23 May 2014
Jason Collins....and Regressive Sports Writers (originally posted 30 April 2013)
So, the coming out story of Jason Collins this week provided some interesting reads, as news services tripped over themselves trying to get the now-feel-good story.
But buried under the story of the gay athlete, imbedded in the writings of these very sportswriters, lie the seeds of conservatism that reveal their regressive stances. Take these three bylines about Collins’ decision:
From ESPN: “Jason Collins said has gotten "incredible" support since coming out as the first openly gay player in one of the four major U.S. pro sports leagues…”
From The Sporting Scene, in New Yorker Magazine: “Jason Collins…has made history, becoming the first active male player in any of the big four of American sports leagues—baseball, hockey, basketball, and football—to come out as gay.”
And from the Reuters News Service: “Collins, a 12-year player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), became the first active athlete from any of the four major U.S. men's professional sports leagues to come out publicly as gay.”
Now, in addition to learning that Jason Collins has come out as gay, (and in addition to wondering if there is a little plagiarism going between the New Yorker and Reuters), what other ‘fact’ could you glean from those three representative statements?
“one of the four major…”
“any of the big four…”
“any of the four major…”
Ah. There must be Four (count them) major Professional Sports leagues in America.
And indeed, for decades, writers referred to “The Big Four” – Baseball, Basketball, Football and Hockey.
One has to wonder how long they will go along blithely repeating the same rubbish, in light of the fact that the United States is no longer a land of Four professional sports, but Five.
Some Attendance figures from the 2012 season to consider:
National Football League: 66,960
Major League Baseball: 30,352
Major League Soccer 17,872
National Basketball Assn: 17,319
National Hockey League: 17,126
My, what’s this? Yes, in 2012, attendance at Professional, Major League Soccer games exceeded both Basketball and Hockey.
In 2007, Major League Soccer became the fifth professional team sport to turn a profit from media revenue. It was also the first year that every single MLS match was televised - something neither Basketball nor Hockey can claim.
By 2010, three MLS teams had turned profits. That may not sound very exciting, except when one compares that to testimony by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who reported to Congress in December 2001 that professional baseball on the whole had suffered 232 million in losses, and only nine of thirty MLB turned a profit. Last year, eleven of thirty NBA teams lost money.
Perhaps most telling, according to Forbes Magazine, during the year before the NHL lockout, only three of 18 Hockey teams turned a profit: the same proportion as Major League Soccer.
A recent study showed that among twenty-year old Americans, Professional Soccer is now the #2 sport in America.
So, Jason Collins is the first openly gay man in the “Big Four?”
Guys, perhaps the writing pool needs to lake a long, hard look at itself. The United States, by all criteria, is now a nation of the “Big Five.” But because someone, some decades ago, decided to call team sports the “Big Four,” the writers continue to parrot an anachronistic – and incorrect – statement of the state of sports in America.
Yes, reporters, you too are responsible for the regressive, conservative attitudes within sports and its fan base. Get with the 21st Century…please? Start giving Soccer it's place among the other four sports leagues, and stop dismissing a major American sport as an ethnic oddity kid-sport to be brushed aside.