Fans vs. Media? It’s All in Fun, Folks!

It was following the playoff game between the Denver Broncos and Pittsburgh Steelers that I decided something should be said about what sometimes appears to be a bit of a Social Media scuffle between members of mainstream media and the rest of us.

On that evening, this skirmish manifested itself on Twitter immediately after the Broncos beat the Steelers in overtime, on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Tim Tebow to Demaryius Thomas.

This may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, but Tim Tebow is not altogether popular among most media-types. Many of them decided long ago that he was destined to be a failure as an NFL quarterback.

There are many reasons for this. The fact that he quarterbacked the Florida Gators would be enough for me to instantly dislike him, but I think it goes much deeper for the media “experts”.

He throws funny. He insists on not only running the football, but running a college-like option offense, which everyone knows NFL quarterbacks just aren’t supposed to do.

And he talks about his religion. A lot. Perhaps more than any sports figure I can recall since Muhammad Ali. And, of course, Ali had no problems with the media at all when he declared his chosen religious preference, right?

A lot of people have an issue with famous people overtly demonstrating, or even talking about, their personal religious beliefs. Interestingly, they don’t seem to have the same issue with those who openly demonstrate and proclaim their lack of religious beliefs (or even a moral compass, for that matter). Anyway, I really don’t have an issue either way, as long as the person doesn’t expect me to believe exactly as they do. Even if they DO expect that, I still don’t much care, as long as they don’t threaten to blow anyone up for not meeting those expectations. That’s where I draw the line.

But let’s assume for a moment that the motives of most media members in their criticisms of Tebow have nothing to do with his religion. Let’s assume it’s all about his mechanics. That doesn’t make them right. And that’s the problem, I believe.

These are men (and women… but largely men) who really, really… really… need to be right. And when any of us common folk suggest that perhaps they aren’t right about something, they can tend to lose their senses of humor and get more than a little defensive.

It’s not just about Tim Tebow, either. The Twins’ front office is getting a lot of support from mainstream media types lately concerning the Twins’ decision to slash payroll heading in to just the third season at their still-pretty-new publicly funded ballpark. Suffice to say, there are a few of us among the masses who aren’t 100% in agreement.

If it turns out that Tebow leads the Broncos to the Superbowl and goes on to a long, successful career as an NFL quarterback and/or that the Twins’ frugality proves unwise and sends the franchise in to another downward spiral, it will mean that a lot of people who are paid anywhere from good money to lots of money to provide expert sports analysis will have been wrong.

(Some of these media “experts” are, of course, more “media personalities” with no more of a sports IQ than a chimpanzee that’s been forced to watch ESPN for a month straight, than they are real media professionals, but we’ll leave that discussion for another day.)

That kind of thing is hardly unprecedented, of course. It’s probably safe to say that sportswriters’ opinions have been proven wrong occasionally for as long as there have been sportswriters.

But writers and columnists in the “old days” could take a position concerning a particular team’s or athlete’s talents, or lack thereof, and if that opinion turned out to be wrong, they could simply and conveniently never again mention their original viewpoint. Sure, a couple of Letters to the Editor might call them on it, but other than the 12 people who read that letter (assuming it got published at all), they were largely not held accountable for their views.

Today, the poor scribes who earn their daily bread by covering sports for conventional media outlets are immediately and loudly called out on any opinion they may express via Twitter or other electronic communication.

It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for them. Almost.

I’m going to apologize at this point for what comes next. I’m going to speak in generalities and thereby probably paint all media types with the same broad brush. That’s unfair, I know. So let me start out by saying that I realize not every member of the conventional media falls in to the group that I take issue with. How’s that for a disclaimer?

One particular member of the media that I disagree with more often than not Tweeted something following the Broncos game to the effect that he’s amazed that people call him a “Tebow hater” just because he disagrees with their subjective opinions. I chuckled when I read that.

Have you noticed that, as fans, our opinions are “subjective”, while the opinions of the media in-crowd are “objective”? If a “professional” media member says that it makes sense for the Twins front office to slash payroll until their stars prove healthy this season, they are exercising professional objectivity (because we all know “real” sportswriters don’t root for or against any player or team, right?). But if you or I question that strategy and suggest that cutting payroll in just the third season of their new publicly funded ballpark, without providing any basis for projecting reduced revenues, is wrong-headed strategy at best, we’re often dismissed as being just fans with “subjective” opinions.

