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Nick Saban and The Media Circus

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 10:06 PM, under , , , , , ,

Athens, GA (Nov 21, 2007) - Nick Saban found himself at the center of a media storm this week. After an unthinkable Alabama loss to Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday, Saban found himself in the uncomfortable position of regrouping after the loss. In Alabama, Crimson Tide football may as well be a religion for most fans. So the loss to such an inferior team was nothing less than a catastrophe. Saban, in a press conference made references to how other people have regrouped after a catastrophic event like 9/11 and war. He did not compare the loss to those events, but the media glommed on it like he did and tore him to shreds.

In the following piece, from The Hook and Lateral web site, is a great discussion of how the sports media can distort things to suit their own purposes, namely grabbing ratings with sensational headlines. Thanks to the editors of that site for allowing me to reprint the article here.

Sapere Aude

There is a difference between ‘comparing’ and ‘using as an example.’ I understand that some of the more conceptually challenged among us may have a hard time understanding the nuance between the two discursive categories, so you are going to have to trust me on this one. This is why, after watching the entire Nick Saban press conference, I found myself flabbergasted at the shrill outcry that flooded the sports world. Self righteous, elated curmudgeons screamed across the airwaves that Nick Saban had broken some un-crossable line by improperly “comparing” a football game to two national tragedies and a twelve step program. Problem was, he said nothing of the sort…

I could use this opportunity to give a full throated defense of the Alabama football coach, but anyone with a laptop and a functioning brain can watch the actual press conference. I trust that anyone with an honest intellect should come to the conclusion that he was using examples of catastrophes that everyone would recognize…not comparing the events.

Saban Press Conference

I could give my own self-righteous, curmudgeon-like admonishment of Skip Bayliss, Paul Finebaum and the myriad of sports-casters who filled their airwaves with this inaccurate, sensationalist tripe. This issue, however, points to something much larger and more insidious than one mere case of taking a man’s words two-hundred miles out of context.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are losing the ability to think for ourselves. This claim is only strengthened by the fact that ESPN (to their credit) showed a good bit of Saban’s quote and STILL took it out of context. They managed to say, without flinching, that a man said something that he clearly didn’t say.

I, for one, put a good bit of the blame on twenty-four hour news-cycles. A “great American” can spend their evenings watching thirty second clips on “Tom-Kat” and “The War on Christmas.” The political discourse has become a battle-royal for who can define themselves as the most effective personality. Who needs good policy, reason, or unique and well thought out opinions when you can slap a ‘W’ on the back of the mini-van and join the flavor-of-the-week cult of personality? No longer do the actual words, actions, opinions or policies of public figures matter. The only important voice is that of the so called “talking head” who loudly and forcefully opines on everything. The level of the screaming has drowned out the things that are supposedly being talked about.

Obviously, this mindlessness has bled into the sports world. Never mind the college-football corrupting monopoly that is ESPN and ABC (a rant for another day)…I can’t turn on ESPN without catching the tail end of someone shouting about something. Intelligent analysis of events has been replaced by debate-style shows that pitch one sportscaster whose opinion I generally don’t care about against another sportscaster whose opinion I generally don’t care about. Who ever shouts the loudest and scores the most points wins!!! This is not analysis…this is not news-reporting…Our attention span is so short that objective, analysis laden news-reporting won’t generate the ratings of Jim Rome and Paul Finebaum.

And we eat it up…Not having to think for ourselves is easier. We don’t have to expend the cognitive energy necessary to critically analyze the things that occur within the world we inhabit. We are cool with ‘sports broadcasters’ airing a man’s words verbatim and then twisting them so violently that they do not resemble their original form. The collective rabble of ‘the media’ generates interest from us viewers, the media conglomerates make their ratings and, thus, their dollars, and tomorrow all will be forgotten and the next sensation will manifest. The consequences of this paradigm shift, however, have been drastic. We already see it in the political discourse. Public officials have become mealy-mouthed, spineless wusses because if they say anything that is not ambiguous, it will be subject to the whims of some ‘journalist.’ Our attention span, say the ‘sportscasters,’ is so short that we cannot watch a college football game without a special on local cuisine or commentary on Brittney Spears and K-Fed interspersed between the action.

This is not sports…

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