Recreation and Sport Studies

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KIN 6300 Discussion: Sports Media Dropping the Ball on Social, Cultural and Economic Issues in Sports

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This past Tuesday our graduate class had a great discussion on the topic of Sociology in Sports.

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What is sport sociology? It is the study of the relationship between sports and society (Crossman 2014). It examines how culture and values influence sports, how sports influences culture and values, and the relationship between sports and media, politics, economics, religion, race, gender, and youth. (Crossman, 2014)

The discussion in our class was based on an article written by Ken Reed of League of Fans called “Sports Media Dropping the Ball on Social, Cultural and Economic Issues in Sports”. The purpose of the article was to investigate whether or not sports media is going to continue to be about entertainment sports coverage, and putting profit-at-all-costs above the journalistic and corporate responsibilities, or will they aspire to be something higher.

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As the article suggests, the way in which we consume sport has changed drastically over the last half century. Gone are the days of just being able to watch your local sports team. Fans can follow their teams across the country and all over the world. This is mainly due to the relationships that sport has developed with the media. This relationship has allowed for more access to sport and has de-territorialized sport for long-distance fans. However, the growth of sports media has come with some huge drawbacks. Sport has now become increasingly distorted at all levels, due to the Win-At-All-Cost and Profit-At-All-Cost mentalities. The focus for sports media has been on what generates ratings, not on actually what is good for sports. Sport media has done a great job at identifying issues and describing problems in the world of sport; however, sports media struggles when it comes to following up with features that dig deeper into the root causes of issues.

Symbiosis of Sport Media and Commercial Sport

As mentioned earlier, a huge reason for sports growth in popularity can be attributed to its relationship with the media. This relationship has the characteristics of a symbiotic relationship. A symbiotic relationship is the living together of two dissimilar organisms (Reed, 2011). This relationship came about when pro-sport organizations saw television as an excellent medium to build a larger audience beyond their geographical area. Since then, sport has depended on sport media for free publicity of their product. Sport media have long depended on sports to help boost readership, listenership, and viewership.

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Media moguls such as Rupert Murdoch, CEO of News Corporation, saw sport as a “cornerstone of broadcasting efforts.” In 2011, Murdoch, along with NBC, ESPN, CBS, and DirecTV aided NFL owners during the leagues lockout. The group agreed to give money to NFL owners to help underwrite the cost of a possible lost season due to a strike. Most major newspapers in North America devote more space to sport than any other topic, including business, politics, and world news. This shows that both entities, although dissimilar, have become dependent on each other to succeed and have created what sport has become today.

Corporate Responsibility and the Sports Media

Sport media has an obligation to its viewers to provide content that covers all aspects of the world of sport. Not just results, but financial and social issues, as well. As Coakley suggests, “Capitalist corporations sponsor nearly 100 percent of all sports programming in the media, and their goals are to create consumers loyal to capitalism and generate profits for corporations and their shareholders. However, we seldom question how this influences what we see in sports coverage, what we hear in commentaries, and what we do not read, see, and hear as we consume media sports” (2011). So why is it that sport media isn’t taking more responsibility in producing a more well rounded view of the world of sport?

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As the article suggests, sport media is under increasing pressure for ratings and page views. The allure of entertainment quick hits gets in the way of that. It is easier for sports media to show fans more game coverage, trade rumors, injuries, reports, and scandals than it is to develop in depth discussions and analyses on critical social, cultural, and economic sport issues of the day, as well as examine the sport systems that lead to these scandals. This is because developing these in depth articles is time-consuming. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports spent 11 months on a story on the University of Miami football scandal. As Moran suggests “There is not enough time or bodies to produce this type of work on a regular basis” (2011). Sport media is also exceedingly profitable with the current system for them to even want to consider change. To them the system is working just fine.

So What Can We Do? 

Here is what the article suggested we could do as consumers to hold sports media accountable to a higher standard then just Profit-At-All-Cost.

  1. Demand that the Sports Media establish a sports issues and sports reform beat.
  2. Every Sports Media organization should add an ombudsman, who would function to investigate complaints from fans and other sport stakeholders.
  3. The sports media must cover all aspects of sports, including participatory sports, not just highly commercialized spectator sports.
  4. Use the tools and reach of the Internet to challenge the dominance of big commercial sport.

