The New England Patriots recently cut Tim Tebow, causing President Obama to issue a warning to the citizens of Bristol, Conn., because there might have been fatal riots at ESPN headquarters. Or, at least, I thought he was going to have to do that. But you might be surprised to know that sports networks weren’t the only ones covering Tebow’s release intently.
CNN jumped into the ring, covering Tebow’s departure with probably more interest than they’ve covered any recent football player’s release. We should have expected it, though, because CNN cut away from a presidential speech on immigration in June when the Patriots signed Tebow. Apparently, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick’s press conference, mostly consisting of questions about Tebow, was vastly more important than U.S. immigration policy.
For two reasons, I still can’t believe that CNN would make such a move. First, anyone with a basic knowledge of anything NFL-related knows that getting information out of Bill Belichick during a press conference is impossible. But, secondly and most importantly, an incredibly minor move in the NFL shouldn’t take precedence over a speech on immigration.
Now, it’s hard to find a bigger sports fan than me, considering that I may or may not have jokingly referred to both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as “gods.” And I don’t think that it’s an average person’s job to care about politics at the level that most Georgetown students. But CNN’s decision to cut away from the speech, especially when they could have easily replayed the press conference when Obama’s speech was over, reflects the utter hypocrisy of the media and the American people, as well as the distorted priorities of our political and sports media sources.
If you’ve watched five seconds of cable news, you’ve probably seen a talking head discussing how either the opposite political party or the American people in general are “focusing on the wrong things.” If there’s a minor scandal in the Democratic Party that Republicans are currently attacking, liberal talking heads will say, “We shouldn’t be focusing on this — we should be focusing on immigration/jobs/terrorism!” When the tables are turned, conservative talking heads will say the same. Such a statement is true and logical — that is, until your network decides to cut away from a speech on a legitimate issue to listen to Bill Belichick say over and over, “We’re going to use Tim in ways that help the team.” We shouldn’t be talking about a third quarterback for the Patriots — we should be talking about immigration.
In a case like this, the American people are to blame almost as much as a network like CNN. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other networks are routinely guilty of playing up minor political issues for ratings, yet ignoring the more substantive stories out of laziness or sensationalism. But it’s important to remember that the networks wouldn’t air such coverage if people didn’t watch it. Many Americans will criticize politicians and political networks for things like a lack of transparency and not truly caring about an average person, but then they’ll actually watch the incorrectly prioritized coverage. It is this hypocrisy that I have a problem with. While the media has a duty to keep us informed of the important issues that affect us, the American people also should be consistent between their normative statements and viewing patterns.
Just about everyone knows that Tim Tebow, a mediocre — at best — quarterback, is out of a job. However, I’ll bet that most serious sports fans are unaware that the state of Michigan recently approved $450 million of public money to be invested for a new arena for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings, despite the fact that Detroit is, you know, bankrupt. While professional sports are a huge help to their employees and local businesses, many studies have shown that public funding of sports stadiums similar to the level that the Red Wings brass will receive do not end up benefitting the cities in the end.
On a similar subject, but with a much more aggravating example, Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loriasuckered Miami-Dade County into putting up $155 million of taxpayer money into a new stadium deal that was so shady that the SEC decided to investigate it. If these were the kinds of issues that people followed and that the media properly made a priority to show us, maybe the citizens of a city would be able to influence their local government to stop making investments that would hurt the area’s growth.
In a country where more than half the citizens don’t know who their congressman is, I’d like to believe that we can be die-hard sports fans while still realizing what the key issues are. But I guess it’s more important to discuss the Patriots releasing their third-string quarterback than the stuff that really matters.
Tom Hoff is a junior in the McDonough School of Business. DOWN TO THE WIRE appears every Friday.