With the millions of people across the land who watch, listen and read about sports in this sports-crazed land of ours, you might think the sports media would be content with fulfilling the role expected by their audience – sports journalists.
But you would be wrong.
The fact is, the sports media has become just as leftist as their brethren in the “news” business. Perhaps even more so, because while there are many conservatives in and around political journalism, there are precious few in sports media.
Not content to analyze and comment on their assignments in the playground of the world, a growing number of sports journalists feel compelled to either tinge their coverage or come right out with their political opinions – as if anyone cares what they think about politics.
It is actually quite pathetic.
As a long-time sports broadcaster who has done everything from talk shows to play-by-play, it became clear to me some time ago why this has happened: the sports media has a built-in inferiority complex. They don’t appreciate not being taken seriously beyond the realm of sports, i.e. entertainment. So, they try to advance the notion that they are “more than just sports journalists,” that they have real depth to display beyond the playing field.
But they won’t be taken seriously if they adopt conservative positions, so instead, they jump aboard the “me, too” leftist train. These sports broadcasters and writers also realize the added benefit of not being held accountable for their biased or ignorant political statements because – here we are again – nobody cares what they think about immigration policy or tax reform. On top of that, they get minimal pushback because there are so few sports journalists willing to advance an opposing point of view.
It takes no courage to jump on the leftist bandwagon when there is no price to pay. In the real world, leftist journalists are at least held to account for what they write or say. But not in the world of sports entertainment.
Does this sound familiar? It should because it is just what we have witnessed in another segment of the entertainment industry centered in Hollywood.
Allow me to provide one small example of a larger trend. As a lifelong fan of baseball’s New York Mets, I follow most of the publications and blogs which write about my team. Earlier this month, I was scanning the sites and could hardly believe my eyes. At a blog called Mets 360 – obviously devoted exclusively to stories relating to the Mets – I saw this. The headline was The Day Education Died. It was a diatribe about the horrors of Betsy DeVos being confirmed as Secretary of Education. Not one word about baseball.
When did this trend begin? Many will point to the rise of Keith Olbermann, who is now acknowledged even by his leftist cohorts to have gone off the deep end with his psychotic rants about President Trump (sorry, I refuse to provide a link – friends don’t let friends watch this guy). Olbermann rose to the level of a superstar as an anchor at ESPN before a personality disorder got him fired. He moved on to MSNBC as a show host before getting canned there as well. He has since made a hard landing in the dark corners of the internet and is broadcasting from what looks an awful like a basement.
Another giant in the sports broadcasting, Bob Costas, decided to prove his depth in a much-publicized pre-game lecture in 2012 about gun control in the wake of a tragedy involving an NFL player and a gun. That evidently served as permission for others in the sports media to follow suit with their own politically-tinged commentary.
Then there is the case of Mike Lupica, a once-iconic figure as the premier sports columnist for the New York Daily News. Lupica evidently decided that since his sports columns sprinkled with left wing political jabs were quite popular, he would start writing columns exclusively about politics. But few people have paid attention. Perhaps because he is out of his depth, or because people expect him to write about the field he was hired to cover: sports.
But on the other side of the equation is the case of Curt Schilling, as bold – many would say courageous – in his public statements on politics as he was on the pitching mound. (You may remember his bloody sock covering an acute ankle injury in the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox broke the 86 year “Curse of the Bambino.”) By most accounts, Schilling’s outspoken support of Donald Trump cost him many votes in this year’s Hall of Fame balloting, which is conducted among veteran baseball writers. One wonders if he would have lost a single vote, or perhaps gained votes, if he had publicly vilified the President, like so many in the sports media.
In an intriguing piece in The Ringer entitled “How Sportswriting Has Become a Liberal Profession,” Bryan Curtis explains that being a leftist in the sports media was not always so easy. This was especially back in the 1950’s, when true to form, most sportswriters followed the ideological trend of the day, and thus presented as mostly conservative. But the hypocrisy of the left was still evident, as per one story about Lester Rodney, sports reporter for the Communist Daily Worker:
Occasionally, Rodney was so committed to being an ideological sportswriter that he tied himself in knots. After a game in the early ’50s, a fan at the Polo Grounds got close to Giants manager Leo Durocher, stole his baseball cap, and made off with the prize. If you’re sticking up for the oppressed masses on deadline, what do you do with that? According to Roger Kahn, Rodney wrote a column arguing ballplayers were workers and should be granted the use of their tools.
Later, police apprehended the thief. He turned out to be a poor Puerto Rican. At the request of his boss, Rodney then wrote the opposite column, arguing the thief was a victim of capitalism and, thus, had as much right to the cap as Durocher.
Curtis goes on to examine the evolution of political ideology among sportswriters.
Today, sportswriting is basically a liberal profession, practiced by liberals who enforce an unapologetically liberal code. As Frank Deford, who joined Sports Illustrated in the ’60s, told me, “You compare that era to this era, no question we are much more liberal than we ever were before.”
In the age of liberal sportswriting, the writers are now far more liberal than the readers. “Absolutely I think we’re to the left of most sports fans,” said Craig Calcaterra, who writes for HardballTalk. “It’s folly for any of us to think we’re speaking for the common fan.”
There was a time when filling your column with liberal ideas on race, class, gender, and labor policy got you dubbed a “sociologist.” These days, such views are more likely to get you a job.
You are probably like most people who spend time following sports: you desire a temporary escape from the hard realities of everyday life. But the next time you access your favorite sports media outlets, do it with an awareness that the sports media has joined the “news” profession in their left wing bias.
Unfortunately, unlike the days of yore, it is impossible to escape political propaganda – even in the playground of the world.