With alarming spikes in COVID-19 erupting all across America, I had hoped that the “sportswriters are cheering against sports!” mouth-breathers on social media had slunk back from whence they came. Alas, yesterday sports talk radio host Danny Kannell, in the tradition of great minds like Clay Travis and Doug Gottlieb, gave us this gem:
And look, having been one, I get that it’s a tried and true method for sports talk radio hosts to say alarming and provocative things just to get attention and, theoretically, get people to tune in. I have no idea what Kannell’s true motivations are, but he’s hardly alone in driving this train.
So let’s get one thing straight up front: No one who works in sports is “cheering against sports.” Not a single one of us. At least not in the petulant, contrarian way that’s being implied.
Sports media had already been in the process of being gutted before COVID-19 came along, and all of our prospects of remaining employed have gotten much worse since. I can tell you this with great confidence, as someone who LOST HER JOB in radio as a result of pandemic cuts. Just this week, NBC Universal laid off 10 percent of its 35,000 employees, including some popular regional sportscasters. Our jobs depend on sports happening. None of us are rooting for people losing their jobs, including our own.
Here at Deadspin, we’ve written quite a few stories on leagues getting their responses to COVID-19 completely wrong (looking at you, MLB), and nearly every reply to those stories on social media is some iteration of “Deadspin hates sports,” or “we know, you’re cheering against sports.”
What we, and sports media across the board, are trying to do, is use our platforms to hold leagues and owners responsible for putting other human beings in harm’s way in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. That concept seems to be lost on a significant portion of America — you know, standing up for someone, putting the needs of other people on par with your own. We don’t want to see the people we cover get sick. We don’t want to see their family members get sick. We don’t want to have to report on a bunch of bereavement leaves because players have to take time off to bury their loved ones. We are capable of wanting something for ourselves, yet recognizing that us having the thing we want will put other people in danger. I’ve been walking around the house whining about not having Cubs baseball for three days. Yet, if MLB left the season up to me, I’d shut it down immediately without thinking twice. Because it’s not about what I want. It’s about what’s best for everyone. To the extent we’re “rooting against sports,” it’s because we want other people to remain safe.
Sidebar: The Venn Diagram of people who accuse sports writers of rooting against sports and who think wearing a mask infringes on their freedom is a fucking flat circle. We could have been done with this stupid pandemic and back to having safer sports with fans in the stands by July. Instead, we have to have a country where 40 percent of the population has decided science is up for debate by the dumbest guys in their high school class on Facebook, and sports commissioners who think checking everyone’s temperature on the way in to training camp is going to keep players safe. So here we are.
I don’t know who initially said the now-famous line, “I don’t know how to explain to you that you’re supposed to care about other people,” though it looks like it goes back to this 2017 HuffPo piece, but it’s apt here. As we see more and more young, healthy people becoming terribly ill, as we learn about the lingering heart damage that many people who have survived COVID-19 are living with, how can one justify sports media not calling out leagues, coaches, and owners who are treating their players as dollar amounts, rather than human beings?
Here are the facts:
- COVID-19 is incredibly contagious
- COVID-19 is dangerous for all of us, not just the old and infirm
- COVID-19 is going to kill a lot more people before we’re done with it
- Even those who survive COVID-19 may live with lasting damage
- There is currently no cure or vaccine for COVID
If, knowing all of those things, you still believe that the media (or Americans in general) are “rooting against sports” for some reason yet to be identified, you’re beyond empathy and common sense. If, knowing all of those things, you continue to believe that everyone is overreacting, you’re beyond the help of science and education. What you’ve done is create, or assume, a narrative that doesn’t exist in reality, but that aligns with what you want to believe about the “media.” You should probably stop reading here. Best of luck to you. Maybe some day you’ll come around. I hope it doesn’t take you, or someone you love, getting sick for you to do that. And, to the brodom of sports media that relies on beefs and division for clicks and pod listens, you should be ashamed of yourself.
I was always taught in school that the media is the watchdog of the people. That the media’s job is to speak for the powerless. COVID-19, along with the Black Lives Matter movement, are likely the most important stories my generation of reporters and columnists will ever cover. And while we are beginning to see athletes harness the power they have to for social and racial justice en masse in a way we haven’t before, it doesn’t absolve the media from doing our jobs of holding powerful people responsible for putting athletes in a position where they could be hurt.
Choose to see it as “rooting against sports” if you will. What we’re really rooting for is a just world where people matter more than ticket revenue, more than tv contracts, more than playoff advertising dollars.
So what are you rooting for?