Today our Twitter timelines and Facebook news feeds are flooding with pledges and vows to give up certain habits that are supposedly difficult to be without. The idea is to discipline yourself and in-turn better yourself at the same time. An example of this ritual that always comes to mind is portrayed in the 2002 Rom-Com “40 Days and 40 nights” where Josh Hartnett’s character becomes celibate for the season of Lent. Overcoming difficult urges and trials, Hartnett finds clarity, becomes a better man, and gets the girl (*sidebar: Whatever happened to Shannyn Sossamon?).
For some of you, that challenge can be extremely difficult. For others it might not be so tough, although I’m not sure if that is by choice in some of your cases. In the spirit of this yearly tradition, I would like to challenge the typical Chicago Sports fan to give up some more appropriate and relative tendencies. You may not even realize you do this often, but I assure that a majority of you do this more than you think. And please understand I’m not trying to change you and your fandom completely…just making a few “helpful” suggestions.
1. Drop the Credentials
Fans always think that they are experts in the field of sports conversation. They also AlWAYS think they have the answers; that coaches/GMs/owners are wrong and they are right. This sense of entitlement becomes even more enhanced if the fan grew up playing a specific sport or was a fan since anytime before the new millennium. Just because you watched the 1985 Bears dominate teams and win a Super Bowl doesn’t qualify you to make better coaching decisions than Lovie Smith 27 years after the fact. Oh, you played hockey since you were 6 years-old? Do you get paid to play it now or at any point in your life? There is more than likely a good reason Patrick Kane makes millions of dollars to play for the Blackhawks and you don’t. I, and many like me, will value someone’s opinion on sports if: A) they played/coached a sport at a high level, B) Study and cover a sport close enough to be knowledgeable and competent for good commentary, and C) Simply make a good point backed up by solid evidence. As soon as you cite your glory days playing backup long-snapper for your peewee football team, people stop caring.
2. Stop saying “We” when referring to your favorite team
I like to think this is a reasonable habit for people to break, but apparently it’s a lot easier said than done. So I’ll make it simple. Are you on the team’s payroll? If you answered “no”, then please stop and give those who answered “yes” more credit. YOU are not the one taking the mound every fifth day. YOU aren’t taking a charge in the lane. YOU didn’t just pancake the defensive end attacking Jay Cutler’s blindside. And YOU certainly didn’t just beat the Detroit Redwings while your star player is out with a concussion. The Blackhawks did that. YOU applauded them, YOU supported them, YOU stuck by them, and that is great. But when Derrick Rose is in his press conference, and he is talking about “we”, he is referring to his teammates, his coaches, and the organization…not YOU. But don’t be completely discouraged. Rose always makes a point to thank the fans, and that counts for you too. But unless you’re in the “war room” making the next draft pick, closing on corporate sponsors for the team and stadium, or even throwing T-shirts into the stands on behalf of the franchise, just say “the Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox, Bears, etc…”An exception can be made if you are a student and you are referring to your school’s team. You are a part of the school and that is your team’s mascot.
3. Tired of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith? Don’t Watch
A very common question I hear is “Why is this guy even on the air?” The answer isn’t very complicated: PEOPLE WATCH AND LISTEN. Ratings drive both television and radio and when people watch/listen, On-Air personalities have time added to their tenure with the network and station. While I interned at 670 the Score, I was always asked on remote broadcasts, “Why are Boers & Bernstein still on the air? Why did they fire Mike Murphy?” Terry Boers and Dan Bernstein have the longest running sports talk show in Chicago because people keep listening. They have done the same thing for about 12 years now and they aren’t going to change that formula, nor should they (I’m a big fan). In regards to Murph, people stopped listening. When he came on the air, listeners turned their radio up the dial to AM 1000. If you’d like to know why Skip Bayless (who has stated that Derrick Rose is the reason the Bulls won’t win a championship) dominates your television and is always trending on Twitter, I recommend reading a piece by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch regarding ESPN First Take’s format change and the reassignment of anchor Dana Jacobson in late December. This excerpt is the most enlightening:
“The ESPN PR armada has been pumping out stats lately about how First Take's ratings are on the upswing. Nine of the 10 highest-rated shows in the history of First Take have come the last three months and it coincides with Bayless becoming the self-appointed defender of Tim Tebow. In fact, First Take has manipulated the Tebow storyline brilliantly, bringing in Smith, Cris Carter, Rob Parker and other "Tebow disbelievers" to debate Bayless each morning. The show pushes "takes" from other ESPN shows as news, and gets debate segments out of it. It's a brilliant marketing machine, and reminds me of China Central Television.
When Tebow slows down and fades from the sun, Bayless will start the drumbeat on another athlete, most likely a basketball player. Mark my words: He'll challenge some young, likely black, NBA millionaire (read: LeBron James or Chris Bosh), and the circus will start up again, with Eric Mangini magically morphing into Jalen Rose or Tim Legler. As one ESPN-er told me: "Skip and Stephen A generate buzz -- I'd argue 95 percent bad buzz -- but if they deliver ratings, that's all anybody cares about. Which on some level is defensible." (*Deitsch, Decemeber 28th, 2011)
If you find that these personalities and topics annoy you and make you nauseous, I suggest changing the channel. There are several other resources on the internet, in the newspaper, and even other TV channels where you can get all the sports information you need.
Do you tweet?
I do @Mike_Piff03