"Mimosa-sipping Manhattanites and liberal witch hunters"
February 16, 2017 9:00 AM   Subscribe

The article treats the desires of the actual sports-reading public with complete disdain - that politics is a "fly in their ice cream" but we're giving it to them anyway, too bad.

The decline in ESPN's ratings seems to be a good indicator of how their audience chooses to respond to that approach.
posted by Spacelegoman at 9:40 AM on February 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

The evidence in this article is distractingly thin. Maybe 2% of the copy discusses local sportswriters, who are far and away the more influential. Sure, the New Yorker's baseball writers are the best in the nation, but 1) that's not a high standard and 2) how many TNY subscribers even read the baseball articles? Not this one.

Reporting on things like athletes of color taking a stand against racism--or the NFL's failure to address the TBI epidemic--doesn't make you a liberal. It makes you a goddamn journalist.
posted by radicalawyer at 9:46 AM on February 16, 2017 [11 favorites]

“When you treat sports as a self-contained universe into which the rest of the universe does not intrude, it will inevitably be conservative,” said Craig Calcaterra. You defer to the commissioner, to the head coach, to the reserve clause — to the reigning authority.

This point is well-stated and equally true in every realm of art or entertainment—which is why it's so disingenuous when those comedians who brand themselves as "apolitical" chide other politically outspoken comics with the well-worn admonishment to "Just shut up and tell jokes". The very act of taking no stance is, in itself, taking a stance.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:07 AM on February 16, 2017 [9 favorites]

It is strange--I don't look for Pats coverage in the NYT, I read Dan Shaughnessy & co. at the Globe. I think that's true for most sports fans. Certainly growing up I had no real access to the Times. Everybody read $localpaper for sports coverage. And those guys do not notably skew liberal. Most freaking certainly local sports talk radio does not!
posted by praemunire at 10:29 AM on February 16, 2017

Yeah, this article isn't about the beat writers, it's about national columnists and non-print journalists who don't cover a specific team. I can't tell the political leanings of most of the baseball and hockey local beat writers I follow on social media or read in the newspaper. I can't even tell when they do local sports talk radio.

I've unfollowed most of the national people as all they do is tweet about politics, and almost never about sports.
posted by Electric Elf at 11:29 AM on February 16, 2017

When I think of a leftward turn in sportswriting I think of the rise of online journalism, and stuff like Deadspin and SB Nation. I assumed this would eventually spread to the old media establishment as they hire more of those writers, but I mean, is it really on ESPN already?

The decline in ESPN's ratings seems to be a good indicator of how their audience chooses to respond to that approach.

I don't watch much ESPN but in my head they are still associated more with, say, Jason Whitlock.
posted by atoxyl at 12:09 PM on February 16, 2017

politics is a "fly in their ice cream" but we're giving it to them anyway, too bad.

If you have a better solution for peace with the telepathic spiders, I'd like to hear it.
posted by flaterik at 12:26 PM on February 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

There's definitely a good article to be written someday about progressive politics in sportswriting, the shifting access to athletes, and the incubation of good sportswriting on the internet!
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 3:19 PM on February 16, 2017

There is a Grantland-sized hole in this article.

I mean, I get there are probably some Simmons/ESPN-related political reasons for the omission, but it seems really odd to write like 3000 words on the "liberalization" of sports writing and not even once mention a site that was one of the earlier--and higher-profile--places where this phenomenon became apparent.
posted by dersins at 8:50 PM on February 16, 2017 [5 favorites]

praemunire: "I read Dan Shaughnessy "

My God, why?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:52 PM on February 16, 2017

The decline in ESPN's ratings

ESPN is not a good example to pick here, given its recent notoriety for repeatedly briefing its writers to stay out of politics, but quite happily allowing them to post complaints about how, say, the airport protests inconsiderately held them up.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:18 AM on February 17, 2017

The Ringer itself is in an interesting position here, as Simmons himself has stated a desire for the site to be a refuge from politics. We've seen a couple of articles like this one at the more meta level - another recently was headlined "the death of 'stick to sports'" - but nothing as gleefully partisan as Deadspin's regular fare.
posted by ominous_paws at 12:22 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

The national sports media, where ESPN is the most visible example, has to create its own news to attract a large enough audience to stay in business.

The local sports talk radio guy or beat writer for the Mets can create hours of content out of Tim Teufel's (third base coach) decision to hold Curtis Granderson at third on a fly-out by Cespedes to right field, when the Met's are down a run in the eighth and the Brave's right fielder, who usually has a strong arm, showed signs of soreness in his throwing elbow after getting dinged by an errant pitch while at bat in the fourth. Obviously, Tim Teufel is an idiot, and should have known the right fielder could not make the throw because of the soreness, especially since Granderson has some speed on the bases, but not too much because he's not a kid anymore, and Teufel is lucky the Met's scored two runs in the ninth for the win or else he would have cost the Mets the game for not sending Granderson in the eighth.

The 99% of Sport's fans in ESPN's national audience obviously don't care about whether Tim Teufel needs to be fired or not, despite his contribution, however limited, to the Met's last World Series win in 1986. ESPN is therefore obligated or forced to focus on stories that could possibly attract a wider audience. Unfortunately, apolitical National Stories like "Deflate-Gate" can only be manufactured occasionally, even if the original premise is about as interesting as an actual deflated football.

Political stances are much easier for ESPN to manufacture into a national story and can be fed or allowed to spread until something more relevant to actual sports comes along, like a great Superbowl comeback. As far as ESPN is concerned, of the roughly 2,000 professional athletes in the US, only one or two are likely to say something politically controversial over any season in a year, so when they do, it is ESPN's self appointed mandate to make the political molehill into a mountain. Kapernick's decision to take a knee during the National Anthem therefore becomes symbolic of this country's historical discourse on race relations since Jefferson abolished the importation of slaves in 1807. This is despite ESPN's refusal to appreciate that sports seem to be one of the most progressive and integrated institutions in existence and the only venue where a white guy and black guy can hug and possibly even kiss on National TV, without provoking the audience to change the channel, because the team they both play for just clinched a play-off berth for the first time since 2006.
posted by otto42 at 5:24 AM on February 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Would it be possible for me to sign up for your newsletter, otto42?
posted by Literaryhero at 5:53 AM on February 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Gosh, yes, it sure is so much nicer when you don't have to think about politics because you can be quite certain that you will be treated as a human being at all times. Why don't those black players understand that it's their job to continue to foster that world-view for the real sports audience, and why does the national media insist on manufacturing stories that impinge upon it?
posted by praemunire at 8:20 AM on February 17, 2017

Would it be possible for me to sign up for your newsletter, otto42?
posted by Literaryhero at 5:53 AM on February 17 [1 favorite +] [!]


Monthly and annual subscriptions are available.
posted by otto42 at 8:57 AM on February 17, 2017

I've always appreciated the Chomskian proof of innate intelligence--that working people have highly sophisticated thinking, just about the sports scores. Because that don t matter to planning the economy. Working people could easily plan the economy if they were allowed, just listen to people talk about strategy, or listen to people play fantasy football.

It's too bad americans don't apply that same evidence-based prediction and negotiation to politics.

Of course, Trevor Noah's take is much funnier
posted by eustatic at 7:21 PM on February 17, 2017

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