Quick Hit: Super Bowl Exposes Boosterish Media

February 3, 2014

Generally, the hype and extravagance of a modern Super Bowl is approaching levels that only an Albert Speer could fully appreciate. The game, the sport, is decidedly secondary, if that. Two specific takeaways from the Feb. 2 spectacle:

First, the super promises of mass transportation were shown to be super false. The ride to and from the game, billed as the first “Mass Transit” Super Bowl, were by all accounts miserable and dangerous ordeals. The governmental mass-transit systems, unhindered by weather, despite two years notice of the date and time of the game, plus an exact count of tickets sold and virtually all other information any planner might want, could not manage to come even close to estimating the number of transit users (underestimating by almost half), let alone manage the resulting chaos. We will now be told they were underfunded.

Second, the pain, anguish and shock of Bronco fans were representative of the price we pay for a modern mass media staffed by journalists who fancy themselves advocates rather than reporters. Bronco fans were given no clue as to the speed and strength of the Seahawk corners and backs. Here is the Indianapolis Star’s man:

“Sunday will be a coronation. Manning has faced good defenses all year, defenses nearly as good as Seattle and its Legion of Boom, and he has eviscerated all of them. Nobody has really slowed the Broncos, and Seattle won’t be able to do it Sunday in the Super Bowl at the Meadowlands . . . blah, blah, blah.”

If big-shot sports columnists had trouble sorting out the possibilities, the bookies and oddsmakers did not. They had the Seahawks by what turned out to be extremely comfortable margins. (Thank goodness we were only unprepared for a game and not the Chinese navy or a tyrannical executive.)

Someday the owners of our media will discover — rediscover, actually — that customers of information systems, be they print or digital, don’t pay to have someone tell them what they are supposed to believe, however noble and generous of spirit that belief might be. They certainly don’t pay a sports columnist to boost his personal access to players and managers with flattering “forecasts.”

What they pay for is accurate prediction — of the day’s weather, of the week’s business cycles, of the coming season’s hemline, of the next government intrusion into their lives and, yes, of who will win the big game.

Craig Ladwig

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