Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Keep It Sports Stupid

One of the annoyances of the modern mainstream media for conservatives is the unnecessary and unwelcome intrusion of politics into nearly every facet of life. We've come to expect to find political references (usually snide and almost always from a left-wing perspective) in music, movie, book, and art reviews and are no longer surprised to find a home and garden column with a snarky shot at conservative leaders or viewpoints. But nothing is quite as galling as when sports writers deign to impress us with their political wit and wisdom (again, almost exclusively from the left).

Our own Saint Paul has chronicled the distasteful insertion of politics in places in doesn't belong in his series of posts labeled You've Got Your Politics In My.... Sports writers have been the target of his ire in this area on more than one occasion. His thoughts are succinctly summarized in this 'graph from a May 2007 post:

If it's one thing I hate, it's sports guys popping off about politics. I read sports as a refuge from the constant conservative beat down that is the front page and most MSM political reporting. Plus sports guys typically don't know squat about anything besides sports. They're idiots, only feeling the need to talk about politics because they're bored with a job that typically takes them about 1 hour per day to finish up. And finally, they're always Democrats!

Jay Nordlinger weighs in on said matter in a piece in the current edition of National Review (sub req):

The spoiling of sports pages by politics is a flaming red sore point among conservatives of my acquaintance. (The liberals have less cause for soreness.) You'll often hear, "I always loved reading So-and-so"--Bill Simmons of, for example. "But finally I had to stop because he was constantly insulting my political views with little asides. Why do they have to do that? Why do they have to alienate half their audience, or at least some part of it?"

I could give you a thousand examples of safe-zone violations in sports writing. So as to leave room for other topics in this issue of National Review, I will provide a relative few. I promise that they are more representative than aberrational.

A columnist for the Boston Globe was writing about hockey, and he said, "Bigger nets will likely bring, at most, a teeny-weeny uptick in scoring. Focusing on bigger nets, in many ways, is hockey's version of cutting taxes--eye-catching, but ineffective." You see, he knows about economics. And has college football's Bowl Championship Series ever reminded you of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney? No? You're weird.

In 2007, the Washington Post's John Feinstein wrote, "The BCS Presidents are a lot like the current President of the United States. They think that if they keep repeating their lies and half-truths and remind people who they are enough times, people will buy into what they're selling. According to one poll, only 21 percent of the American people are buying what President Bush is selling, but it sure took a long time and lot of deaths to get there." The next year, Mike Celizic of wrote, "Is Dick Cheney a member of the BCS? That's got to be the explanation for the latest load of nonsense to come out of the outfit that runs the system by which college football does not choose a legitimate champion."

The question that Nordlinger poses is a great one. Why would sports writers go out of their way to include gratuitous political commentary that they know (or should know) will offend half of their readers? Nordlinger asks and now answers:

Why do sportswriters do it? Why do they bust out political? I have a theory, and it's an easy theory--maybe a too-easy one: Sports guys, some of them, may feel a touch embarrassed about being sportswriters. So they have to prove they're just as serious--just as liberal, virtuous, and "engaged" with the world--as their colleagues on the news and editorial desks. You can almost hear them saying, "I may cover the NFL, but hey! I hate Bush as much as you do, I swear."

Ding ding ding. That nails it. Most of today's journalists (at least the ones with a degree in the field) were taught and have to come to embrace the notion that part of their job duty is to "make a difference" and even "change the world for the better" through their work. You almost have to pity the poor sports writer who buys into this inflated sense of journalistic importance, but is stuck having to cover the non-difference making world of sports. Rather than being content to pursue their vocation by informing and entertaining readers through their writing about sports (as generations of sports writers before them did), they have to inject politics into the mix to prove that "Damnit, I AM making a difference too."

There's also likely an element of being in a bubble too as I'm sure some of the offending sports scribes would be surprised to learn that not every "normal" person believes that Republicans are inherently evil. But everyone in the newsroom thinks that way.

Nordlinger closes with a plea to keep 'em separated:

There are people who like walls of separation and those who don't. I like my sports, music, food, etc., politics-free. Others think that this is some sort of moral or civic negligence, or simply naivety. Laura Ingraham wrote a book about entertainers and politics called Shut Up & Sing. When I look at such publications as Sports Illustrated, I think of a variation: "Shut up and write about sports!"

A simple request unlikely to be granted.

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