Has “who’s better, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays?” been replaced by “should Colin Kaepernick stand for the national anthem?”
Ty Duffy writes at The Big Lead that “it’s worth asking whether sports debate is dead, or at least dying.” Correctly, he points out that “Sports’ biggest issues – Colin Kaepernick’s flag protest – have become proxy political and cultural battles.”
Considering the shift away from sports conversation as a vehicle of entertainment and escapism, and with the rise of agenda-driven networks like ESPN and Fox Sports, sports broadcasting waxing more and more political is the new normal. Duffy explains that with the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, the politicization of sports will surely accelerate: “It’s hard to see a return to the days where a Baseball Hall of Fame snub or the next equivalent of the Manning vs. Brady debate gets folks fired up.”
Duffy further points out that sports fans no longer get their news from one source and now have multiple online and cable resources to glean sports news. Often times these sports news outlets lack integrity, claims Duffy. “Sports news comes from a proliferation of sources, often with fewer journalistic scruples and different sets of facts,” he writes.
Also adding to the demise of modern day sports conversation is that advanced statistical data collection has reduced analysis to “talking about value and efficiency or, to be blunt, math.” Duffy observes, “Math, for most, is not bar talk or work break fodder. It’s not a discussion those without command of the subject can engage in.”
Fortunately, Duffy points out that although nowadays sports talk has degraded, sports still entertains. Politics and overwrought statistical gathering can’t take away from that, he says. Duffy concludes “watching sports is becoming an escape from much of the discussion surrounding it.”