Column like I see 'em - What’s the score with media and modern politics?


By Eoin Devereux

Neepawa Banner & Press

Sports and politics; the parallels are pretty obvious. Whether it’s in the local coffee shops, around the workplace or online, we all love to talk about who’s winning, who’s losing and how well or how badly our “team’” is doing.

I started to think about this parallel a little bit more recently after a pair of incidents. First was when I saw someone at a local dining establishment wearing a Trump 2020 baseball cap. I couldn’t quite understand why a person located in Canada, and most likely a Canadian, would be wearing a piece of American branding that has absolutely zero local relevance. But then it hit me. That’s his team. For him, wearing that hat may be no different from when I go out wearing the ball cap of one of my favourite teams, the New York Mets. I’ve never been to New York and seen a Mets game live and in person, but that’s still my team.  We’re both supporting our squads in a very public way.  But unlike the Mets, Team Trump has actually won something this millennium. And unlike Trump, the Mets have never put small migrant children in cages… To the best of my knowledge.

Now, say what you will about Team Trump, but the baseball caps are a brilliant bit of marketing that any others have never thought to exploit. When’s the last time you saw anyone with a Jagmeet Singh t-shirt, Andrew Scheer bobblehead or a Justin Trudeau you’re #1 form finger?


The second reason the sports/politics parallel has been on my mind is a tad more frustrating and potentially dangerous. I recently watched snippets of  Canadian and American cable news programs. All of these shows, no matter the network,  should probably just be called “Going Crazy About Stuff of Which We Are Minimally Informed”.

The discourse there ultimately devolved into half a dozen people around a desk yelling all at once. I thought it was a stupid and useless way to fill airtime, so I flipped stations to go watch ESPN’s First Take and Around the Horn. Those conversations were the exact same making noise, but not saying much, style of debate. The only difference was that one was yelling about Justin Trudeau’s handling of the blockade crisis and the other about LeBron James’ handling of a basketball.

One of those topics is a disposable distraction, while the other isn’t and definitely shouldn’t be treated as such. News, real news, needs to be better than dragging out political clones of sports personalities such as Steven A. Smith or Skip Bayless.

News networks like to keep score

In my research on this topic, I ran across a quote from Jeff Zucker, who is the chair of WarnerMedia News and Sports and CEO for CNN, in regard to their network’s coverage of the 2016 presidential election. Zucker told the New York Times that, “The idea that politics is sports is undeniable, and we understand that and approached [our election coverage] that way.” That statement made me angry and shows why media is in the state it’s in right now.

According to Zucker, the jobs of a political reporter and a sports writer is identical. They have to determine who’s ahead, who’s behind and what the relevant strategy or game plan is. From there, they filter it down to easy bite sized takes for the “fans”, to keep them engaged through the nomination process or preseason, the campaign or regular season and election night or the championship game.

When you treat politics as sport, you end up with news coverage that cares more about scoring political points than stating political facts. It’s dangerous to view such an important topic as a game, because whether it’s sports or politics, the rabid fanbase of both only care about victory.

Disclaimer: Column like I see ‘em is a monthly opinion column for the Neepawa Banner & Press. The views expressed in the article are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Neepawa Banner & Press.