Journalism

Ann Arbor writer John U. Bacon strains credibility with ‘politics is sillier than sports’ riff

So many opinion essays, so little reading time.  That’s the challenge columnists and other writers face, multiplied to the max during election week.

The best draw clicks the hard way: By methodically earning a reputation for sensible, readable thought leadership that introduces new ideas and fresh perspectives.

Then there are those who try to stir readership with top-of-mind riffs that resemble late-night dorm discussions or Andy Rooney rants . . . with about as much grounding and value.

John U. Bacon

A Nov. 9 commentary at Michigan Radio by Ann Arbor sportswriter and author John U. Bacon appears to fit the latter category of quick riffs that sound righteous at first, but get wobbly on closer scrutiny.

He’s a talented, prolific feature writer usually worth listening to or reading. Today not so much as he considers “the relative craziness of politics versus sports. I got to thinking: Which is sillier? Playing politics, or playing sports?”

Bet you know where John comes down on this pressing issue. “It’s not even close: Playing politics is sillier, in a landslide.”

Opinions are just that, of course, though it’s fair to see if they stand the test of reality checks.

In the sporting world, you’re not supposed to badmouth your opponent, or even talk about them very much.  . . . In politics, badmouthing the other guy is just about all they do.

Reality check:  “You are a complete fraud. . . . If he [Dominic Raiola] spent as much time working the other muscles in his body as he does his jaw, he might have had the chance to be an average backup.” – NFL general manager recently quoted anonymously in Pro Football Weekly about Detroit Lions player.

We like to say sports teach us lessons we can use later in life. Unless, of course, you become a politician.  Then, you take everything that sports taught you – and do the opposite: focus on your opponent, not your own game.

Reality check: “A massive data effort helped Obama raise $1 billion, remade the process of targeting TV ads and created detailed models of swing-state voters that could be used to increase the effectiveness of everything from phone calls and door knocks to direct mailings and social media.” – Time.com article Nov. 7, 2012

I dream of a day when we take politics as seriously as we take sports.

Reality check: 11,933,438 votes were cast Tuesday for two major party presidential candidates. The most-watched 2012 Olympics event in America drew 3.5 viewers, who saw America’s 2-1 victory over Japan for the soccer gold medal.

Reality check #2: The final Obama vs. Romney debate bout drew 59.2 million TV viewers on Oct. 22 when it went head-to-head with Monday Night Football and the final National League Championship Series ballgame. It’s not even close, to use John’s phrase. Politics won in a landslide.
About 10.7 million viewers saw Obama’s hometown Chicago Bears beat the Lions and Nielsen says 8.1 million watched the San Francisco Giants defeat the St. Louis Cardinals to earn a World Series spot.

Here’s what a more prominent columnist – one in the sensible, readable category – says:

It seemed like there were long lines everywhere. It’s funny. Americans supposedly hate politics, but they really wanted to vote. They really wanted to watch the debates and the conventions. — David Brooks, New York Times, Nov. 7, 2012

Final score: People who work in arenas should stick to covering fun, games and circuses . . . or dorm debates.

Your turn: Am I too picky and humorless? Comment below.

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5 thoughts on “Ann Arbor writer John U. Bacon strains credibility with ‘politics is sillier than sports’ riff

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