Saturday, November 03, 2007

Sports & Sports Media

HERE'S an insightful piece by Richard Ford on how the sports media actually diminishes our enjoyment of our favorite sports. Some excerpts:
You could say that sports’ essential self possesses at least three different dimensions. There’s the aforementioned game-as-played. Then there’s the game as it’s described or talked about — what sports journalists and commentators do. And then there’s the game as pondered — which you might say is the happy result of the other two dimensions working on us, and is akin to what we sports fans do alone in our beds at night, or during the long, anticipatory off-seasons . . .

The curious and unhappy turn of fate I just mentioned is that the game as talked about has, in many instances, now corrupted, ignored and trivialized the game itself, the thing we relish — a fact that has unlikable consequences for the game we contemplate.
Ford says his rule-of-thumb for dealing with this state of affairs is "that when it comes to anything I read or hear reported about sports, value must derive from relevance to the game as played." He then offers an example of the sort of coverage worth following and two examples of the kinds of stories that should be ignored:
Therefore, an on-air conversation by the Red Sox radio guys, to the point that fatigue-prone Japanese phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka might encounter serious problems in American Major League Baseball because Japanese pitchers learn to pitch by inducing batters to swing, whereas our big-league starters learn to make batters miss — this conversation immediately qualifies as worth hearing and later being thought about, since it refines the experience of spectatorship.

On the other hand, a Sporting News Radio commentator’s remarks, during this year’s Masters, to the point that Phil Mickelson either is or isn’t the great underachiever of his generation, since his less-than-bionic conditioning regimen conceivably makes him a choker, was close to irrelevant for being patently unprovable, given Mickelson’s win percentage. Plus, it’s golf. Everyone doesn’t have to be cut ’n’ buff just because Tiger is.

And at the lowest end of my value scale, any commentary, on-air or on-page, about Milton Bradley’s anger issues, Tank Johnson’s gun jones, Wayne Gretzky’s wife, Manny being Manny, A-Rod being A-Rod, Barry Bonds’s triste over being sent packing by the Giants — all of that stuff’s permanently off my table.
You should read the whole thing now, before you watch the college football pre-game shows.

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