Sports are great. Actual participation is awesome, but watching other people do sports can still be pretty good too. These days, people can watch sports anytime, anywhere and in whatever state of undress they choose. These are truly the days of miracles and wonders! All thanks to the Sports-Industrial Complex, which brought you mantertainment, lite beer and the Sports Bubble.
When sports became industrialized in the latter part of the 20th Century, the S.I.C. became the conduit between the viewer and the games, between you and your sports. That was the original idea, anyway. What happened instead was that consumer intelligence was insulted in spite of the action. Instead of bringing sports to the public in absentia, the delivery mechanism ended up sending something else entirely — non-analytical analysis, lifestyle features, reference comedy, “babes,” sports that aren’t sports, and a frat party that never ends. It’s all something I call “sportz.”
You probably know sportz-with-a-Z when you see it, because you feel it. It produces a visceral reaction that’s unmistakable. Every time a television commentator says something like “a walk’s as good as a hit” or “both sides of the football” or “upside,” it makes you angry and sick. It diminishes your mental capacity. A world full of cumulative points should never decrease something like your I.Q..
I really can’t do much more than point to this and say “Read the whole thing.” Kyle really nails the way that ESPN has become a tremendously frustrating collection of media properties. While I’m ok with some sportz– I enjoy PTI quite a bit, still, and generally like Mike and Mike– ESPN has steadily gotten louder and dumber over the last couple of decades. Save for occasional big event weeks, they hardly even show sporting events any more– idiot “analysis” shows make up the bulk of their programming now. They’re the Fox News of sports journalism– all opinion shows, masquerading as news.
Sadly, it’s really hard to do anything about it. As Kyle notes, many people who start out attempting to criticize sportz get sucked into the idiot vortex:
“Sports media criticism” is sportz about sportz. It’s as boring as anything else that’s two steps removed from a subject — it’s analysis of analysis. It’s a hall of mirrors. It makes as much sense as reviews of Amazon reviewers, or music criticism criticism, and only invites sports media criticism criticism criticism.
Sportz is contagious, and doubles like mitosis as it spreads its stupidity. There is nothing smart that you can say about anything stupid — especially something that’s designed to be stupid. Ignorance and anti-intelligence spread like disease, infesting every context in which they are allowed to exist. That’s as real a reality as the indisputable maxim that says big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games.
The above analogy to political media still holds, and goes both ways. In much the same way that the sportz commentary Kyle talks about capture even those who would criticize it, the antics of Fox’s yapping heads drag the entire national political discourse into a sucking swamp of stupid. The degradation of political discourse parallels the degradation of sports media, and vice versa.
On the bright side, the re-awakening of the Mid-Majority is a positive sign. It means that college basketball season is drawing nigh, and promises quality coverage of small schools in the near future. It can’t come soon enough.