When Athletes Attack, a Web Site Takes Note
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
We often turn to sports as a way to escape the world's problems, but it doesn't always work. There's been a constant stream of stories about athletes cheating and getting in trouble with the law, and that can be depressing for sports fans.
But it's all good copy for Bob Reno. Over the past six years, his Web site -badjocks.com - has been the place to go for a look at the unsavory side of sports and, Reno hopes, for a laugh.
NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN: For Bob Reno, it started on a February day in 2000, a day that was kind of a perfect storm for bad jock behavior. The sports talk radio shows were buzzing with these stories - former figure skater Tonya Harding, arrested for whacking her boyfriend with a hubcap, pro hockey player Mary McSorley suspended for a brutal stick attack on the ice, and the latest problems for Daryl Strawberry, the former baseball star whose frequent run ins with the law reminded Reno of Otis, the character on the old Andy Griffith Show, who was always getting into trouble.
Mr. BOB RENO (BadJocks.com): I just figured at some point Daryl was just walking into the jail and they were going yeah, hi Daryl. Get in your cell. Aunt Bea will be by with some fried chicken later. And we'll figure out some charges. We know you did something wrong.
GOLDMAN: Bombarded by the news of that day Reno, a web designer, wondered if a web site existed that was solely devoted to the bad things athletes do. The answer was no.
Mr. RENO: A couple weeks later, BadJocks.com was born and it's been downhill ever since.
GOLDMAN: I met up with 47-year-old Bob Reno recently in what he calls the Bad Jocks bunker. Actually, it's a room in his Michigan townhouse where Reno sits in front of a computer compiling stories of bad deeds that he hopes will make people slap their foreheads and say I can't believe somebody did that.
With his dog Murphy, a shih tzu, lying at his feet, Reno rewrites the stories in a way that emphasizes the absurd. His focus over the years has turned away from the famous bad deed doers in professional and college sports.
Mr. RENO: You know, those stories will get covered elsewhere. It's the small town stories, it's the stuff that doesn't get national media attention usually that I think my readers like.
GOLDMAN: And his listeners. Reno also spreads the Bad Jock news on radio here on the Paul Harris Show on KMOX in St. Louis.
(Soundbite of radio show)
Mr. PAUL HARRIS (Host, Paul Harris Show): What else you got for me?
Mr. RENO: We have a high school principal who, I'm not sure if you talked about this story. Suspended for six days for giving a soccer player a wedgie. This out of -
Mr. HARRIS: Wait. Did you say a high school principal?
GOLDMAN: Reno goes for laughs on his web site, but he also played it straight recently when posting material on hazing. BadJocks.com also serves a watchdog role with its constant updates on high school coach sex scandals and the BAC rankings, which list blood alcohol content of sports figures arrested for drunken behavior.
Mr. RENO: You know someone asked me a while ago, could there have been a Bad Jocks site ten years ago? Well, obviously with the Internet there's more reporting. You know, I can find lots of stories in small town newspapers and aggregate them here. But I think there also has been an elevation in the bad behavior.
GOLDMAN: Reno doesn't spend much time trying to figure out why. He prefers to leave that to others, perhaps some of the estimated 10,000 daily visitors to his Web site. They include representatives from the TV networks and major newspapers, which Bob Reno says reassures him that he's on the right track, spreading the word about those who aren't.
Tom Goldman, NPR News.