Okay, okay, I waste too much time following the Red Sox. But a person can learn a thing or two on the couch in front of the television. I happened to be well enough informed about the Red Sox that I was able to watch Fox Sports make up a story, set it as the story line, and proceed to make it seem as real as Megan Kelly's hair. Of course, this is just sports. But I'm bothering to write this because I think it is typical of how most of major U.S. media comes up with its "news".
The Red Sox are enduring a season in hell. They have suffered more injuries than any team since the early 1970's. At one point, they were down to the 7th outfielder on the depth chart. Any player who is going especially well for the Red Sox--that is the player who has been going down. In addition, just to give two examples out of many, I personally have seen them lose two games as a direct result, both times, of a Red Sox pitcher seemingly getting out of an inning by striking out a batter, only to have the pitch called a ball. Replays showed both pitches to be easily within the strike zone. The next pitch, in both cases, resulted in game winning hits for the other team. I've seen this happen twice. There have been an incredible number of other similar instances of bad luck causing them to lose games they should have won. These are emotionally devastating losses.
I find this interesting because of the only thing that makes sports interesting--the psychology of the players. Baseball is a grinding daily sport requiring tremendous resilience and emotional toughness over six months. Speaking of the position players only (there may be some issues with the pitchers), I have watched the players on the Red Sox team, to a person, respond to incredible adversity by keeping their heads down and their focus in the game. They never give up an at bat. They never take a play off in the field. I have watched an embarrassing amount of baseball, and I know this to be true. The players have also taken losses as a team, never indulging even a hint of blame or pointing fingers. Typical quotes are "I have to play better. We all have to play better," and "It wasn't the pitcher's fault. We win and lose as a team." This humility and sportsman-like attitude has made me quite fond of this group of very talented players who are losing a lot more than their ability would suggest they should.
Enter Fox Sports, ESPN, and a weekend series between the Yankees and the Red Sox. Both the Saturday and the Sunday games are nationally televised. This year, the over-hyped "best rivalry in sports" does not have the cache of other years, because the Red Sox are hopelessly behind the Yankees in the standings. This year it's like the rivalry between the hammer and the nail. How do Fox and ESPN drum up viewers? By making up a simplistic story line and running with it. A few days before the national broadcasts, at the same time advertising started for the weekend games, an article came out on Yahoo purporting to reveal a secret meeting that the players called in order to complain to owners about their manager Bobby Valentine. Yes, a meeting had taken place, that much is true. Why was it being reported as news a month after the fact and a few days before Sunday Night Baseball? According to the story, the Red Sox are a team in turmoil with their manager having failed to gain the respect of the players. Then during the Saturday game, the broadcast team discussed the fake situation in detail, with Tim McCarver opining in his best "fair and balanced" way that everyone bears responsibility for the fake crisis--players, coaches, and ownership. If you didn't know it was all a lie, you would have no doubt that the affable McCarver spoke with great insight.
Now, this matters because a lie has been told. But as with more serious stories, it also matters because the real story was never told. The real story is that the team has these meetings with management 3 or 4 times every year. That the purpose of the meetings is to clear the air of tensions by speaking plainly. This is a good thing. The real story is that in the face of crushing adversity, the Red Sox team has played hard every day, supported each other, and steered completely free of the blame that frequently arises on teams which are losing. The real story is that the Red Sox are behaving like responsible people. Dustin Pedroia said, paraphrasing, "There is no problem with Bobby. I had an issue with him earlier in the year. I went into his office and talked to him man to man. He responded to me man to man, and that was the end of it." That is what is really going on with the Red Sox, and it's a positive, inspiring story despite the losing record. But Fox Sports, in the interest of ratings, made up a different story line of childish finger pointing and dissension within the team. In fact, the story carries the implication that the players are not playing as hard as they could because they don't like the manager. This is an insult to these professionals.
The result is a team that no longer wants to talk to reporters. Watching the reactions of the players, it was clear to me that they were not familiar with Fox as a purveyor of lies. They were angry and seemed a bit stunned. Those of us who understand what Fox is all about, of course, are not surprised in the least. Still, it is sobering to see how a network can "create their own reality" and within a few days have it become consensual reality for everyone except those involved closely enough to know what is real.
As a related postscript, while writing this, I went searching for the name of a Fox News anchor. As I typed in "Fox News reporters" the suggest completions offered by the search engine were instructive. Such things as "with legs apart" and "showing a lot of bra" were popular search terms. It turns out there is a thriving industry of youtube videos of various female Fox reporters being, in the eyes of the beholders, sexy. Here is a typical description from one:
Short clip of Rebecca Gomez and Jaime Colby- showing off their hot legs and ample breasts. Enjoy!
Of course, the "news stories" being discussed in these videos are completely ignored. Some of them are tragic, but a significant portion of America are keeping their eyes on the bouncing tits.