Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bias in sports: what's acceptable, what's over the line?

Headline: Worst Losing Streaks in Sports
At the risk of sounding like a dumb blonde, I feel I should begin this blog with a little confession--I admit, I know next to nothing about professional sports. How I managed to get through a sports writing class last semester is completely beyond me. Instead of writing about politics yet again this week (although it is hard to avoid the temptation,) I thought I would try for an article about sports. The headline for this article struck me right away as a red flag for bias, but as I continued searching for recent sports articles I began to wonder about what it means to have media bias in sports journalism. 

To me, it seems like a 50/50 split. Sometimes, reporters give a very detailed review of the game, complete with play-by-play recreations and spectator reactions to the game, there is little to no reporter opinion or slant (either positive or negative) to these stories. Other times, it can seem like all you get is the reporter's opinion and/or bias to one team (or player) over the other(s). Is it fair for the reporter to cover a game when he or she clearly favors one team? If a reporter is a Giants fan and is asked to cover a Giants game, should another reporter step in place in order to assure an objective/unbiased standpoint? Or perhaps a certain amount of bias is allowed or at least forgivable in the sports world? These are just a few of the questions that came to mind when I was thinking of critiquing this article.

Though the writer did a pretty good job at trying to remain fairly neutral throughout this piece, he did slip up in a few areas, provoking the assumption that he is a Cubs fan. 

"Over the past century, the franchise has perfected the art of losing to the point that fans can't agree whether the Curse of Fred Merkle in 1908 or the Curse of the Billy Goat in 1945 is the phantasma holding back their team." 

The above quotation isn't attributed to anyone, so I'm guessing it is coming from the reporter's own perspective. This is one of the sections of the article that made me think the writer may be a Cubs fan. 

"Disappointment hurts, but abject failure can be far worse. At least Cubs fans have seen their team in the playoffs four times in the past 10 years. Try being a Pirates fan. The last time they had a winning season, George H. W. Bush was president, Nirvana was a new band and Barry Bonds was think."

I love this quotation, mostly for its humor and reference to the amazing band, Nirvana, yet it  made me think-- hey, wait is this guy a Cubs fan or a Pirates fan? Is he both? Again, the sports ignorance in me is out in force. 

"Suddenly, being a Cubs fan doesn't sound so bad. In fact, the lovable losers don't even make our list of the teams with the worst losing streaks in sports." 

Okay-- so maybe he is a Cubs fan. Who knows? Either way, it doesn't really matter. The point is there is blatant bias in this article, what it means to readers is up for debate. It is still an informative and fun read. Does it harm the information presented in the article? Is the argument relevant? These questions are up to you. 

--Above photo accompanied the article. 

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