Sports Coverage Is A Wreck

NFL Conference Championship Sunday is one of the best sports days of the year1. This past Sunday featured, arguably, the four best teams in the NFL. The AFC Championship game was a bit of a letdown, mostly because Denver wisely executed the game plan of running the ball and chewing the clock. The second half of the NFC Championship was spectacular though, including some ridiculous plays from both teams, including the game clinching interception. But so far all anyone has talked about is Seahawks CB Richard Sherman’s outburst during a post game interview.

Someone said something a year ago that really resonated (it might have been Rich Eisen), more time is spent in the build-up/pre-game portion of coverage than in the aftermath. When there is time spent afterwards, it is often on things like this interview. Never mind the fact that one of the 7 best QBs of all-time is going to the Super Bowl and trying to cement his legendary legacy with a second Super Bowl. Never mind that Russell Wilson is going to the Super Bowl in his 2nd year in the league. Never mind that Richard Sherman (before the interview) made an absolutely sick play to end the 49ers chances. Never mind that the breakout defensive player in the league snapped his leg in half. Never mind that on the same play the idiotic NFL rules around instant replay that are supposed to be in the interest of “always getting the call right” totally let what was a no brainer play slip because it was “non-reviewable”. Instead let’s just focus on what one hyped up, amped up 25-year old player said minutes after winning a game to go the Super Bowl.

Social media and the 24-hour news cycle are mostly to blame for this predicament. Filling multiple 24-hour sports stations was hard enough before technology made it so easy to find out any score, or see any replay at anytime, anywhere. 25 years ago, a person in Butte, Montana would have to wait until the morning newspaper to find out if the Houston Astros beat the Atlanta Braves in a game in the middle of May. Now someone in India can follow the game in real-time. As this technology evolved the bread and butter work of ESPN (and the like) was marginalized. Social media further marginalized it, because even with the 24 hour news cycle, it was hard to figure out what the “highlights” were without watching something like SportsCenter. But now, when Paul George pulls off a ridiculous dunk everyone finds out, and can watch it, just minutes after.

When contemporary attention spans are factored in, all of these sports websites/TV networks/etc. had to find other ways to fill time. That’s when things like QB cadences and pleated pants get talked about ad infinitum. Of course, this must be working because if it wasn’t they powers that be would not still be doing it.

Social networks are the 21st century “water cooler”. In the traditional conversation, the talk would have centered around Sherman’s spectacular play, some questionable officiating, Navarro Bowman’s injury, Colin Kaepernick’s incredible running and his backbreaking interception. Instead the sideshow continues to dominate the discussion. And it’s sad.

  1. Personally, it’s my favorite []