The Sports Media Revolution
I admit, I’m a long-time Deadspin reader (although not as frequently as before). Unlike my fellow compatriots, I’m not going to be so harsh on the sports site, because what it advertises in, it delivers pretty regularly.
The analysis is shallow, the irreverence is high. Like they said, there’s no access or discretion, so everything is essentially third-party. And enough people eat it up, and start replicating the gossip moniker on their sites (with varying degrees of success).
Deadspin is a ripe target. Matt Leinart might not approve, but there is an audience out there for this stuff, so athletes are going to have to embrace that this is a part of their lives. Many of us enjoy the unfettered access and the casual way in which we deal with media personalities and athletes who have been closed off to us for so long.
Too many media people have built up our athletes as gods or devils, so the inevitable counterreaction was something like Deadspin, which brings them back to earth. And I like that. Athletes are humans—treat them that way.
Now, being painted in the same light as something like Deadspin DOES bother me a bit, because that site represents only a little of what I try to write about. Other than a few thrashings during Cal’s epic collapse, I haven’t openly mocked or screwed with anyone—things happen, especially in college sports—and eventually I let it go. Which is more than I can say for a few media-types.
I think many bloggers are influenced by the ESPN prism, which is full of loudmouths, blowhards, pop culture irrelevance (not even irreverence, IRRELEVANCE), etc. The current blogosphere grew up on ESPN, so a bunch of us reflect that culture outwards.
The rest of us are just disappointed by how far it’s fallen everytime we see Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless go at each other on TV. ESPN had moved from passion to pop, as evidenced in the graph above.
If you don’t know who Seth Godin is (he created that graph above, I just put in the logos), the man knows marketing, and by extension can discuss media. And he said something that crystallized the sports media landscape (even if he was talking about politics) as we know it:
"There isn’t media bias in favor of Hillary (my friend Jeff is the first to point that out). Nor is there media bias in favor of floods. There’s media bias in favor of drama.
"Most of us are inclined to believe that government officials, doctors and the media are making an effort to tell us the truth. Actually, just like all marketers, they tell us a story."
That’s what media used to do. Not much anymore.
The people most responsible for manufacturing sports fatigue aren’t running Deadspin. It’s the media itself, who believe they hold the gatekeeper key, and need to manufacture all the drama on 24-hour news networks, sports and politics alike—you know, the drama that sporting events were supposed to provide.
The journalists have themselves become drama queens, acting as if they should be as much the center of attention as the athletes they cover. They spout opinions rather than provide ideas, supplanting context with talking points. There is little substance to what journalists provide now—caught in the web of easy access to millions of users on television panels, many prefer to pontificate rather than analyze or create.
And that’s to their detriment, because instead of learning anything, all we’re getting is noise.
Thus, the sands are running out fast for the MSM. What people pride most is the locker room access that outsiders don’t necessarily get. Athletes are beginning to understand the value in bypassing these so-called gatekeepers who flip-flop between berating and lauding them.
So what’s the new media’s role? We don’t need just storytellers or opinions (although we have plenty of those). We need teachers. Teachers who show us the basic Xs and Os of the game, analyze statistics top to bottom, and examine the good work athletes put in to getting where they are. That for every Kevin Hart, there are a hundred Craig Stevenses. Entities like SB Nation have understood this on a base level and build sports communities toward that purpose.
Deadspin is one part of the puzzle. We’ll provide the rest. And old media types will adapt or die. It’s just part of the process.
Anyway, I don’t like getting serious about revolutions of any sort, especially considering where I live. But the dark side of Berkeley had to touch me in some ways before I left, right?
(And just to be clear: The day an Allison Stokke tracker goes on this site is the day I bind myself to the Oaks.)
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