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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sports Media Negativity

Humor me for a moment.  Read each of these two paragraphs.

(Mark Erhmann/Getty Images)
Paragraph One:  The championship was in their grasp.  But, stubborn coaching, poor rebounding and missed foul shots cost the San Antonio Spurs a victory in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.  Tim Duncan turned in a performance for the ages in the first half, but Gregg Popovich stuck to his usual substitution patterns and had Duncan resting on the bench at the start of the 4th quarter.  This opened the door for the Heat to begin the 10-point comeback that eventually led to overtime.  Despite this strategy, the Spurs still had opportunities to close it out at the end of regulation and in overtime.  But the Spurs could not capitalize.  In the most important moments of the game, the Spurs allowed offensive rebounds to slip through their fingers and failed to wrap up the victory at the foul line.  Those failings in crunch time may very well cost Popovich, Duncan and Ginobili a final ring before retirement.


(Getty Images)
Paragraph Two:  On the brink of elimination, LeBron James reminded everyone why he is the greatest player on the planet.  LeBron shook off the frustrations of a lackluster start to the game and put the Heat on his back to start the 4th quarter.  LeBron took control on both ends of the floor as the Heat made a furious 10-point comeback to tie up the game.  Along the way, LeBron James lost his headband but amassed yet another triple-double playoff performance.  In overtime, Chris Bosh rose to the occasion and secured two key, contested rebounds.  Bosh then sealed the victory by blocking Danny Green's last second 3-point shot as the final buzzer sounded.  And so, after eight months of basketball, the world championship will be decided by game Game 7 on Thursday night.

Which one of these paragraphs accurately described what transpired Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA Finals?  Both did.  Which one was more fun and uplifting to read?  I'd say the second one.  And yet, it was some version of the first paragraph that filled my Twitter timeline immediately after the game.  And the paragraph one narrative dominated the sports talk shows the next morning and on into the afternoon slate of chatter on ESPN.

This negative tone is not unique to Thursday night.  Nor is it unique to any one media outlet.  It has increasingly become the accepted standard for how to analyze a sporting event.  I watch sports to be entertained and uplifted by athletic excellence and competition.  I imagine most other people do, too.  So, why must the narrative be so negative?  My answer:  Because it's easier.  And because a critic gets to feel superior to the person he is breaking down.  Somehow pointing out someone's excellence is perceived as less perceptive than finding their flaws.  But, as we move forward, I'd admonish all of us to remember these words from Sam Rayburn:  "Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one."

I'm looking forward to Game 7 on Thursday night.  And I'm looking forward to seeing Lord Stanley's Cup awarded later this week.  And, I'm looking forward to praising the excellence of the champion on this blog and on my Twitter feed.


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