- Accuracy in Media - https://www.aim.org -

The Politics Of Sportswriting

Jay Nordlinger, the senior editor of National Review, has a new pet peeve. For months, he has been lamenting the absence of political “safe zones” — places in society where people leave politics at the door.

It started with a pre-Christmas complaint about an outburst of Obamania [1] at a Carnegie Hall concert he attended. He followed that post a couple of weeks later with a column [2] dedicated to similar complaints from readers about Garrison Keillor, theater performers, comedians and more. Several months later, a pro-President Obama/anti-President Bush comment at the New York Philharmonic’s Fourth of July concert triggered a third Nordlinger rant [3].

Nordlinger penned his fourth installment today, this time aiming his ire at sportswriters who insist on getting political [4]. The best part is where he assumed the role of armchair psychologist:

Why do sportswriters do it? Why do they bust out political? I have a theory, and it’s an easy theory — maybe a too-easy one: Sports guys, some of them, may be a bit embarrassed to be sportswriters. So they have to prove they’re just as serious — just as liberal, virtuous, and “engaged” with the world — as their colleagues on the news and editorial desks. “I may cover the NFL, but hey, I hate Bush as much as you do, I swear.”

Or it may just be that they have a platform, and they’re going to exploit it. “While I have your attention on Roger Federer, let me tell you what I think of Bush.”

And as long as I’m playing shrink, I will hazard something else: You can glimpse the insecurity of sportswriters in the overwriting they do. Many sportswriters are notorious overwriters, larding their prose with similes, metaphors, and other imagined, writerly cleverness. The message? “I may not be writing about the weightiest or most consequential affairs, but you see how smart and lit’rary I am?!”

What astounds me is that their editors repeatedly endorse such bad journalistic behavior by regularly publishing political cheapshots in the sports pages.