure out how to get somebody to write about anything when we played,” Jack Nicklaus said on Wednesday. He was asked about whether the Woods and Garcia soap opera would continue. “I think today you have to figure out how you keep somebody from writing about anything. It’s a big difference.”

It’s a big difference, and you can’t blame him for being worried. The most viewed sports story in CBS Philly over the last two weeks has been the Sergio Garcia vs. Tiger Woods saga. Surely it’s decent theater, and it’s about golf which promotes the sport in some way, but it’s hardly the sort of promotion that is sustainable or really that good for the game. And it’s the sort of story that sells, so it’s the sort of story that we chase.

Did you see what DeSean Jackson tweeted?

Did you see the face Lebron James made? Over and over again in gif maybe?

Did you hear the off-hand comment Bill Simmons made in a podcast that may or may not be silly?

It doesn’t seem like there’s one particular reason we’ve gone down this path.

It’s not new that everyone loves a train wreck, so that’s part of it, and the laruge amount of information we’re able to find means more train wrecks.

The sheer amount of hours on the radio and television, along with clicks we need on websites forces us to manufacture more content, so the games just aren’t enough anymore. It’s got to be more than what happened on the field.

The news cycles are shorter than ever, and there’s more competition; and it’s competition for more, and for first, but rarely for better. It’s got to be more. It’s got to be louder. Your opinion has to be polarizing and one sided so people pay attention. Forget whether it’s particularly honest or well thought out.

And the result seems to be that no one is particularly happy with where we’re at. Consumers, media members, teams and athletes. No one likes it.

Consumers, at least claim to be interested in less ‘he-said, she-said’ content and fewer instances of two men yelling at each other about Tim Tebow. Still they listen, watch and click.

Writers and broadcasters are discouraged that a video of Andrew Bynum dancing will garner far more views than a thoughtful 1,000 words ever will. Still we talk, write, and post.

Athletes and teams seem less likely to open up and be honest with the media, because of how it will likely be spun.

We live in a time of unmatched opportunity in sports and media. More interest than ever, and an opportunity to interact like never before. It’s that opportunity that allows me to pay my rent by writing this very post.

It would seem though that we need to treat this unmatched opportunity with more care, or we’re in danger of ruining it.

Follow Spike on Twitter @SpikeEskin.

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