Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It Really is a Popularity Contest

In the widespread field of sports media, opinions are much more numerous than facts (sort of like how lawyers outnumber people in need of lawyers in Washington, DC).

How, then, would an enterprising personality in sports media contrive to be noticed?

For a start, take a tip from irritants Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd and build your career upon disparaging popular beliefs.  Is there a player who everyone loves?  Point out his weaknesses.  Is there a team that everyone hates?  Point out how great they are.

An excellent recent example would be Lane Kiffin's hiring at USC.  The vast majority of analysts proclaimed it a joke, whether because of Kiffin's slight of the University of Tennessee (which had just hired him last year) or because of his unproven track record compared to a growing resume.  Cowherd, naturally, declared the move to be a 'great hire' and dedicated a great deal of his radio show to praising it and insulting all critics.  No reason to give an opinion that everyone else also holds, right?

If your unpopular opinion turns out to be the incorrect one, don't fret.  Take a tip from Skip Bayless.  Bayless, amongst other incorrect predictions, loudly forecasted that the Oklahoma Sooners would defeat the Texas Longhorns this past season.  He was wrong.  How did he respond?  By accusing Sooners head coach Bob Stoops of being the biggest choker in college football.  You see, it wasn't that he was wrong, it was that the Sooners choked.  Big difference.  Nicely done, Skip.

There's this, too:  Get a minority group of people angry at you.  Mike Wise of The Washington Post has shown his adeptness in this department, launching a ridicule campaign against Washington Capitals fans and hockey fans in general.  Anger breeds popularity.  It's angry people who write letters to editors and call up radio talk shows.  The more people are angry, the more your name will be widely known.

Are Cowherd and Bayless and Wise, among others (Mark Madden, Boston sportswriters, etc.) really this dislikable in real life?  Yeah, maybe.

Or maybe they, like Rush Limbaugh before them, have figured out the industry.

It's not about being right.  It's about ratings (and the Benjamins that go with them).

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