Wednesday, July 21, 2010

You have a right not to read this post

Let me go ahead and slap two theses up on the church door (I never claimed to be Martin Luther, and evidently I'm 93 theses short of Martin Luther).

1. When media members complain about media saturation of Favre coverage, they are contributing to and adding to media saturation of Favre coverage.

2. In the age of the internet, and of numerous television, radio, and print sources devoted to sports coverage, it is a bit silly to complain about sports media overcoverage or undercoverage of anything.*

I present these theses because Doug Farrar (who frequently tweets complaints about media saturation of Favre coverage) includes in a Yahoo! Shutdown Corner post these silly sentences:

"The Vikings have a right to know what their quarterback is going to do, whether they think so or not. And we have a right to hear and read about things that have nothing to do with Brett Favre."

The first sentence is obviously flawed: it's nice of Farrar to defend the Vikings' "rights" that they evidently don't care about, but obviously if they wanted to assert this right, they could (the fact that they don't suggests either they know Favre is coming back, or they know he's important to their plans and giving him freedom and little pressure is how to get him to come back). But it's the second sentence there that is absurdly silly (perhaps intentionally so, though the sentiment seems sincere).

Of course "we have a right to hear and read about things that have nothing to do with Brett Favre." All you have to do to assert this right is hear and read about them! Nobody has ever required me to read an article about Brett Favre. Nobody has denied me the right to read or hear about pretty much whatever sports story I want to read or hear about. The internet helps a lot: there are so many people writing about so many things that it is not terribly difficult to find some coverage of whatever it is you're interested in. This is especially the case with a popular sports league like the NFL: search for news or commentary on what you're interested in, and there's a good chance you'll find at least one article. As a fantasy football enthusiast, I've been noting how seemingly every day I come across another article focusing on Steven Jackson, to the point that every day my fantasy opinion of him changes (between July 9th and 20th, there's this, this, this, this, and this). Not only do you have a right to read NFL stories not about Favre, it's extraordinarily easy to do so.

And what if somebody doesn't want to hear about Favre? For that matter, what if I found Steven Jackson dull? Do what Lisa Simpson advises in The Simpsons Halloween episode when the advertising mascots come to life to terrorize the town: just don't look. I regularly check every one of those sites above featuring Steven Jackson articles, but if I wasn't interested in Steven Jackson (am I even interested in Steven Jackson?), all I have to do is not click on those links. If I'm watching a sports television network covering something I'm not interested in, I can switch to another sports television network that might be covering something I'm interested in, or if I insist on learning about sports during this moment I could even lower my eyes from the television to a sports magazine or a newspaper sports page. I have zero interest in learning details about rookie contract negotiations: in early and mid July it doesn't matter, and even once training camps begin the headline pretty much tells me what I want or need to know. Rather than complaining about media coverage of something I'm not interested in, I take the drastic step of not paying attention to media coverage of something I'm not interested in.

Hey, I've got a tag devoted to bad sportswriting: I'm not saying critique of sports media coverage is invalid. And there is sometimes call to complain about overcoverage or undercoverage of a particular story. But this brings us back to the first of my incredible two theses. When media members complain about Favre, complain about his indecision, complain about media overcoverage of Favre, criticize the attention given to Favre or the attention Favre evidently craves, they are talking about Favre. They are contributing to the media attention given to Favre. For the rest of us consumers of media, these complaints about the media's Favre coverage only contribute to the saturation.

So my advice to people like Farrar who are sick of Favre: just don't look. Don't worry about the Vikings' rights: they can probably assert their own. Don't worry about your right to read and hear about other NFL stories: nobody is taking that right away from you. Just don't look.

*specifying "sports media" is important: there are hard news stories for which the type or amount of coverage by mainstream media sources can have real consequences in policy, politics, public behavior, etc. But sports coverage is a bit more like entertainment coverage in its significance.

I think I should emphasize thesis one a bit more. One reason I feel that Favre saturates the media is the backlash itself: I regularly come across media commentary criticizing Favre and/or the media's coverage of Favre (recently, here and here*). On the whole, these articles actually add to the saturation of Favre for consumers of media; in effect, media members whose complaint is too much coverage of Favre add to the saturation of Favre coverage simply by complaining at all. Some days it seems I come across more criticism/complain about media coverage of Favre than I come across Favre stories themselves.

I think there is too much media coverage of Favre, but the backlash has contributed to there being even more media coverage of Favre. As I've written before,

"several years ago, a backlash really started to develop (prominently on the internet) against the media's treatment of Favre, to the point that complaints about the media coverage of Favre have become the cliche. Furthermore, Favre's behavior in recent years has led to a lot of criticism from mainstream media sources."

That's what I'm saying: the complaining about media coverage of Favre is often the conventional, uninsightful, predictable cliche commentary itself. Many people are exhausted with the media giving too much attention to Favre; I'm actually exhausted with people complaining about the media giving too much attention to Favre!

*By the way, Adam Schein: when you take your time to make a "Go Away" video to complain about Favre, during which you say "I've been done with Favre for years," well, evidently you weren't.

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