Take me out to the ball game…

Ahhh… We’ve made it to that time of year again… Halcyon days, verdant, pristinely-manicured turfs where “the boys of summer” beguile leisurely spectators tucking away peanuts and cracker jack and… beverages. The “Great American Pastime” is in full swing (pun) in renowned parks all over the landscape. Just relax, and take it all in…

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Werner Kunz via Compfight cc

What’s missing?

Umm, let’s see… Got my glove (just in case!), my over-worn and under-washed cap (soap dilutes good luck), flip-up shades (that’s how I roll), smart phone (duh!), XL cup of Dr. P (yeah, I will drink it all!), foot-long carcinogen-filled, cardiac arrest inducer (I mean, hot dog). That should do it. Still, I can’t shake this feeling I’m missing something… Wait, I know what it is! It should be here anytime now! I’ll just sit back and wait for

the melee!

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: David Gallagher via Compfight cc

the almost inevitable brawl, the brouhaha,  the fracas, the altercation, the scuffle, the skirmish, the… kurfuffle? Yes, I’m talking about that other Great American Pastime… watching a good fight! (or even a bad one)

Where did the halcyon go? I can’t see the verdant turf for all the… Wow! That shortstop has a mean right jab! I wonder what that guy said about his mother?

Wait, I digress… I was talking about the all-too-common tendency for disagreements among “professional,” “adult” baseball players to be settled like children on the playground, complete with foot stomping, theatrical arm (and hand) gesturing, and tete-a-tete bad mouthing at the top of their lungs. And let’s not forget the wrestling, punching, and rolling on the ground. What recess rumpus would be complete without those?

Sports commentators–and the media in general–generally give a wink and a nod to these demonstrations of poor judgment, and that’s when I come off the bench to critique broadcasters’ apathy and general misunderstanding of the troubling attitudes that major league fights belie.

  1. You’re making 6 and 7 digit salaries, so…. Shut up and play!
    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    Photo Credit: HikingArtist.com via Compfight cc

    In 2013, the average MLB salary was $3.4 million, while the average U.S. salary in 2012 was $42, 500.  (Why don’t they talk about that on the nightly news?)

  2. You’re role models to thousands of young people! (Do I really have to mention that?) Here’s a list of 10 players who ARE doing it right.
  3. This is not going to last. Enjoy playing baseball while you can! This requires the humility to understand that, even if you’re Babe Ruth, you won’t be forever.
    Leave a positive legacy.
  4. You’ve beaten the odds. Why jeopardize that? (Is anybody still reading this?) A college baseball player has only about a 11% chance of making it in the MLB, and the average career length is about 5 1/2 years. Why are you so angry?

What’s the take away for mass comm students?

While the typical textbook tells budding journalism students that their highest calling is objectivity in reporting, the reality is that hardly anyone ever practices it. At best, some broadcast journalists practice selective objectivity, carving out a niche of issues on which they feel comfortable riding the fence and making a show of detached professionalism on largely irrelevant topics. The vast majority of broadcasters these days likely couldn’t define objectivity. Never mind do they know why it’s important. So yeah, that’s not happening. But we’ll keep teaching it, just in case a few of our students are listening.

Most of our students are at the age where they would find video clips of baseball brawls hilarious, not discerning the implications for the sport, the audience, and society in general. That’s why broadcasters must not simply report about fighting in sports; they must help educate viewers about the negative effects of bad behavior. One small way to begin making a difference would be for sportscasters to resist the urge to editorialize on camera after reporting these stories, especially with the typical tongue-in-cheek approach that conveys lighthearted disdain, but also their enthusiasm for having a sensational “get” story. Tosses between anchors at the news desk are usually brief, but laughing and vocal inflection gives the impression that nothing that happens during a game is to be taken too seriously.
What a shame!

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: peasap via Compfight cc

A wonderful benefit of Christian liberal arts education is that it challenges students to apply moral values to practical career situations. In this vein, I would encourage my students to temper their enthusiasm for all things raffish with reading from Scripture, such as the following:

Do not associate with a man given to anger;
Or go with a hot-tempered man,
Or you will learn his ways
And find a snare for yourself
(Proverbs 22:24-25, NASB)

 

 

Darrell Roe (Ph.D., UGA, 1998) is an Assoc. Prof. of Mass Communication at ETBU. His specialty is analyzing the content of visual media and its effects on audiences.

 

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Darrell Roe

Associate Professor of Communication at East Texas Baptist University

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