Don’t Believe the Hype

By Chris Murray, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: July 10, 2009

PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — After observing the coverage of this week’s events in the sports world by the mainstream media, I now know why I believe that sports journalism is headed down the path of day-time talk shows like Jerry Springer.

Watching the talking heads on networks like ESPN or reading other pundits on websites like FOXNews.com is just like watching a bad car crash, you want just want to see how bad it’s going to really get.

But when you hear the symphony of overly sanctimonious media pundits spouting their mindless, biased rhetoric to go along with their endless clichés, I also feel compelled the shut if off completely because it’s often nonsensical.

This week, I was watching coverage of Manny Ramirez getting ejected from the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-0 win over the New York Mets this past Wednesday. Ramirez struck out on a ball that was clearly out of the strike zone.

Of course, Manny threw his bat and his elbow pad in disgust and was immediately tossed out of the game by umpire John Hirschbeck. Of course, the ESPN punditry chided Manny for not helping his team by being ejected—even though he drove in three runs and never mind that Hirschbeck’s call was clearly wrong and wreaked of anti-Manny bias in the wake of his recent suspension.

In other words, Ramirez is on double-secret probation for the rest of the season and for that matter the rest of his career because of his possible use of steroids and for the way he left his former team, the Boston Red Sox. If Manny blows his nose the wrong way, you can rest assured some pundit is going to cry outrage.

Then there was that magnificent purveyor of hot air FOXNews.com columnist—Jason Whitlock whose most recent rantings have said Serena Williams and her 11 Grand Slams in women’s tennis are an example of “under achievement” and that folks should stop calling the late Steve McNair a “hero” for fooling around on his wife in one breath and then condoning it as a “man thing” in another breath. Wow.

The problem that I have with all the hot air that I see, read, and hear in sports is that it has nothing do with keeping the public informed, but instead it’s about showmanship.

It’s about getting people on a panel so they can yell and scream at each other.

It’s about who can be up and arms with some faulty premise that is outright racist, sexist or offensive enough to get people going so big networks can rake in all the ratings .

Back in 2007 when Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy headed ho’s”, Comcast Sportsnet had me on as a guest on Daily News Live to discuss the issue with Whitlock, who saw it as C. Vivian Stringer making herself a martyr of some sort.

Of course, I said Imus’s comments were not only racist, but obscured what Rutgers had to go through to get to the National Championship game that season.

The exchange between Whitlock and myself was heated to the point that it became a sound byte on Comcast’s daily newscast- Sportsnight. At the end of the broadcast, I got a big high-five from the host of Daily News Live—not because of the good points I made to counter Whitlock’s silly arguments, but because it was good theater, compelling television.

About a day later, one of my friends called me and said that he got a call from another friend to click on Comcast to see the fireworks between me and Whitlock.

Another thing that adds to the show is the creation of good guys versus bad guys. In the whole steroids scandal, the mainstream media demonized the likes of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and even Roger Clemens as cheaters, but failed to report how performance-enhancing drugs was a problem through out the sport and that those who run MLB looked the other way and indeed profited from it.

Even with steroids allegations against McGwire and Clemens, Black and Hispanic steroids users Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa are the most vilified in the mainstream media.

It’s easy for middle America to hate these guys and you all know why. When you see their images, it’s like the character Goldstein in George Orwell’s 1984 whose image would spark two minutes of frenzied hate.

The bottom-line here is that what you see in the mainstream media today amounts to nothing more than pontification and innuendo. It is all about rhetoric and very little context.

It’s not there to inform or to analyze, but to entertain and get ratings, web hits, and boost circulation. In short, there are too many pundits and loudmouths and not enough good reporting.

It’s all about the spectacle and the self-serving, self-righteousness of some talking head. Don’t be surprised if you see sports columnists engaging in fisticuffs on one of those panel shows.

That will be the next big thing under the sports big top.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the mainstream media is not going to change unless it becomes profitable for them to change or unless people simply stop watching.

As a journalist, I don’t get too upset over some of the nonsense that I see in the mainstream media because I have the power of my own outlets including my own blog to counteract the misinformation you see at the so-called major media outlets.

And in this vast information superhighway of the websites, blogs, and podcasts, the major media outlets aren’t the only places where you can get your sports fix.

There are plenty of media outlets on the web whether you’re talking about Black Athlete.com or Dave Zirin’s Edge of Sports that often challenge the party line of commercial media.

Even if you’re not a journalist, you can always flood the networks, websites and print media outlets with letters and emails to express your displeasure with what you’re seeing or reading.

If you decide to start your own media outlet because you’re fed up with what you’re getting or not getting from the major media outlets, go after the stories the mainstream won’t touch, challenge their rhetoric not by sanctimonious grandstanding, but by coming out with the facts and reporting things in their proper context.

You don’t have to call anybody names or talk about their mommas in the process because the weight of truth always trumps misinformation and misplaced outrage.