When talking or reporting about the Baltimore Orioles, I call things down the middle. It’s part of my job; people often tell me that they want columnists and announcers to “openly root for the Orioles.” My response is that they think they want that, but they really don’t. When the media shamelessly roots for the team it comes across as incredibly unprofessional. Look no further than former ChiSox announcer, Hawk Harrelson.
However outside of the Orioles, I do have various teams for whom I openly root. One of those is the Washington Capitals of the NHL. During last night’s game against Pittsburgh, I tweeted to the effect of only a Pittsburgh team would argue that a goalie embellished being roughed and have the national media take up their cause. In fact, the national television crew calling the game felt that the Capitals’ goalie sold a roughing call to the officials.
Did he? That’s a matter of opinion. But my point was that Pittsburgh teams seem to always get the calls and the benefit of the doubt. And in this one spot where they didn’t, they complained and had the national media on their side.
I’m a sports fan just like the rest of the world. We make comments like that on occasion. Again, you’ll never see me say something like that regarding the Orioles, because I have an obligation to cover the team in as unbiased a manner as possible. However many fans do say things like that regarding the Orioles when they play other teams. Heck, Oriole players sometimes complain to umpires that they don’t get a fair shake. But do comments as such inadvertently prove to be true?
If national media members hear that they favor one team over another they’re going to say that’s ludicrous. That’s also going to ride in their gut for some time. But does human nature not dictate that the person might not start to resent that comment, and thus find himself at the very least NOT favoring the very team they were accused of being against?
Look at it from the perspective of an umpire or referee. If someone’s accused of favoring one team over the other, again does human nature not dictate that perhaps that ref/ump might give the benefit of the doubt the other way? Ultimately I do believe that national media figures and/or officials try to be unbiased. And most of them succeed. But there are certainly exceptions.
If you look at the NFL, many rival teams complain that teams such as the Cowboys, Steelers, Patriots, and others get more favorable coverage and officiating. In the NHL we see those same charges regarding the Penguins, the Lakers in the NBA (or perhaps just LeBron James), and the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, and others in MLB. The ironic thing however is that again human nature dictates that when the opponents of the aforementioned teams complain about this, it gets worse before it gets better.
All of this is further ampified by social media. As an avid user, I’m the first to admit that. Again, I call things down the middle for the Orioles because I report on them. So do the likes of Boston and New York get favorable calls and/or coverage against the Orioles and others? The fact is that there’s no evidence which suggests that; the Orioles need to focus on winning. Do the Penguins enjoy those benefits against the Capitals (who ultimately defeated Pittsburgh last night)? They absolutely do!