Why media indifference assures U.S soccer ignominy
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Losing to Trinidad and Tobago confirms third-rate status
It's as if a Major League baseball team lost to my 8-year-old's Welles Park Iron Pigs fall ball team.
The United States lost Tuesday to Trinidad and Tobago (population 1.3 million) and was stunningly eliminated from the 32-nation, once-every-four-years World Cup soccer championship in Russia next year. In countries as diverse as Argentina, Cameroon, France, South Korea or Croatia, such a pitiful performance against a terrible team already out of the competition would be front-page news and cause for major change in a national soccer program's strategy and officials, including the coach. There'd be hell to pay.
And here? There's a rolling of eyes and yawns, that's it. The dismal failure was buried in most sports sections and reminds how media indifference plays a part in the sorry state of soccer at the international competitive level.
For decades, one has read tales of the sport's rise in America, the increasing number of youth playing the sport (like my two kids) and the improvements in the U.S. national team, be it the men or women. The women are indeed strong, though attempts at pro leagues for them fail. The men just stink.
The media fills sections with the MLB playoffs, serves as de facto marketer for the NFL with scads of football coverage, and now offers lots of pre-season NBA stories and early NHL season stories.
Dan McGrath, former sports editor of the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, says that, yes, "soccer is not in the wheelhouse of many sports editors/reporters/columnists, maybe because we didn't grow up playing it or following it, really, and we don't feel comfortable analyzing or even commenting on a game with which we're not familiar. Thus there's not a great drumbeat/demand from the media for change. We don't even pretend to know what's amiss, which is certainly not the case in other more 'mainstream' sports."
"When it comes to soccer, the reality is that mediocrity begets apathy on the part of fans and sports editors," says Tim Franklin, former editor in chief of the Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and Baltimore Sun, as well as being the creator of a sports journalism program at Indiana University and the onetime head of the Poynter Institute.
"There’s also no huge, transcendent personality in men’s soccer at the moment," says Franklin, who is senior associate dean at the Medill Journalism School at Northwestern University "So you combine these two things, and I don’t see any organic pressure emerging to demand change."
"The niche sport status reduces the amount of pressure on the organization (that runs soccer in the U.S.)," says Malcolm Moran, a former New York Times sportswriter who followed in Franklin's footsteps at Indiana and now directs what's called the National Sports Journalism Center.
He recalls the state of what's called USA Basketball. When we lost the gold medal game at the Pan Am Games in 1987, and an Olympic semifinal to the Soviets in Seoul, there was substantial media pressure to abandon the traditional reliance on college players. Yes, the international basketball federation craved the inclusion of world-famous NBA stars at the Olympics. But the media attention drawn by high profile defeats was in the mix that prompted change.
The NBA joined the global throng as Michael Jordan and the "Dream Team" played at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. The U.S. wiped the floor with their opponents and accelerated interest in the sport worldwide. And while there were subsequent low points for the U.S., press pressure can partly explain an administrative overhaul that brought the hiring of Duke University's famous Mike Krzyzewski as coach of the national team.
Writing about the U.S. soccer debacle on ESPN.com, soccer reporter Jeff Carlisle says, "Moving forward will require a painful examination of the past, as well as stewing in the colossal failure that this World Cup qualifying cycle represents. However, not everyone seems to think drastic changes are needed."
More relevant, precious few seem to care.
Trump's latest error-filled tweet
Tuesday's Tweet of the Day was this: "With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!"
The press has thrown out many comparisons to Richard Nixon, most of them wrong and including likening the dismissal of FBI Director James Comey to Nixon's "Saturday Night Massacre." Well, broaching the yanking of licenses is actually vaguely Nixonian, as explained here.
"The good news is that Trump is so ignorant that he doesn't understand that networks are not licensed, and that the broadcasting industry has obtained legislation that makes it impossible to challenge licenses for the stations that the networks own," says Andrew Jay Schwartzman of Georgetown University Law Center.
"The bad news is that the president of the United States is ignorant, and even his toothless threats do serious harm to First Amendment values."
His staunchest defenders' reaction? Oh, yeah, he got the network stuff wrong but, heck, he's just joshing, was the line of "Trump & Friends" this morning.
An unflattering convention post-mortem
More than 3,000 attended the Online News Association annual meeting in Washington last week where the "focus is on tools and practices for working journalists," notes the Columbia Journalism Review. In the end, "It was disappointing that the wide-ranging conversations in journalism were passed over in favor of the micro-level fixes. Notably absent were the larger conversations happening in other sectors, such as the role of social media in the election, the future of free speech online, and how to report on tech companies."
As Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, said, now that “some of the biggest issues of our age are central to the practice of journalism in a digital environment, one might argue that the conference could benefit from focusing on connecting the conversation about much broader areas of policy and practice.”
Why we may all be to blame for the Dove soap controversy
That ad in which a black female appears to morph into a white female? Here's a theory in Adweek that the hoopla may be a "product of overly short ads and even shorter attention spans," all the more so in an era in which social media seems to make a penchant to outrage quite the norm.
Can fact-checking soften either side in the Israeli-Palinstinean conflict?
As Poynter details, a study co-authored by Brendan Nyhan at Dartmouth College and Thomas Zeitzoff at American University "seeks to explain whether or not corrective information affects the views Jewish Israelis hold about the conflict with Palestine."
“We wanted to see why people believe these misperceptions and how effective corrective information might be in changing people’s minds,” says Nyhan, a government professor at Dartmouth who's among a growing group of social media-savvy academics. “We were also interested whether feelings of a lack of control could contribute to beliefs in historical misperceptions, especially those with conspiratorial flavor.”
