People working in sports media normally operate in a world where being wrong is inconsequential. Debates rage about where Tom Brady will play and whether LeBron is better than Giannis. Host A takes one side, and the Host B argues the opposite.
Televised sports arguments are a frivolous exploit that reflects and services passion. There is no downside for being wrong, nor is there a bonus for correctly applied logic. Sometimes, the more outlandish the commentary, the better.
In the midst of a health crisis that has tentacles extending into sports, talking heads who normally blather about games are yammering about how the NBA, NCAA, MLB, and PGA should respond to the spread of Coronavirus.
This is not just irresponsible; it’s dangerous. These are people who occasionally make sense talking about basketball. They have no training in epidemiology, and no clue as to what the right path might be to contain the Coronavirus outbreak.
When ESPN NBA expert Brian Windhorst implored the NCAA this morning to “get on the right side of history,” I wondered from where he received his MD. Turns out he has no background in medicine whatsoever. He might be right. He might be wrong. Not only do we not know – he doesn’t either.
Sports media are doing the same thing with Coronavirus they have done to present themselves as supposed experts in sports – read a bit, listen a bit, and gather enough information to be able to present themselves as plausible experts. That works in the frivolous world of sports, but not in a potential health crisis.
Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens was asked about the Coronavirus the day of their game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse against the Indiana Pacers – the last game either team played prior to the NBA suspending the season. He said, “Turns out we’re not all that qualified to talk about medical situations.”
As usual, Stevens revealed himself to be smart enough to know what he doesn’t know – a trait not shared by many in sports media.
ESPN, Fox Sports, BTN, and hundreds of local sports media outlets need to be responsible with their coverage. They need to engage experts who have spent a lifetime studying infectious diseases to share accurate information about whether games should be played rather than asking hot take artists for a perspective generated by watching CNN this morning.
I love Charles Barkley as a talented host, but the Round Mound of Rebound’s opinion about how our society can be protected from Coronavirus is of no value.
Ignorance is the nexus point for hysteria, and there is no sect I trust less to communicate the details of the spread of a virus than the talking heads of sports media. They need to learn what Stevens has always been smart enough to realize – knowing what you don’t know is every bit as important as knowing what you do know.
Media consumers need to be vigilant in seeking out information and perspective they can trust. Listen to those trained in the area of your curiosity. If you have questions about sports, Get Up on ESPN is a fine show to start your day. If you want to know whether players are at risk for contracting the Coronavirus by playing in a conference tournament or the NCAAs, or just as importantly whether you or your loved ones are in danger, Stephen A. Smith, Jay Bilas, and Brian Windhorst are the last people you should listen to.
And it’s a shame sports experts are not smart or responsible enough to understand their expertise does not extend to critical medical questions.