Just in case it hasn’t been made clear that the mainstream sports media will bow down lower to the SEC than even Obama will to an Arab tyrant, here is today’s column from Ivan Maisel, who by writing this has most likely assured himself not only a cleaner email inbox (a goal of every columnist), but also safe passage throughout the geographic South for the rest of the fall.*
In other words, the virgin has been sacrificed and Kong has taken his reward! Maisel is an excellent writer for whom I have great respect and he’s a class act with whom I usually agree, but I have to take issue with this column.
Some highlights of the piece, which hit all the talking points needed to satiate the rabid ESS–EEE–SEE fan:
There are plenty of other statistics and ratings by which to calibrate the primacy of the SEC
“In this league, there are legitimately 10 teams, maybe more, that can be Top 25 teams,” (Tennesee linebacker coach Lance) Thompson said.
MAYBE MORE! So, for now, who are the unlucky two? Vandy and Ole Miss? I guess the pollsters are missing the boat on Tennessee, Kentucky and Mississippi State, who are all CLEARLY being screwed by not being ranked at this point. Too bad a less self-serving quote couldn’t have been found.
Since 2006, the SEC has played 38 conference games in which both teams were ranked.
That’s very impressive, to be sure. But it’d be nice to know what the numbers are for other conferences so we can compare. Is this significantly more than other conferences? A bit more? A bit less? Why the 2006 benchmark? And can’t we all acknowledge that if the SEC is given better treatment by the media (see this fawning column as an example), it’s going to end up with better rankings, too? After all, who votes in the polls? The media.
Above all, however, is the simple fact that the SEC has more big, fast players than the other leagues.
If it’s a ‘simple fact’, how come we never get any quantifiable numbers on this? I’m not saying it’s not necessarily true, but I just don’t think it’s verifiable. Any truism like this should be easily researchable before being deemed such.
“There’s a reason,” Thompson said, “the TV contract is as big as it is. There’s a reason that there is 98 percent occupancy in very big stadiums.”
Well, sure. The fans love the product. That’s not in question. But that has nothing to do with the quality of football in the conference. The fans show up in droves to see whatever product is put in front of them, which means that even Alabama’s game vs. patsy San Jose State drew 102,000–or exactly the same as the Tide drew for its game against traditional power Penn State. That hardly shows a discerning level of fan interest. In short, the people down South love the sport and are great fans, but that doesn’t mean the conference, by extension, plays better football because of it.
Look. I think the SEC is the best conference in college football right now. I think it has the best combination of coaching and talent of any league. This type of compliment, of course, is never enough for the average SEC fan, who the media has determined must be coddled with over-the-top columns such as this.
But I don’t think it’s right to sit here and pretend going in that no other conference should even be considered the SEC’s equal—not until the games are played, at least. The default mentality when a season starts should not be that the SEC is the best due to these vauge notions regarding team speed and fan intensity. The default should be: We think this conference is loaded with great players and coaches, but let’s see if the teams turn out to be good or not compared to other teams. What’s wrong with that?
Everyone cries about how the BCS is unfair and how a playoff is needed. But in a sport where the champion is determined by subjective voters, the No. 1 issue out there right now should be the slathering bias accorded to one conference over all others. The process is tainted, but not by computers or formulas, but actual coverage of the sport. And this hurts college football. It’s not even debatable. There is a liberal media bias when it comes to politics–research by the Pew Center over the years has confirmed that–and there is an SEC bias when it comes to college football. We see all kinds of subjects covered on Outside the Lines and Real Sports and various other sports media panels, but never this one. And this is an issue that affects things like rankings and BCS titles–the very things used in the media to justify the bias in the first place.
So why the bias? Ratings, mostly. The media knows where its bread is buttered and in this rough economic climate, you do your best to satisfy your most loyal customers. It’s not supposed to be that way, but it is. Every editor, columnist or blogger out there knows that if you want to get a bunch of reads, write about and feature the SEC. But when economic concerns are governing coverage–and when audience placation is the goal–it’s difficult to produce a fair account of what’s actually happening.
Some of you probably disagree. Some of you probably agree and don’t care.
For the sake of the rest of you, I hope things change soon.
* - Calm down, I mostly kid. But if you think I’m being alarmist about the way the media views such things, the latest edition of ESPN The Magazine mentions an AP voter who worries that his vote being made public could potentially make him a target of angry SEC fans. I think that’s a horrible way to view the good people of that region, but it does illustrate the thought process that goes into how some subjects are covered…Elite media tends to view the South as a dangerous backwater…in their mind, why piss people off when you might have to cover a game there? Better to soothe the beast.