Hooker, Line, and Sinker

I’ve been reading a lot of criticism regarding the beltway press and their coverage of the upcoming presidential election.

It’s made me think quite a bit about the ways that sports media might be coming up short in our coverage.

After floating this thought to my Twitter followers, I got a lot of good feedback.

People suggested that we need greater diversity, a greater willingness to dig for root causes, more impartiality, less sensationalism.

My personal pet peeve is that sports reporters, and I am not immune to this, tend to stick to established narratives.

I’ll give you an example from this week: After Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes beat Bowling Green 77-10 in the season opener, Meyer gushed about the performance of defensive back Malik Hooker. It was amazing, Meyer said, that Hooker had gone from a player who once floated the idea of leaving the program to the guy who intercepted two passes in his first collegiate start.

When Hooker himself sat down with the media, he confirmed that he had discussed transferring with his Mom, but she talked him down.

The narrative of this type of comeback is well worn by now, so we accepted it uncritically.

Was Hooker sincerely considering bolting? No, he eventually clarified.

He pointed out that he isn’t the type of man to quit, he’d never cleaned out his locker, never even discussed the idea with anybody but his Mom.

Meyer later conceded that 95-99 percent of young players blow off steam like this.

But, oh, the narrative.

The idea of a guy with one foot out the door turning things around is much more compelling than the story of a player who was simply a bit frustrated.

We talk about how the athletes we cover battle complacency. I’m going to try harder to do that myself. At the same time, I will admit, it’s sometimes hard not to fall for these types of stories Hooker, line, and sinker.


Liking Their Chances

Officially, it’s National Nurses Week, National Pet Week, Teacher Appreciation Week, National Charter Schools Week, and National Drinking Water Week.

Unofficially, it seems this has been the week to celebrate Ohio State’s chances at becoming the first team in eight years to unseat the SEC.

Numerous media outlets have posted articles about the Southeastern Conference’s seven straight BCS Championships and posited Ohio State as the number one candidate to break the streak.

That includes Athlon, which made the case by mentioning Ohio State’s 13 returning starters and an offensive line that “should rank among the best nationally.”

CBS’s Dennis Dodd put it simply. “I believe in Ohio State,” he said. Meanwhile, CBS’s bowl prognosticator, Jerry Palm, picked OSU and Alabama to play for the BCS title on January 6th.

ESPN joined in by naming the Buckeyes the top team in their latest rankings, heaping praise on Ohio State’s recruiting haul and suggesting, “the Buckeyes might be more talented and face a much easier schedule in 2013 than they did last season, when they went 12-0.”

Even newspapers in SEC country dubbed OSU “the perfect foil for the SEC.”

And Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel decided to ask several Buckeye players about all the hype. After getting the thoughts of Ryan Shazier, Bradley Roby and Jack Mewhort, Mandel concluded that there would be some poetry of Ohio State being the SEC’s first victim (at the hands of then Florida coach Urban Meyer no less), and being the team that finally broke the trend.