As consumers of sports media we must continue to challenge the dominant ideology that sports media pushes on us. If we, as consumers, demand a higher quality product and more critically developed content then it will be on sports media to produce that content or we will begin to us other mediums, like sport blogs or podcasts, to receive our information.

So ask yourself. Where do I consume sports media? Do the platforms I use to watch sports contribute to the problem? Or do they go against the dominant ideology in which sports media show us?

Please comment and let me know where you think the world of sports media is headed.

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One thought on “KIN 6300 Discussion: Sports Media Dropping the Ball on Social, Cultural and Economic Issues in Sports

  1. This is an Interesting article. I disagree in that I do not think sports media is as perverted as we may think. I am usually neutral on my thought, but I am not in the state of thinking to tear down existing systems in which people create, consume, and care about. With that said, you make good points and would not be against your views if there is a massive demand for what you propose. I try not to let my ideals step on others demand from the market of sport, or anywhere else.

    “The purpose of the article was to investigate whether or not sports media is going to continue to be about entertainment sports coverage, and putting profit-at-all-costs above the journalistic and corporate responsibilities, or will they aspire to be something higher.” I’m not entirely convinced sports and its place in the media has some sort of issue of integrity, so I’m going take an opposite position to this article.

    For starters, this’ win at all cost mentality’ which apparently is influenced by the media and how it is perverting sports I believe is an exaggeration at best. Sport by nature is a 0 sum game, 1 winner, and one loser. Sports always have to some degree been just that. A little nostalgia from one of the NFL’s great coaches Vince Lombardi is an example that I can think of where sports in the past had a different culture in comparison to today. Vince had many inspiring sports quotes and here is one which expresses an idea of what sport might have been about in his time; “ I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfilment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” I think that last word of ‘victorious’ says a bit about what sports may have been about in the past. I believe it would not be a stretch of the imagination that Vince Lombardi was not one of the only sports leaders in the past who emphasized winning and perfection to a strong degree.

    Competition is not a bad thing; it just needs a positive spin in which I believe a sport justifies its role. Morley Glicken (2008, Chapter 1) in her book Working With Troubled Men: A Contemporary Practitioner’s Guide states that sports have always been an acceptable environment where men can display their superiority over others. Men at young ages suffer from higher rates of illness and acting out in comparison to their female counterparts. What better of a way to combat that fragile male characteristic than to provide them a realm of empowerment where they can compete with their fellow human beings in a safe environment? This win at all cost mentality may not be for everyone, but I do believe there is a healthy yearning for it in certain populations within communities. For starters, 0 sum games like sports teaches young men and women how to be a good winner and a good loser. Imagine a hypothetical scenario where a child is living in impoverished conditions and has little resources or support to make a name or place for them self to contribute in a competitive capitalist environment. As a young man, they are given little support, but at least competing with their fellow human beings has allowed them to be noticed for what they have to offer (sports may be that outlet). If this child is in a sports environment that lowers the competitive standards and does not promote those who perform, how is this child who is already stricken with dire circumstances going to sell themselves to the world for what they can offer? This child’s self-esteem could be defeated from day one because their community’s culture does not cater to their needs to compete.

    “The focus for sports media has been on what generates ratings, not on actually what is good for sports.” This seems very highly subjective as it is arguable unknown what is ultimately best for sports. Ratings are not necessarily a bad thing. With ratings comes popularity and growth. With growth comes expansion of something that many of us love and hold a stake in. The free market dictates what people want. What is more important than creating something that people want or need and will come together to support? I will give credit that it would be a good idea to diversify the sport media more, but this article has tones of anti-capitalism, which is odd considering we live in capitalism. It makes me wonder if the intentions of the writer’s mentality were for tearing down pre-existing social structures or is truly interested in seeing true change that benefits the interests of communities. No disrespect intended, but the ideas in this article can come off as slightly pretentious in its views as little credit is ever given to pre-existing aspects of sports in which people love. It’s like certain positive qualities of sports and media are right underneath the writer’s nose, but they refuse any legitimacy to those qualities. I guess this great perversion of the sport culture is something I could be ignorant toward. There are good points which I do not have the space to cover.

    Anyway s, interesting response to the article, but I have to stop rambling sometime.

    Like

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