24 Hour News Ruins Everything

Lance Mannion has a good post on the fake outrage of the moment in sports, where Derek Anderson, the terrible quarterback of the godawful Arizona Cardinals, was caught on camera maybe laughing with one of his receivers during their drubbing by the not at all good San francisco 49ers. When questioned about it at a press conference afterwards, Anderson blew his stack at a reporter, then stormed out of the room.

The whole thing is pretty farcical. As Mannion notes:

Listen. Soldiers under fire laugh. Sailors going down with the ship laugh. Pilots watching engines fail laugh. Firefighters, cops, emergency room nurses and doctors laugh. Sometimes there's nothing to do but laugh at the joke life---or Death---has just played. And if they can laugh in the face of the worst, football players can laugh, even players on a team losing yet another game as a rotten season winds down to its rotten end.

The fact that fans---Fans! That's very often another word for fat, loudmouthed losers who need to get a life---are outraged by the laughter of the players whose actual money and careers are on the line and reporters think that outrage is worth a response from the coach and players and the coach and the players think they have to deny that anyone would have dared laugh at that crucial moment when a game was being lost, a loss that would result in...result in...well, in a lot of supposed grown-ups being unhappy for a couple of hours...is so depressing that there's no good way to react to it but...


Mannion goes on to talk about the importance of sports as an escape for other problems in society, and how that's been ruined. I have a slightly different slant on this. I think this is an area where sports is important as a mirror of the rest of society, highlighting the same problems that are ruining everything else in a context where their absurdity is more clear.

I mean, really, why does anybody care what Derek Anderson is doing on the sidelines? He's a horrible quarterback on a terrible team, who were getting smacked around by a very bad team. The scandal here isn't that he blew up at a reporter for asking an idiotic question at a press conference, the scandal is that he was having a press conference.

But just like every other kind of news, sports is on a 24-hour cycle now, and God knows you can't expect them to fill all those hours with, you know, sports being played in places where it's daylight. So every minute of every laughably bad game and ludicrously insignificant press conference is recorded and pored over like it was the Zapruder film, because people on ESPN need something to yell at each other about.

Of course, this problem isn't unique to sports. It's just more obviously absurd when applied to sports. This is, fundamentally, the same problem that leads to tv pundits solemnly explaining to one another that the Democrats lost big in the midterm elections because Barack Obama didn't "focus on jobs" for the last two years.

What does "focus on jobs" even mean? He's the President, not God Emperor of Dune. He can't create jobs by fiat. Congress controls the money, and Congress had made abundantly clear that they weren't going to spend any money on job creation programs, and there really wasn't anything he could do to overcome the one-two combination of obstructionist Republicans and chickenshit Democrats. So what would a "focus on jobs" have looked like?

Over the last two years, Obama had about as much ability to create jobs as Derek Anderson had ability to make his defense stop San Francisco's offense. About the only thing either of them could've done was to stand around looking grim for the cameras.

(Incidentally, the analogy here is not meant to reflect on Obama as President generally. If you look at what he's actually done, he's been a very good President, many orders of magnitude better at Presidenting than Derek Anderson is at quarterbacking.)

But we've got 24 hour news channels who have to fill all those hours with something, and you can't seriously expect them to talk about, you know, news taking place in countries where something is actually happening. So we get this idiotic discussion of whether the President is projecting the appropriate aura of concern.

The most acceptable response to either of these situations is probably the Jedi mind trick. Football players and coaches need to stand up and robotically recite sports cliches like Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick do, and Obama needs to stand in front of cameras and say "I'm focused on jobs" once a day (or have the Press Secretary do it for him).

But the appropriate response to either of these situations is to turn to the reporters asking about them and say "Oh, grow the hell up." The appropriate response is to walk out of the press conference, and kick the media out of the practice facility or the White House.

But it won't happen as long as we, as a nation, continue to tune in, and pretend that any of this shit matters in the slightest. As long as the 24 hour noise machine has an audience, the only thing that cutting off their access will do is produce hours of solemn discussion about why the public's right to know is being disrespected. Without any consideration of what the public needs to know.

The best thing that could come out of this idiotic faux-controversy in Arizona is for some fans to see Anderson's blow-up and the subsequent discussions of What It All Means and say "Why in God's name am I watching this shit? Who the hell cares what the losing quarterback in a game between two putrid teams does between plays?" And turn off the tv, or at least flip away from the 24 hour sports "news" charade.

Of course, with my luck, they'd just switch channels to CNN...

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You left out the fact that there is more than one ESPN network channel that needs to fill time! I want to see that loser news conference in 3D ....

Your mention of jobs is a classic. The Obama administration created over a million private sector jobs in the past year, but the six-word-punch leads most people to think the number is zero. The only sector losing jobs in the last year are, get this, the hated government, with most of the losses at the state and local level. (Our Repub state legislature couldn't even figure out how to get and spend stimulus money on badly needed highway repairs.) Unemployment went up in November because the job situation has improved enough that more people are looking, even though we are still in the backwash of a depression.

By CCPhysicist (not verified) on 03 Dec 2010 #permalink

I'll deny that Obama has been a good president. He hasn't been as bad as his predecessor, but that doesn't make him good. He's been lousy at dealing with Congress. Yes, I'll agree that Congress hasn't done much to help him, but he's definitely contributed to that.

My guess is that he just didn't really want to do the things he promised to do to get elected. So he didn't argue for them to congress, and he was quite ready to compromise to the limit at the slightest sign of opposition. (This doesn't mean, necessarily, that he didn't want to create jobs. That's hard to judge, since by now congress has decided to ignore whatever he says.)

Saying that someone is better than Bush is really faint praise, but that's about all that I've got for Obama. OTOH, I never expected much. After all, he voted for FISA while he was a candidate.

By Charles Hixson (not verified) on 03 Dec 2010 #permalink