Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why do we follow sports? (or, the NFL season must start now).

You should be familiar with Ballhype, a website that makes it easy for us to follow popular sports stories. It's a very good site.

Here's what you'll find right now on the first page of the Ballhype NFL page (right now: by the time you look, it may be different):

11 of the 15 stories feature Michael Vick.

2 others are about a hit against Redskin QB Jason Campbell.

1 other is about a player getting a DUI.

1 other features some commentary on a preseason game.

I realize it's just before the third week of preseason; there might not be a lot going on the in the NFL right now. Furthermore, it was just today that Vick's plea agreement became public (see it at the Smoking Gun).

But 11 of the 15 most hyped stories?

Is this why we follow sports? Is there not more real football that could break up the monotony of one athlete's crimes? Aren't there positive stories out there? Aren't there hopeful stories out there?

This isn't why I follow sports. This will never be why I follow sports. Am I childishly innocent (I do, after all, still collect football cards)? Is this what we want?

Does this make sports fun?

I hope when the real games start, we can focus on the games and the players. When that happens, I hope that instead of focusing all our energy on criticizing lousy performances, we can take the time and energy to praise and admire the great performances. I want to watch the great players that I can tell my children about someday. I want to appreciate and understand what makes these players great. I want to enjoy my favorite team, and I want to enjoy quality football around the league.

So why are you following sports? For the fun? For the hope? For the possibilities and inspirations of greatness? For the technical brilliance?

Or is all that a distraction from mocking athletes and commenting on their crimes?

Addendum: This one example of a day at Ballhype is just an illustration of the larger problem. Vick stories have dominated Ballhype's rankings for a long time. Every possible Vick story gets a post at Fanhouse (and why not? These stories elicit tons of comments). Several Vick stories have been prominantly featured at SI and ESPN--pushing other football news aside. But the Vick story is just the greatest example of internet sports coverage's focus on athlete misdeeds. All Vick has done is push PacMan Jones further down in the headlines; for a long time the focus has been too much on athlete misdeeds and a focus on the negative.

I just don't want that to be why we watch sports. And as bloggers, we have some (however little) control over how sports are covered on the internet. We'll be critical of things, don't worry (obviously we enjoy critiquing sports writing and cliches). But we want the focus to be on the games and players, and we want to make sure our sports spectating focuses some energy on the parts of sports we like, not just the parts we don't like.


  1. Anonymous11:26 AM

    Enjoy your site more and more, Pacifist, and I'll be checking in all season. Regarding this topic, I pretty much agree, and I think I will endeavor to pay less attention to player misconduct issues in the future. I have occasionally gotten sucked into threads over at Football Outsiders that I wish I had stayed out of, but it irritates me when people on either end of the spectrum go overboard. The "All these guys are thugs" and the "Don't be so hard on a guy who has been arrested six times in 18 months" schools of thought are very bothersome to me, but discussing it with people tends to decrease my level of enjoyment of the game, so from here on out, I say to hell with it, and I'm going to try to mostly just stick to what happens on the field. Even discussing contract issues is increasingly tiresome, but since roster construction is integral to team performance, ya' pretty much have to pay attention to them.

    On a positive note, I saw Peyton Manning interviewed on the NFL Network the other day, and it was really impressive. I know some folks aren't enamored with him, and I've never been a huge fan, but my respect for the guy only increases with each passing year. It was like listening to an upper-echelon head coach discuss his team, and to have that quality in your highest paid guy, at the most important position, adds a tremendous amount of value.

    The one thing that makes me hopeful about Tavaris Jackson, besides his obviously adequate ahtletic nature, is that by all reports he has a tremendous work ethic, and is a very diligent student. Maybe this is the quality that made him so attractive to Childress, and I certainly would find it extremely heartening for Childress' willingness to adhere to his convictions bear fruit.

    Most head coaches, especially new ones, are extremely cautious, because the downside of being seen in hindsight as taking an inordinate risk outweighs the the downside of being seen in hindsight as having been too conventional. Most coaches would have made it a priority to bring in a Harrington, a Carr, a Holcomb, or some other qb as an alternative to Jackson and Bollinger. Whatever the conventional image of Childress may be, he most certainly is not a timid fellow. I'm pulling for the guy to be right, and not just because I'm a Vikings fan. It's always fun to see audacity awarded.

  2. Man, posts like this are why I love this site.

    Negative press gets so much coverage, but the thing is it just seems like that is all people want to talk about. I agree with you sometimes it is easy to ask 'why do we follow sports?' when all you see is negative stuff being spewed from every outlet, but we must battle as outlets in our blogs to focus on the silver lining in life, there is genocide going on overseas, sport is still beautiful when you think about the things going on to protect liberties such as still having an NFL, MLB, or NBA season etc.

    I totally get what you're feeling though.