It’s simple arrogance, really. But I understand it.

I’m a bit of an expert in my chosen profession. I’d be willing to bet that I know a lot more about the industry in which I work and, in particular, the aspects of that industry that I’ve been dealing with for more than 30 years, than you do. If I suddenly found that part of my job included having to Tweet about issues I deal with on a daily basis and interact with a few thousand people who I don’t have any reason to believe know anything at all about my industry, I’d probably roll my eyes and become pretty arrogant, too. (Yes, I know, I’m already arrogant… so let’s say I’d become even MORE arrogant.)

Fortunately, I have no such job requirement.

Instead, I get to use Twitter and this blog to occasionally tweak not only the players and those who run the teams and leagues I follow, but also the men and women who cover sports for a living. Do I sometimes think they go a bit easy on the local players, coaches and administrators of the teams they cover? Yes. Do I think some of them behave as though the fan base, in general, and the blogging community, in particular, are idiots? Yes. Do I occasionally take too much pleasure in the tweaking I do? Absolutely. Guilty as charged.

I know I’m not perfect. I’m proven to be wrong a lot (and I really HOPE I’m wrong about the Twins’ future). I don’t like it when others point out when I’ve been wrong, but it happens often enough that I generally take it pretty well. Better than some others, who shall remain nameless, anyway. I try to remember that this is all in fun and to keep my sense of humor intact. I do realize that it may be easier to do that when I’m not trying to make a living off of my opinions about the Twins (or Tebow, for that matter).

One of the greatest things about all of the social media options we have these days is that we all can discuss and debate a nearly infinite number of issues almost in real time, not only with other sports fans, but directly with the hard working media members that have more direct access to the teams than the rest of us could ever get.

As a fan, I enjoy that very much. I think most, if not all, of the media members who work the Twins beat enjoy it, too. At least I hope they do.

- JC

11 thoughts on “Fans vs. Media? It’s All in Fun, Folks!

  1. ” The Twins’ front office is getting a lot of support from mainstream media types lately concerning the Twins’ decision to slash payroll heading in to just the third season at their still-pretty-new publicly funded ballpark. Suffice to say, there are a few of us among the masses who aren’t 100% in agreement.”

    Suffice to say, there are plenty of us “among the masses” who don’t care one way or another. Like most of the folks who paid for that publicly funded ballpark.

    “Have you noticed that, as fans, our opinions are “subjective”, while the opinions of the media in-crowd are “objective”?”

    Actually, to the contrary. I have noticed that a lot of bloggers think their beliefs are “objective” and Twins management’s judgements are purely “subjective”.

    “These are men (and women… but largely men) who really, really… really… need to be right. And when any of us common folk suggest that perhaps they aren’t right about something, they can tend to lose their senses of humor and get more than a little defensive.”

    As opposed to all those Twins bloggers who always keep a sense of humor and never get defensive when someone suggests they are wrong?

    ” I’m going to speak in generalities and thereby probably paint all media types with the same broad brush. ”

    And with that same broad brush you could include the online media, including yourself.

    “Do I think some of them behave as though the fan base, in general, and the blogging community, in particular, are idiots? ”

    However, you don’t address the central issue of whether they are, in general, using a broad brush, correct in that belief. I would love to see you dispute that with humor and lack of defensiveness. I have seen a lot more blog posts, including my own, calling out mainstream media as idiots, and criticizing them in other ways, than I have mainstream media calling out bloggers. Witness your post today.

  2. One other thing.

    My favorite Pat Ruesse column was one where he tore apart Twins management for some decision they had made. It might have been letting David Ortiz go, I don’t remember. But he acknowledged that he had written several columns at the time advocating exactly the decisions he was now criticizing. His defense were words to the effect “I am just a scribbler, these guys are baseball professionals who should have known better.”

    Some writers are at honest with themselves that being right has nothing to do with their success. They only need to be interesting. It would be nice if the bloggers out there would acknowledge that same reality. They might WANT to be right, but that has little to do with whether people read them.

