The Media Stampede

By Tom Donelson
Updated: May 31, 2008

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Within the media, there is a tendency for pundits, talk show hosts and journalists to follow a stampede of popular opinion.

When Derek Fisher jumped on Brent Barry in the closing seconds of the Western Conference final fourth game, the conventional wisdom was that Fisher fouled Barry but we don’t count fouls in the last minute of a NBA game since it is up to players to win or lose it or something like that.

(Unless of course, it was Kobe being fouled in which case, the rule changes as one dissident quipped.)

Often the template gets written and everyone follows. That is one of the biggest weakness of the media today. Call it the stampede effect.

When one noted pundit declares a conventional wisdom like fouls are never called in the last minute of a NBA, then all the templates over the next 24 hours is written by all other journalists and pundits. No one dares to step outside the line of conventional wisdom.

Most recently, this was seen in the coverage of the Kimbo Slice fight on CBS. Most pundits and journalists recoil in horror as CBS would dare to show Mixed Martial Arts, a sport that most journalists or pundits really don’t like or understand.

Like Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts is being relegated to the red light district of the sport world; even though Mixed Martial Arts have no where near the history of corruption of boxing.

The reality as I have written many times is that Mixed Martial Arts combines different fighting styles that have centuries of history behind them. While the sport has the image of brutality in it, a case can be made that the Mixed Martial Arts is safer or as safe as Football.

Conventional Wisdom has the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts as the end of civilization but then we have long tolerated more violent sports. (Football, any one?) Mixed Martial Arts popularity can be traced to many things not the least to successful promotion and various colorful characters just as Kimbo Slice.

There are many signs of the apocalpse but the popularity of Mixed Martial Arts is not one of them. No one ever accused the Canadians of being blood thirsty sports nuts because they have Hockey as their national sport. Nothing more peaceful than men skating at full speed, armed with a hockey stick, right?

Personally, I love football, I love basketball, I have written or co-written four books on boxing; so following and loving violent sports does leave me sleepless at night.

Nor has it made me a crazed killer. Maybe, some of these journalist might learn to appreciate a sport that combines century of fighting styles into one.

Which brings to my final rant on conventional wisdom. Did anyone notice that 55,000 fans showed up to see Ricky Hatton fight? This fight showed that superstars can drive a sport and put people in the stands.

Boxing is no where near as popular as it was three or four decades ago but it is still capable of provoking interest. There are nights that baseball franchises would dance in the street to see 55,000 fans watching their team.

Here is the new conventional wisdom. Sports is going global and many of our own sports like baseball and basketball are now drawing global interest.

Professional football is the only American Sport that has yet to draw much interest outside the United States. Basketball, hockey, and baseball are played worldwide and many of our professional teams are populated with foreign players.

Boxing and now the Mixed Martial Arts are expanding overseas and the interest is keeping these sports alive. It is one of the biggest stories not being told.