National columnist Jason Whitlock coined a term for a certain phenomenon back in October. This phenomenon was seen and heard endlessly during the presidential campaign and throughout out President Obama’s first term: claims that he’s not a real American and other such nonsense.
Whitlock calls it an “information bubble” when people “avoid hearing their perspectives challenged in a credible way…” Such bubbles are ever present in sports, especially in sports talk, whether verbally or through the written word.
Black quarterbacks historically are recipients of information bubble baths. Gophers senior QB MarQueis Gray and former Vikings signal-caller Travaris Jackson both were bubbled throughout their respective careers around these parts.
Black coaches are bubbled as well: USA Today last month handpicked 13 college football coaches as the “next best coach” with “such strong credentials,” “nearly impeccable,” “a lock,” “will be on many school’s shortlists,” “hottest commodity,” “genius,” and “knows what it takes,” comments sprinkled throughout the article. These culturally conditioned code adjectives and phrases clearly told the reader that these coaches-in-waiting were White.
Most White sports talk hosts are expert purveyors of information bubbles. They plant doubts in fans’ minds like cash crops by farmers. Or they confirm fans’ already-made-up minds.
Print columnists and reporters — 86 percent of them White — are just as bad in their bubble bath writings. As a result, we have to wonder if information bubbling is only a White thing. It is when only Whites are heard talking sports. It is when only Whites are hired as beat writers and columnists. It is when only Whites are studio analysts who crown same-race coaches as geniuses and conduct de facto job searches as well.
CBS Sports Radio Network signs on this month, and NBC signed on last fall. These sports-yakking newbies joined ESPN, Fox and Yahoo! Sports as sports-talk networks mostly staffed by Whites. Add Sirius XM’s 40 sports talk and play-by-play channels, the two local all-sports radio stations, and beginning on Wednesday K-TWIN (96.3 FM) “with important sports and news,” and you can still count the number of Black hosts on a couple of hands.
I’ve listened to sports radio in New York, Boston, Indianapolis, Detroit and the Twin Cities. It all sounds the same: whining fans calling in to affirmation-giving bombastic hosts. Sports updates regurgitate previous nights’ scores all day long. It’s programming tailored to the lowest common denominator, the media illiterate.
Other than Henry Lake, whose show I catch after church on Sundays, I can’t stand listening to local sports radio anymore. There are too many information babblers blowing bubbles for an audience that doesn’t or won’t demand better.
I know what good sports radio sounds like, but I haven’t heard it since the demise of Enterprise Radio in the late 1970s. I stopped listening to ESPN after Mark Gray and Tony Bruno left. I stopped listening to Fox after Bruno and Stephen A. Smith left. Yahoo! Sports are mostly a bunch of yapping yahoos.
I accidentally heard AM 1500’s promo that their New Year’s resolution is to be better in 2013, a lofty goal considering how mediocre the station and its FM counterpart is.
Satellite radio, to which I am a longtime subscriber, is no better. My regular inquiries to Sirius XM have been ignored or brushed aside with empty promises. The two former competing services promised to provide more diversity in their programming: Pre-merger, there were zero Black sports channels, the same number as now, post-merger.
The mainstream sports pages are too culturally conditioned — Whites are superior and Blacks are inferior, underestimated, underutilized and marginized. Other than a few exceptions, the blogosphere is a black hole for Blacks talking sports.
Sports social media is a virtual White-out in high-tech information bubbling. According to MinnPost’s David Brauer, eight of the top 10 and 14 of the top 20 Twitter accounts are “sports guys” with five-figure followers.
Edge of Sports’ Dave Zirin disappointedly notes “how far the [sports] media will go to tell us that ‘up’ is in fact ‘down’” and rarely display any “spasm of honesty.” Whitlock wrote that information bubbling keeps “many mainstream sports analysts” from being totally honest.
“It’s high time for writers, fans and players to stop genuflecting and start speaking truth,” adds Zirin. However, too many would rather act like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men — they can’t handle the truth.
I resolve this year to use my writing pin to bust information bubbles whenever I can and speak truth to mainstream media. I resolve to relentlessly push them past lip-service diversity ideals to meaningful diverse voices. Whether AM, FM, television, satellite, local or worldwide, print or electronic, I’ll continue my three-pronged demand for an all-Black sports talk station, more Black sports talk hosts, and intelligent sports talk.
Did you know…?
According to MinnPost’s Brauer there is only one Black in the top 50 Minnesota Twitter rankings. Name the person. (Answer in next week’s “View”)
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.