  3. The worst thing about Tebow isn’t Tebow but some of his supporters. I can’t hate the guy for being who he is but the ESPNploitation of him turns some of his supporters blind.
    If you mention he sucked the last 4 weeks and then give him credit for his playoff performance in the same sentence (or tweet), you’re labeled a “hater”. It’s fun being called a hater for stating facts.
    And just because you don’t root for the guy, doesn’t mean you root against him either.

  4. I really expected this to be one of those posts that nobody even bothers to read, much less comment on, so I’m very appreciative of the comments.

    TT, I think your first comment, at its root, contends that bloggers should be held to the same standards that I suggested traditional media people be. That’s a great theory, but probably not altogether practical. Justified or not (and I think it is), most of us hold professional journalists to a higher standard than we do the blogging community whether we’re talking about objectivity, sensitivity or simply subject matter IQ.

    But I do agree that anyone who can’t accept criticism with a sense of humor and at least usually do so without getting extremely defensive probably should refrain from publicly expressing their opinions using any communication medium that lends itself well to immediate, and occasionally caustic, feedback. That goes for bloggers and tweeters, as well as professional sportswriters and columnists.

    That said, we all want to be liked. We may say we don’t care if people like us, but by and large, we do care. Most of us have just figured out by now that we’re never going to make everyone like or agree with us. Some of us also enjoy the give and take of a debate more than others do.

    bennyc50, I really don’t think it’s all that unusual that fans of a given player (especially a QB) celebrate his accomplishments, while being less vocal when he plays poorly. If the Vikings ever have another QB that plays well regularly enough to warrant that kind of personal support, we’ll see the same sort of thing in Minnesota (just as we did during the ups and downs of Favre, Culpepper, and pretty much every other QB back to Tarkenton). I don’t like Aaron Rodgers’ fans either, but I don’t rant about them just because they think he walks on water, despite the fact that he arguably benefits from a much better supporting cast than Tebow does.

    Yes, ESPN and others are exploiting the Tebow thing. But why would we expect otherwise? It’s like asking a dog not to bark. Exploitation of a story that generates viewers, listeners and readers is what ESPN and other outlets do.

    JBIowa, it’s true that we can all “unfollow” those who disagree with us. But if there’s one thing I believe strongly, it’s that all of us need to be more open to hearing others’ viewpoints… whether it’s about politics, social issues, or even sports. I believe that so many people being so entrenched in their beliefs and opinions that they refuse to hear, much less listen to, other viewpoints is a real problem.

    This actually circles back a bit to TT’s second comment. I’ve been alive more than half a century and, in that time, I’ve changed my opinions on a lot of issues. I’m not one who’s big on second guessing GM decisions, etc., after the fact. I don’t think I’ve even jumped on Bill Smith for the Santana trade because I thought Santana painted him in to a tough corner and Terry Ryan didn’t exactly handle the situation well before he left the GM chair. The point is, time and circumstances change and it’s not only expected that our viewpoints evolve, but it’s a good thing.

    So I continue to listen to the right and the left. I listen to ownership and players unions and professional media and bloggers and those who comment on blogs (at least this blog!). I listen to Yankee fans explain why it’s good for baseball that they generate twice the revenue anyone else does. And I listen to Dave St. Peter when he says the payroll needs to be slashed.

    But I do believe it should be part of the media’s role to challenge those in power positions when they make certain contentions. And if mainstream media won’t do that, I think it’s good that bloggers do. Let’s use the payroll as an example.

    The Twins say they need to cut payroll from $115 mil to $100 mil. Since they have contended that they budget about 50% of revenues for their major league payroll, the public can logically assume their revenues had been about $230 million and that they project them dropping to $200 million.

    Doing the math, it’s tough to imagine ticket sale revenues dropping $30 million this year, so what’s the story?

    More to my point here, why isn’t any member of the professional media even digging for the story? I’m not asking for anyone to be Woodward & Bernstein here, but unles I’ve missed it somewhere (and I would hope it would have been discussed broadly enough that it would be tough to miss), I don’t recall reading or hearing anyone even pursuing the question enough to get a “no comment” from the Twins.

    Maybe it’s revenue sharing dollars. Maybe it’s how MLB shares their national broadcast rights or their international advertising dollars. I have no idea… and I don’t have access to the people who can answer those questions.

