Breitbart and The Guardian Quarrel Over Liberal Bias in Sports Media


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From Kaepernick and Black Lives Matter to the election of Donald Trump and the passing of Muhammad Ali, the world of politics and professional athletics have become inextricably interconnected.  The last 12 months have made that clear. Unfortunately, not everyone is excited about that.

Two months ago, Bryan Curtis of the Ringer wrote a piece called “How Sportswriting Became a Liberal Profession“. In the piece, Curtis tracks the evolution of sports writing in an attempt to figure our how we got here:

“In sportswriting, there was once a social and professional price to pay for being a noisy liberal… The old liberal sportswriter was a prisoner of daily newspapers. If he wanted to write about politics, he had to do it within the confines of a sports story… The internet leveled the barrier between sportswriting and the rest of the universe. It also dropped the neutrality that was practiced by everyone but a handful of columnists… The internet transformed sportswriting in another way: It made a local concern into a national one.

…Maybe what we’re seeing is simply writers plying their trade in a different era. “We shouldn’t piss on things that are progress and are good,” Lipsyte said. “But how much of it is really any kind of expression of liberalism? How much is times change and we change with it? Maybe we’re just standing in the same place but being carried along by the flow.”

Curtis piece was essentially an unassuming and relatively balanced look at the op-ed style the permeates all aspects of modern media. For the most part, he wasn’t stating an opinion so much as he’s taking the temperature of the room. However, the topic became far more aggressive when on April 6, when Jack Moore of the Guardian referenced it in his piece: “Has US sports media really become a leftwing propaganda tool?

Unlike Curtis, Moore was almost immediately on the offensive:
“A Gallup poll from 2015 showed that 60% of Democrats and 58% of self-identified liberals consider themselves to be sports fans. And, critically, 51% of women and 62% of non-white respondents said they consider themselves sports fans… Yes, this runs counter to stereotypes that suggest that sports is a man’s world, and that women would rather watch soap operas. It also forces white male sports fans to acknowledge that a space that they have used as an escape from political issues for years is in fact as political as the rest of the world…

[Fox Sports’ Clay Travis] can lament the fate of what he calls [the] “regular guy or girl” who looks to sports as an escape from the political world, but what he’s really afraid of is the thought of people like him losing the power to define who we consider the regular guy or girl in sports”

Them’s fighting words – and it only took a day for Breitbart‘s Robert Marlow to fire off a point-by-point rebuttal:

“what Moore fails to recognize is that just because there are large percentages of sports fans who claim political affiliation, it doesn’t mean that they want someone else’s politics, or even their own, intermingled with their sports coverage…

Perhaps the most idiotic claim of The Guardian writer is that Skip Bayless, Jason Whitlock, and Colin Cowherd are actually conservatives… even Clay Travis, whom the Guardian describes as if he’s the demon spawn of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, is no conservative. Clay Travis has spoken openly about supporting Bill Clinton, voting for Obama twice, as well as voting for Gary Johnsonin the last election. Voting for Gary Johnson might make you a conservative at The Guardian, but it does not anywhere else.

Try again, Guardian. Or don’t.”

That last sentence should cover your daily dose of smug. Of course, it’s Breitbart, so this is about as close as they get to impartial coverage.
It’s interesting seeing all these people argue about the state of sports journalism as if any of this qualifies as “journalism”… But, what’s really telling is how this sort of sectarian shoving match is happening all over the place.
It seems like this is our modality now, not just sports writing but in all aspects of life. Each side has their talking points and neither’s allowed to stray, lest they end up in the land of RINOs and DINOs. We now operate in a binary where our only choice is futilely berating each other or desperate silence. In our attempts to avoid cognitive dissonance, we’ve created feedback loops that have amplified the problems exponentially.
At a certain point, you’ve repeated the same words so many times that they cease to have meaning. We find ourselves trapped in an ongoing dialogue where no one’s listening, but they don’t want to lose, so we make sound but say nothing. And eventually all I can hear are the words of T. S. Eliot echoing in my head:
“This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends”