Media coverage of sports often relies on color commentary, highlighting the agony and ecstasy moments of individuals and teams. Sports media coverage isn’t a play-by-play analysis of tactical decisions, data insights, comparative studies, or objective opinion. It builds on the “human element,” the moments when great athletes succeed or — conversely — experience a meltdown of epic proportions.
Sports coverage, it could be argued, takes any sort of “media bias” to the extreme, often harking on the same characters and personalities … in the process blowing up stories that are otherwise meaningless.
Take, for example, the European Cup match-up that transpired on Friday between Germany and Greece. The game was billed as a political battle on the soccer pitch, paralleling the euro zone crisis taking place on the wider continent.
But the notion that professional soccer players need motivation for a quarterfinal game in a mjaor tournament from political happenings is illogical. Why would political mechanisms influence a professional's ability to do his or her job? As German soccer player Sepp Herberger once said "The ball is round. A game lasts 90 minutes. Everything else is only theory.”
And that’s exactly the same point Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban argued on ESPN recently.
Cuban ripped the sports media for painting everything in generalities, highlighting as an example the media’s coverage of Lebron James’ quest for an NBA title as one of “excruciating pressure” because he “failed” to win the championship last year.
Why should the focus be on James’ failure? What about the other teams or players? Why aren’t they placed on an equal pedestal? If James doesn’t succeed, is it because of his own inabilities, or because of the abilities of the other team?
What is the juicer story?
Cuban does have a point, and one that can extend to other news stories, including the 2012 election. The media does have a tendency to overplay certain angles, without looking at the other side of things.
Then again, does the audience who consumes this news even want a more “balanced,” factual, and data-driven analyses?