    But the professional media does have that access and all I’m asking is for them to do some digging to try to get us an answer.

    Instead, virtually from the moment Terry Ryan mentioned that the payroll would be south of $100 million, it was just accepted. The “story” was just about what the payroll would be and which players would fit in that payroll.

    I really can’t believe that anyone is afraid of alienating the Twins by asking questions they’d rather not have asked. It’s impossible for me to believe that the Twins would blackball the Star Tribune or Pioneer Press or ESPN1500 because they were asked for some detail about their projected revenue dip.

    If we don’t know the answers because the Twins refuse to provide details about their projected revenues, they are entitled to make that decision as long as they are prepared to accept the public backlash, whatever that may be. But if we don’t know the answers because the media won’t even ask the question on our behalf, they’re letting the public down, in my view.

    I have the right to that view and thanks to the wonderful social media world we live in, I have a means of expressing it, including by occasionally jabbing at the media, as well as the front office.

  5. “bloggers should be held to the same standards that I suggested traditional media people be. That’s a great theory, but probably not altogether practical. Justified or not (and I think it is), most of us hold professional journalists to a higher standard than we do the blogging community whether we’re talking about objectivity, sensitivity or simply subject matter IQ.”

    I don’t think that is realistic. Unlike bloggers, “professional journalists” get paid to produce an audience on an almost daily basis and are judged by how well they do that. They are not in the least accountable to their audience for anything other than keeping them interested long enough for advertisers to sell their products.

    As for the budget. I think the Twins have made it pretty clear they aren’t going to share the details of their finances with the public. Unless they want to grandstand at a public news conference, there isn’t much point in asking. And grandstanding it not likely to win them any friends.

    As I have pointed out before, it is doubtful the Twins manage their budget strictly on an annual basis. Its perfectly plausible they spent MORE than 50% last year and that they are going to spend less than that this year. In fact, given the state of the team each year I would hope that is the case. Last season the Twins looked like a team ready to compete in the playoffs. This season they look like a team that will be lucky to make the playoffs unless they are healthy. I want them prepared to spend extra in the first instance and to husband their resources in the second. If Mauer and Morneau come back like gangbusters, they will have the financial resources to add the pieces they are still missing. If they don’t, they will have money for the future.

  6. About that payroll thing (and I posted a little bit on my blog today) : 2011 payroll at the beginning of the season was $113.2 million per Cot’s. Subtract the $500K paid to Harris included there (which was part of the Twins’ 2010 FY) and you get to $112.7 million. I don’t know how much of the $38 million to Mauer and Morneau was paid by insurance. I think that it was considerable. If it were just a third, the Twins’ 2011 payroll starts to look a lot like the Twins’ 2012 projected payroll. Add to the 2012 the bonuses that will be paid for 4 high round picks (and they are hard sloted this season, so there will be considerable) and what the Twins spend in 2012 might actually be more than what they spent in 2011… just some food for thought…

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  8. thrylos, I haven’t had a chance to check out other blogs today, so I don’t know if you included this in your calculation, but I read in one of the mainstream media articles over the past week that the Twins are not counting Nathan’s $2 mil option buyout against their 2012 payroll, but rather consider that to have been part of their 2011 expenses (which, I suppose, makes sense because it was incurred in 2011). I’m also dubious about insurance covering any of M&M’s salaries. I seem to recall in the past (maybe from the discussions about whether a 5 year contract for Santana was reasonable) that the sort of insurance you’re referring to is only payable if/when a player loses an entire season and, in some cases, only for certain causes.

  9. I think Jim is correct. There was no insurance money from Mauer and Morneau. And the question of how they account for Nathan’s buy out isn’t really very relevant to anyone other than the auditors and accountants. It comes out of the same bank account either way.

    As far as I can tell there was no “hard slot” in the new player agreement. Each team gets a budget for signing players and there are penalties for going over it. The Twins have three extra draft choices, but one of those is a second round pick and the other two are supplemental first round picks. Their own first pick is going to get a lot more than those other three combined.

    Signing bonuses aren’t part of the major league payroll costs in any case. The higher than usual costs may put some pressure on other parts of the budget, but I would bet its not very significant on this year’s payroll.