January, a month spoiled by ill-conceived resolutions, overflowing sock drawers and frantic searches for gift receipts. Disappointment comes in all guises and few are worse for the confirmed bookworm than opening up that eagerly-awaited hardback only to have your hopes shredded within a chapter, or even a page, of prose.
It’s far, far worse though when the purchase is your own: In this instance, one made in some haste on a whizz through Amazon last month. Hands up, it was a rookie error in choosing to judge it by its cover, but Dylan Gwinn’s title, Bias In The Booth: An Insider Exposes How Sports Media Distort The News, was sufficient bait.
Caveat emptor, and all that.
Looking back, there was an obvious case of word association prompting the buy, given the similarity in title to the brilliant work put together by Jerome Holtzman 20 years ago, when he spoke to some of America’s most iconic sportswriters from the inter-war years and the result was: No Cheering In the Press Box.
Gwinn’s premise? Very different. Sport used to be an escape from the harsh realities of life, he moaned. That was until they were hijacked by a sports media “overrun with liberal activists trying to implement their liberal agenda” and who now wax on about religion, politics, homosexuality, rape, racial issues “and every other form of progressive nuttiness you can imagine”.
There’s the germ of an interesting idea in examining how big, societal issues are handled, or ignored, by the sports media, but the term “progressive nuttiness” got us scrambling for Google to learn about an author who argues that it was the media’s treatment of Tim Tebow, and not the quarterback’s own inability to throw a football, that did for his career in the NFL.
Turns out the author is a host on SB Nation Radio, the third-largest sports radio network in the USA, as well as a contributor to Breitbart’s sports section. That would be the same Breitbart news organisation that has been accused of extolling far-right, extremist ideology. Curiosity duly piqued, we gave said sports section a gander.
The main story yesterday was the dramatic dip in viewership figures for this season’s NFL, with the headline declaring that things just never recovered “in the era of” San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick’s controversial stance in kneeling for the national anthem. It wasn’t until the second-last par that all the mediocre match-ups and games we’ve seen were revealed to be the biggest turn-off.
Gwinn’s most recent post was a report on a meeting last Tuesday which US president-elect Donald Trump squeezed into his mushrooming diary with baseball’s commissioner Rob Manfred and Randy Levine, who is president of the New York Yankees. Both were pictured on the premises and looked happy to be there.
The same can’t be said of everyone in the sports industry who may earn a minute of Trump’s time this next four years, with The Guardian this week running a piece on how basketball’s NBA — a league dominated by African-Americans in which one in four players are foreigners — will handle the traditional White House meet-and-greet for its champion team.
April 2 will make for interesting viewing, too. Nearly every president since Howard Taft over 100 years ago has thrown out a ceremonial first pitch on the opening day of baseball’s season, but the possibility of Trump performing that iconic duty has already led to entrenched views within the sport and beyond.
The likelihood, though, is that sport will be seeing and hearing a lot from Trump.
This is a man who, as detailed in this column before, has boasted prodigiously about his golfing abilities and owns close to 20 courses. A man who claimed to be the best baseball player in New York when he studied at the New York Military Academy and someone whose fingerprints are to be found across the country’s sporting landscape.
He once owned an American football team and was reportedly close to buying others. He has friends in high places in all the big leagues and counts the UFC’s Dana White and WWE’s Vince McMahon as buddies.
However, it’s uncertain as of yet if the soon-to-be POTUS has a role to play as Los Angeles bids for the 2024 Olympics and the US contemplates another bid for the World Cup two years later.
LA mayor Eric Garcetti, speaking last August, suggested that International Olympic Council members could be put off his city’s bid if Trump were involved on the basis of some of the things he has said. Really? The IOC? A body that has handed big gigs recently to countries with such fine human rights records as China and Azerbaijan?
No, Trump’s tongue or thoughts would be no barrier there.
More problematic, potentially, would be the World Cup bid, what with the US federation still contemplating whether to A) launch a bid for 2024 on its own or B) do so in conjunction with a neighbouring country such as, say, Mexico.
You don’t have to be a liberal to get a kick out of a scenario like that.
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