MIAMI -- As more celebrity gossip sites have launched through the years, this much is clear: The public's appetite seems boundless.
That's why the sports gossip site that TMZ said it will create in the coming months should generate a major buzz and carve out a sizable audience, provided it delivers as much titillating fodder as TMZ, which has been among the leaders in reporting the salacious details of the Tiger Woods scandal.
When it launches, TMZSports.com will raise a new set of questions that will affect athletes and the reporters who cover them.
Among them: How far will TMZ go to get stories? Will reporters follow star players as they leave the stadium after games? Will they plant reporters in visiting team hotels to see what women visit their rooms? Will they "out" gay athletes?
Will athletes change their lifestyles somewhat if they see other players embarrassed by TMZ revelations? And will newspapers (aside from the New York tabloids, which already do it) more often report TMZ's stories about the second baseman spotted with a mistress?
Several athletes acknowledge their peers must be more careful in an era when anybody can take your picture on a cell phone and display it on the Internet.
"There's someone always watching -- cameras always around you -- and you have to know anything you do can show up online," Dolphins left tackle Jake Long said. "But celebrity status comes with the job, and this is the job we took."
Said Boston Celtics guard Ray Allen: "As athletes, every step you take now, you always have to be on. You're living in an even smaller fishbowl. It makes it harder for us, but I can't say (TMZ's plans) are unfair because we are celebrities."
Dolphins linebacker Reggie Torbor isn't as understanding.
"This is horrible for our game," he said of TMZ's sports venture. "It's bad because these types of Web sites follow around stars. And if you follow anyone around 24-7, you'll find something about everybody. And some of the things are just so frivolous. . . . Guys are guys. They go out to clubs, and they talk to women. But you know what's going to happen because of this? Eventually there will be one ugly story, and it will change the way athletes act."
Don't count on that, Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo said. He doesn't expect athletes' behavior to change even if TMZ embarrasses some of them.
"There comes a point where you're barging too much into someone's personal life," Camarillo said. "But we have a job that's in the public eye, and we need to hold ourselves to higher standards of behavior. If you need to be wildly drinking, do it somewhere private."
No Miami-area player has been hurt more in this new media era than Heat forward Michael Beasley. Last summer, someone, through Twitter, posted a picture of Beasley sitting near what some suspected was a bag of marijuana. Beasley said it was not marijuana.
In October, TMZ posted a picture of Beasley asleep in front of a table with open beer bottles on a Heat-arranged fishing cruise. Beasley and the Heat later said he was not drinking. So Beasley cannot hide his disdain for TMZ's sports venture, even though he says he mostly stays in now during his off time.
"I don't care too much for Web sites like that -- Web sites that just want to embarrass people for living their life," he said. "If I was 20 years old, working at McDonald's, doing the stuff I did in the past, nobody would care. Just because I made a name for myself and I've got a good profession, it's like you want to embarrass me. It's really unfair."
TMZ founder Harvey Levin told Broadcasting and Cable, "There's a lot of agenda reporting in sports because so many of the media outlets get access and rely on that access. We're not going to do a scandal sports Web site, but we can provide more authentic representations of celebrities. We're just looking to do authentic portrayals."
Some mainstream journalists might scoff at Levin's remarks, but he makes a valid point. Newspapers that cover teams know that if they report something salacious about a player, their ability to cover the team might be compromised.
A few years ago, The Palm Beach Post's gossip columnist named several Marlins players who spend a lot of money at a Jupiter-area strip club during spring training. Two prominent players identified in the piece refused to speak to the newspaper's baseball writers for about two weeks.
With TMZ Sports in development, Levin said the company is hiring reporters and producers in Los Angeles and elsewhere to generate content. Athletes are waiting to see the impact.
"There's so much attention about what you're doing in your personal life," Heat star Dwyane Wade said. "As much as you don't want to be, you've got to try to be as secret as you can. I try to be cautious where I go."
And, the tricky thing, Wade said, is "as an athlete, you don't have classes to show you what not to do . . . Everything you do or say can be seen and heard. It's very tough."