Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I may pity your city's situation but I still hate your football team

Sports journalism has always been hampered by a desire to matter far more than it actually does. Sports are a form of recreation, a diversion if you will, and because of this journalists shouldn't approach a football game with the same tone that they do an election. Yet for some reason sportscasters, journalists and announcers love to slip in side stories to make everything seem far more important than it really is. Often they like to go on about what a great person someone is off the field (The Tim Tebow). Other times they will go on about a scandal that has absolutely nothing to do with the play on the field (The Brett Favre). While both of these practices annoy the hell out of me I find them far more tolerable than when sportscasters say that a teams success will rescue a troubled metropolitan area or as I like to call it, The Detroit Rule.

Whenever a team from Michigan has even an iota of success every single story ESPN airs will be about how much it must mean to the people in such a troubled area. We get it. The economy sucks in Detroit and people are having a hard time. What the hell does this have to do with a sports team? Nothing. The reason I call this the Detroit rule is because of a combination of two things; Detroit has been on hard times for a while and their sports teams have been pretty good. It doesn't matter what sport we are talking about the story remains the same. Michigan St (football/basketball), check. The Red Wings, check. The Tigers, check. The Pistons, check. And now we get to go through it with the Lions. Remember, the Pistons won their title in 2004 and we were hearing about how much it meant to the downtrodden area back then.

The reason I hate this so much is that it is just lazy journalism. Every time I read a column that relies on this tired story it reads as if the column was mailed in. You can tell that the author was thinking, "Shit. The editor said I have to do a bit about the Lions. Should I actually do research or just rehash the article I wrote about the Tigers in September and substitute Suh for Verlander?" It seems like there could be a thousand different angles you could take to talk about any team but out of pure laziness people resort to the same tired story because it tugs on the heart strings a bit more than a story about the hard nosed defensive line would.

The main reason I hate stories like that is that they just aren't true. Sports are an escape and it's great to have an escape. I'm sure that the Lions winning would cheer up a person but it isn't going to save their lives as is implied. If you are unemployed and your house is getting foreclosed on a Lions victory isn't going to pay those bills for you. Not only is it idiotic to suggest that sports victories will solve serious social problems but I think it would be insulting to the people actually suffering. When The Saints played their first home game back in New Orleans every story on ESPN was about how wonderful it was for the city, and I'm sure it was nice. Yet if your house had floated away in the hurricane I'm pretty sure that all of your problems weren't solved by Drew Brees and friends returning to the Superdome.

There is no reason to overstate the importance of sports in instances like this. When I'm sitting down with a couple of beers to watch the Saints play the Lions I don't sit and ponder which fan base needs a win to distract them from their troubles, I wonder if Drew Brees will be able to get rid of the ball quickly enough before Suh and Fairley destroy him. Sports fans don't give a shit what the socio-economic climate is in the city their team is playing against. A Bear fan isn't going to pull for Detroit, Green Bay or Minnesota regardless of the unemployment rate in those cities. It's not because sports fans lack pity. It's because sports are completely inconsequential to the hard issues that dominate the news page 90% of the time and that's the whole point of escapism.

No comments:

Post a Comment