Insider Exposes Sports Media’s Strange, Sudden Obsession with Politics

Duke Lacrosse

“We’re fast approaching a point where there’s going to be no real difference between Bob Costas and Rachel Maddow,” Dylan Gwinn writes in Bias in the Booth: An Insider Exposes How Sports Media Distort News. “Except one of them is a man. I think.”

Gwinn’s book, a similar mix of the serious and the silly, follows the above pattern of making light of the ideological heavies who now use sports as their political plaything.

Fans have surely encountered the phenomenon Gwinn describes. Perhaps ESPN switched to MSNBC and without them turning the channel or they received Mother Jones in the mail when they subscribed to Sports Illustrated. The games that served as an escape can’t escape the political harpies.

Their hypocrisy can’t escape Dylan Gwinn’s pen. Rush Limbaugh thinking about buying a piece of the Rams elicits a media firestorm but Bill Maher owning a piece of the Mets eludes notice. Native Americans who speak out in favor of the Redskins nickname become nonpersons while those who oppose it receive a media platform. The same writers who openly root for Michael Sam loudly boo Tim Tebow.

“And if you don’t like Tebow’s stance on abortion, fine; ignore it the same way I ignore the seven children, as of this writing, that Adrian Peterson has fathered out of wedlock when I cheer his brilliance on the football field,” Gwinn advises. “Ignore Tim Tebow tebowing the same way Eagles fans ignored Michael Vick’s dog-torturing and mutilation when they cheered for him.”

Bias in the Booth’s most compelling chapter deals with the Duke Lacrosse rape fabrication. For close to a year, sports journalists incessantly reminded us of the allegations of sexism, racism, entitlement, and rape against the student-athletes in Durham. When the case, already long preposterous to anyone paying attention, collapsed, its media boosters suffered from a collective case of amnesia.

Gwinn names names. He highlights the irresponsible coverage of the case by Lester Munson and Bomani Jones, who remain employed at ESPN, and “Selena Roberts, who went from completely messing up this story for the New York Times to a multiple-six-figure job writing for Sports Illustrated.” If only their colleagues in the media had been as dogged about investigating Jones, Roberts, and Munson’s words as they were about Finnerty, Seligmann, and Evans supposed behavior, the Fourth Estate might raise its respectability level to that of a late-night lacrosse party in Durham. Instead, the media malefactors received promotions and bigger contracts.

The message? The narrative trumps facts. Media outlets fire, and never hire, journalists for getting the narrative wrong. But, as Rolling Stone standing by their woman in its UVA rape hoax reporting shows, they don’t generally fire scribblers who report lies as truth as long as they understand the larger “truth” of the narrative.

That pattern holds when Gwinn comes across a federal study showing, contra dozens of articles, that NFL players outlive, and commit suicide far less frequently, then their peers outside of the league.  “I should have become aware of this study from Bob Ryan,” he insists. “I should have found out about it from Don Banks on Monday Morning Quarterback. I should have heard about it from Malcolm Gladwell during one of his inexplicable appearances on ESPN. But I didn’t.”

He had to write a book to discover it.

Full disclosure: Gwinn features my work here and elsewhere in his book, which I blurbed on the back cover. I do so in part because it’s the only book of its kind. When the sports media ignores comprehensive longitudinal studies conducted on NFL players by the federal government in favor of the “scientific” findings of ex-players suing the league and their paid consultants in lab coats, the lone journalist saying “boo” to all that attracts notice. This book says “the emperor has no clothes.” That, in a phrase, is Bias in the Booth.

Gwinn writes that “one of the most important points of this book” is the fact that  “there is no difference between the sports media and the mainstream media. Both are rabidly liberal, and both see the world and the stories they cover through a prism of ‘social justice’ that colors everything they report.”

The rest of us would prefer to see the sports. They know this, which explains why we increasingly find ourselves as a captive audience to a political tirade at halftime, on ESPN late at night, and on the sports radio dial 24/7.

Daniel J. Flynn, the author of The War on Football: Saving America’s Game, edits Breitbart Sports.