Bryan Curtis writes in Grantland:
During the Donald Sterling fiasco, I argued that the sportswriting class had gone from holding a range of political opinions to fusing into a single, united liberal bloc. You can see that in the coverage of Goodell, too. Reading sports this week is like being on a Nation magazine cruise.That happened a long time before the Donald Sterling fiasco. When was this not true? The mass of not very bright sportswriters has been true believers in liberal dogmas for maybe four decades. I can recall the sports media’s crusade to get George Allen (father of the future Republican Senator) fired as coach of the Washington Redskins in the mid-1970s, which was very much a self-conscious junior varsity repeat of Woodward-Bernstein’s crusade to overthrow Richard Nixon: If the Washington Post news section could take down the President, then the Washington Post sports section should take down the Redskins’ coach, who reminded them of Nixon for complicated 1970s reasons.
Curtis goes on:
What happened to the sports press? Two things. The lethal snipers at Deadspin and other sites give covering fire to lefty sportswriters who might leave behind the old nonpartisan tone. There’s no longer a punishment for being liberal, and there’s a lot of potential reward on Twitter. Moreover, writers who don’t toe the line know they’ll be punished for speaking up. I suspect that a lot of semi-political types feign agreement or don’t comment at all.Uh, you know, uh … Jackie Robinson hasn’t been up to bat since he retired in 1956, which was 58 years ago. And Roger Kahn stopped working for the New York Herald Tribune in 1953. I’ve been remarking a lot on how the liberal conventional wisdom has zero sense that they’ve been in charge of racial attitudes for a long, long, long time now, but once you notice that, the evidence for this blindness to chronology is everywhere.
Then there’s the crack-up of local newspapers, which for decades incubated writers whose politics were as ragged as a congressional backbencher’s. The baseball writer Roger Kahn and I talked recently about his days covering Jackie Robinson for the New York Herald Tribune. Kahn told me that the sports editor of a Cincinnati paper once came up to him, pointed a finger at Robinson in the batter’s box, and said, “The jig is up. Get it?” Nitwits like that used to preach to big chunks of America.
The basic cause of such intense crimestop among run of the mill lumpen sportswriters is that the reigning ideology is all about equality; but sports are all about inequality.
What complicates this generalization, however, is that there’s a lot of evidence that many of the smartest sportswriters aren’t true believers.
Sure, a lot of smart New York Jewish sportswriters like Kahn were liberals for reasons of family, neighborhood, and ethnic loyalty. But for most of the other sportswriters, there’s a negative correlation between intelligence and fervency of belief in the liberal pieties. For example, the three greatest golf writers of all time were probably Bernard Darwin (Charles’ grandson), Herbert Warren Wind (the WASPiest, most assimilated Jewish guy ever), and Dan Jenkins of Ft. Worth. I doubt if any of them would be terribly comfortable writing under the mindset restrictions required by Deadspin.
Similarly, I doubt if Frank Deford, Bill James, or Bill Simmons are all that enthusiastic for the current dogmas. The brightest of the younger generation, David Epstein (author of The Sports Gene, which President Obama bought on his annual bookstore Christmas shopping trip last year), is an HBD guy. The best black sportswriter, Jason Whitlock, is a Bill Cosby type social conservative. The best retired superstar pundit is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whose views aren’t too dissimilar to the conservative satirist Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio who cast him in Airplane! Nate Silver isn’t very liberal at all for a gay Jew.
Similarly, creative works about sports are much less dogmatic about ideology than is journalism. Ron Shelton’s movies, Arliss, The League, Eastbound and Down, and the sports-related episodes on Larry David’s shows are all politically incorrect.
Average sportswriters are vaguely aware that their mental superiors don’t believe the nonsense they proclaims so stridently, and that generates resentment and the hope that they can take down the top dogs and grab their spots.