So an online group of 2,170 Jewish Israelis ages 18 or older either got a totally extremist message, which denied Israeli wrongdoing in the 1948 Palestinian exodus, or the same message with important corrective information. Cut to the chase: "Overall, the findings were encouraging for fact-checkers. While the proportion of denialist Jewish Israelis increased by 8 percent from the baseline to the low control, uncorrected condition, the prevalence of denialism decreased by between 5 and 11 percent for the inverse conditions."
Trump on Hannity
Appearing on the show of Sean Hannity, his pro bono publicist, the president exulted over his latest tax plan and also declared, "The country, we took it over, the last eight years they borrowed more than it did in the whole history of our country. So they borrowed more than $10 trillion. Right? We picked up $5.2 trillion just in the stock market. Possibly picked up the whole thing in terms of the first nine months. In terms of value. You can say in one sense, we are really increasing values and may be in the sense, we are reducing debt. We are very honored by it and very, very happy by what’s happening on Wall Street."
An increase in stock prices reduces the national debt? This goes beyond being in need of fact-checking. It's gibberish. Perhaps stupidity is more transparent than mere deceit. This is unsettling.
Rationalizing not complying with FOIA requests
"It's a question that pops up pretty much every time that Donald Trump deletes a tweet: Is he violating the Presidential Records Act?" asks the Hollywood Reporter.
"In a court filing, not only do attorneys at the Justice Department say that courts can't review this, but they also argue that when it comes to laws pertaining to government record-keeping, judicial review would be inappropriate even if Trump deleted secret recordings with administration officials or even if his staff purged phone records because they expected to be subpoenaed in connection with various investigations."
Nebraska's senator takes on Trump
"Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse questioned whether Trump was upholding his presidential oath to protect the constitution by making the threats on the media," writes the New York Post.
The new corporate bogeyman
"Amazon has replaced Google as the corporate bogeyman. Amazon was mentioned 2,090 times this year on publicly available corporate conference calls (including earnings calls, shareholder meetings, and guidance calls), up 11 percent from last year, according to an analysis of FactSet data, which goes through Oct. 11, 2017. Google (or Alphabet) was mentioned in about 1,500 company conference calls, down 19 percent from 2016."
The two companies are on everybody's mind, counsels Recode, "because it can seem like both have their hands in everything."
News from Puerto Rico
You can argue that it's been short-thrifted on the amount of coverage but here's one disclosure you can't avoid: "Four deaths in Hurricane Maria’s aftermath are being investigated as possible cases of a disease spread by animals’ urine, Puerto Rico’s governor said Wednesday amid concerns about islanders’ exposure to contaminated water."
Trump on the press
"He's putting the press on notice because the press is never held to consequences, he feels, when they put out wrong information," and he feels the NBC story on wanting to hike the size of the nuclear arsenal ten-fold is wrong, said Steve Doocy, co-host of "Trump & Friends," this morning.
The apocalypse beckons
"ABC World News with David Muir" opened with "Several breaking stories as we come on the air. The deadly infernos in California ... also breaking tonight new images of Harvey Weinstein just in ... a major development in the Las Vegas massacre ... tonight the president firing back ... and 10 students in the alleged hazing death of a fellow student, using the code words, 'Bible study.'"
And Lester Holt of NBC opened with very much a carbon copy: "Inside the inferno as the fire disaster doubles in California ... NBC News exclusive: What President Trump said about nuclear weapons that stunned the room before sources say the secretary of state call him a moron ... hazing death charges ... new fallout as one of Harvey Weinstein's accusers tells her story to NBC News."
Meanwhile "Vice News Tonight" on HBO did a low-key feature on the wildfires, absent the tabloid headlines of its broadcast competitors, and per usual gave us a rather broader sense of the world: Another ISIS stronghold folds, developments in Congress on backing the Iran nuke deal, an update on Puerto Rico still only having minimal electricity, the Navy relieving two of the USS John McCain's top officers of duty after that ship collision it deems preventable, a judge allowing the Dakota Access Pipeline to keep running, a profile of a key former ATF bureaucrat who decided that bump stocks shouldn't be regulated (the Washington Post broke the original tale of his role), and the ambiguous recent history of nuclear disarmament as seen against the backdrop of current tensions with North Korea and Russia, as well as the aging U.S. nuclear system.
Congressional reality vs. virtual reality
As Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg does fence-mending on Capitol Hill as a result of a probe of Russian social media influence, boss Mark Zuckerberg "announced an ambitious goal of getting a billion people into virtual reality" and said he wants to ensure the technology is “a force for good.'”
Desperately wanting to believe
Robert Byers, executive editor of the 50-person, 40,000-circulation Charleston Gazette-Mail in West Virginia, spoke to me about the mindset of West Virginians who get lied to by President Trump (and other state politicians, both Republicans and Democrats). There's really a desperate craving to believe that coal jobs will return, which they won't, says Byers, whose paper won the Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting this year as a result of work on the state's opioids epidemic.
"Well, I don't speak on behalf of all West Virginians. But the closer your livelihood is to the coal industry, the more you will believe that. It's important to you and your livelihood. You want to have that hope. My own father, when there was a fire at the mine he worked and it closed, held out hope because company kept saying, 'We might be able to reopen' and he might be able to get that good paying job back. There are people serious about diversification (of energy sources) and not believing such claims. But a lot of people do want to believe people like Donald Trump."