Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Media Bias II

As a former sports journalist, I often studied various media outlets to sharpen my reporting skills.  With the Internet, I browsed the various sport sections of the nations newspapers, listened to national and local talking heads and viewed the various web sites of the East Coat based, corporate media giants.  Just as my local media counterparts warned me, I found a strong East Coast bias in the national media, but never felt led to write about it.

Throughout the college football season last year, I watched possibly the greatest football player of all-time lead his team to a national championship and receive no respect from the national media.  Meanwhile, a Notre Dame team with strong ties to the nation’s East Coast, led by a fat man from New Jersey, lost multiple games, yet managed to be the media darlings.    

Throughout the NBA basketball playoffs, I’ve listened to NBA “experts” such as Bill Walton and Charles Barkley trash the Dallas Mavericks, but chalked their animosity up to envy.  Meanwhile, a very average Richard Jefferson, leads a very average New Jersey Nets team to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and the media lauds him as the next Michael Jordan.  The Mavericks beat the San Antonio Spurs in one of the most electric playoff series in NBA history, yet the story must compete with Larry Brown’s troubles with the New York Knicks.  In spite of all of this, I felt it futile to discuss the level of bias in the national media.

However, my mind changed this morning.

A day removed from the start of the NBA Finals, I sought out the help of ESPN radio to get a national perspective on the Mavericks/Heat series.  I set my web browser to and tuned into the Colin Cowherd Show.  Indeed, Mr. Cowherd’s show focused on the exploits of Texans, but not on the hard wood.  Instead, Mr. Cowherd’s show centered on the minor league appearance of Roger Clemens.  Mr. Cowherd, a Yankee die-hard, went on to show his total lack of sports knowledge by calling Nolan Ryan, “overrated”, when compared to “The Rocket”.  Clearly, Mr. Cowherd is not lucid, but I would think that even he would realize that the NBA Finals is far more important minor league baseball.  I can assure you, had Roger Clemens pitched in Kansas City and Milwaukee, instead of Boston and New York, his return would have been ignored.

Finally, I found a national perspective of the NBA Finals—kind of.  Dan Le Batard, a Miami radio show host and ESPN analyst, welcomed Scottie Pippen, another ESPN/ABC analyst, on his show.  Pippen assured the Heat fans that Miami had the better ball team in this series.  Evidently, Pippen watched plenty of tape on the Nelly-led Mavs, because he referred to their desire to play up-tempo offense and their defensive struggles.  I assume that Mr. Pippen has not taken the opportunity to watch this year’s establishment of the Mavs. Other national media outlets reported on the new dynamic duo of O’Neal/Wade and treated the Mavericks as a one-man team.

Sadly, I’ve deal with media bias towards all my favorite teams, throughout my life time. Growing up in the remote pine hills of East Texas, I attended a high school that often swam under the radar of the state media.  As you know, Texans go crazy over their high school football and fans crave the media attention offered by the Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Texas Prep Xtra.Com, & Fox Sport’s High School Xtra. Normally, these outlets focus on the major media markets in Texas—D/FW, Houston/Galveston, and Austin/Cen-Tex regions.  Occasionally, the Tyler area gets the interest of the Dallas media, but areas north and east of Tyler remain oblivious to the rest of the state.

I’ve had the pleasure of watching a lot of football in my 27 years on Earth and I can say, without a doubt, the team Atlanta High fielded in 1994 was one of the most talented high school football teams I have ever seen for its size.  Atlanta High School has less than 600 total students, yet this team featured two future NFL player’s, Randy Garner and Derrick Blaylock, and more speed than many college teams.  

My Atlanta Rabbits met up with the Gainesville Leopards in the regional semi-finals.  The Dallas media loved to write about Gainesville.  Again, this was another small school, but it featured players that had committed to Nebraska, Florida State and Miami (Fl.). No one, not even the Texarkana media, gave Atlanta a shot at winning the game.  All of the media attention focused on Gainesville’s three Division I athletes.  Adding insult to injury, Atlanta was forced to play the game in Carrollton, Gainseville’s backyard.  Well, the mighty Rabbs fought through the media biased and shocked the Leopard, 41-6.  While the NBA Finals are a totally different animal than the Texas high school football playoffs, I find solace in knowing that the media ugly duckling often rises to the top.


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