Sunday, September 7, 2008

ESPN: Where Sports And Politics Don't Mix

Last Tuesday, the Baseball Tonight team on ESPN began discussing a sign held up by a fan at Fenway Park that read "Big Papi for president!" (Paraphrasing) Buck Showalter: "Doesn't he have to be born in the U.S.?" Karl Ravech: "Natural born, yes." John Kruk: "Maybe he should just start by running for mayor." Ravech: "Well, from mayor nowadays, you can go straight into big-time national politics...." Showalter: "Easy! Easy...." End of conversation.

Ravech was obviously referring to Sarah Palin's rise from mayor of a small town to vice-presidential candidate within several years (and let's not forget, she was apparently a very talented basketball player).

The question is why are they so reluctant to talk about politics, even pretty benign issues like Palin's rise to national prominence? Are they afraid to offend viewers? Do they subconsciously adhere to the principle that politics are anathema to sports, that sports are, in fact, a palliative masking political turmoil? Are sports viewers so heavily Republican that ESPN only allows pro-war, pro-Republican imagery/conversation (flags are always de rigueur on the network)?

I'm probably reading too much into this: it is most likely that Showalter sensed a wiff of real political discussion (without realizing how banal it was) and, following the old American adage that interdicts discussing politics, pushed back. We wouldn't want ESPN turning into CNN. Although... If ESPN did decide to cover the conventions, it would certainly be more entertaining than what the "news" networks offered.

No comments: