Wednesday, November 10, 2004

How the media shape our mistaken beliefs

I'm not sure I really know how, I just see lots of evidence that it's going on.

First, I want to cite a football example. I lost interest in football right after the demise of the USFL. I'm not entirely sure that that was the root cause of my lack of interest because I was also entering the high school years and all the other interests that that entailed. But watching any football game after seeing Jim Kelly and the Flying Midgets of the Houston Gamblers seemed quite boring in comparison.

Things started to change for me last fall. Two years before that I had thought about trying to find a way to be interested in football again and I felt the best way for me to do that was to find a talented young football player to be a fan of and try to enjoy the game through his exploits. My sights initially set on Joey Harrington. When he went to the Detroit Lions I thought that that could be a team I could get behind. Alas, it became obvious to me quickly that Harrington did not have the gifts to be a great quarterback and so my interest never really picked up.

Returning to last fall. Somehow or another I stumble across this fellow Ben Roethlisberger of the University of Miami. Yes, that Miami, not that crummy school in Florida. I actually started watching some of his games on ESPN. I liked him. I made up my mind that I would root for whatever pro team drafted him and even watched the NFL draft to see what team I would be rooting for for the next decade.

Lo and behold, I became greatly excited when my pre-USFL favorite team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, drafted him (I was born in western PA). I have enjoyed his success immensely and have even watched some Steelers football this season.

Roethlisberger is extremely talented, no question. But the media has it all wrong. An MVP candidate? The guy has thrown for 200 yards once! You could find dozens of quarterbacks in the last decade, including many backups, who have posted similar performances over a six game span. Just because he's been the de facto leader for a TEAM who has won every game he has started doesn't make him the MVP. It's foolish.

Returning to baseball, we have seen it twice already in the awards being given out; awards voted on by the same goofy sportswriters who mold how we view things. Khalil Greene not the Rookie of the Year?!?!?! He excelled at the most demanding position in the field while batting extremely well. The Padres were playoff contenders until he broke his finger. The fact that Greene was born in Western PA (Butler) has nothing to do with it.

Because if it had something to do with Pittsburgh, then I'd be all for the Pirates Jason Bay winning the award. Really I have no idea why Bay won. There's no recent historical precedent. The NL winner has been a pitcher in most years. Heck, Rafael Furcal won it in 2000 with numbers similar to Greene's. It's not a small-market thing. Maybe it's religious in nature (Greene is of the Baha'i faith).

It may have to do with a number of sportswriters moving to Canada after the presidential election and wanting to see one of "their own" winning it.

Worse, though, was the NL Cy Young voting, where the best pitcher in the National League was third on his team in voting and garnered only a single third place vote. Why? Because he didn't have enough wins or saves, despite being the absolute best pitcher in the league.

Brad Lidge deserved the Cy Young award. He started the season in a setup role and moved to closer and by the postseason was easily the most important pitcher on the Astros. No one was more dominating over the course of the season. No one understands "holds" and saves are convoluted. Look at Lidge compared to Clemens and Randy Johnson:

Lidge 1.90 8.28 .174 14.93
Johnson 2.60 8.10 .197 10.62
Clemens 2.98 10.44 .217 9.15

Clemens and Johnson are "old men" and not expected to perform at the high levels they did. When and how are people going to realize how to think out of the box and make their own opinions and analyze things when the majority of the media are lemmings and repeat the same mistruths over and over?

When will Jack Morris and Keith Hernandez be inducted into the Hall of Fame? Why didn't Rico Brogna ever win a Gold Glove. How, horror of horrors, can more people think Ripken's games played streak is a greater accomplishment than DiMaggio's hitting streak (as recently depicted in an online poll at the advertisement-laden How could George Bush have been re-elected?

I feel like the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind.


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