(h/t: Eric at Off Wing Opinion)
If you're like me, and you watch ESPN's hockey coverage with a mix of shock, disappointment, and simmering rage, there's good news. Jason Chung, writing for the Harvard Law School's Project on Law and Mind Sciences blog, The Situationist, has backed up our armchair media criticism:
To make matters worse, such informational social influence can translate into normative social influence, which is born of the need to “conform to the rules of other people.” If it seems that a growing number of people dislike hockey or that being a hockey fan exposes one to ridicule, many will hide, ignore, or lose their affection for hockey.
Thus, [ESPN]’s negative portrayal of hockey is very likely causing a profound two-fold effect on the viewing public by prejudicing their perception of the facts and by affecting their feelings for the game.
Of course, you can see this in action with ESPN's self-aggrandizing events of the moment: The ESPY Awards, and the "Who's Now" bracket.
The ESPYs are the network's annual "best reasons to watch Sportscenter religiously" awards. With categories like Best Male Athlete, Best Team, Best Game, Best Finish, and Best Play, there are plenty of opportunities for nominations from the NHL, right?
Not a single NHL player, team, or game was nominated in any of those categories. There is a Best NHL Player award, as there are for the other major sports, but that's it.
The Who's Now promotion pits 32 athletes in a bracket-style "tournament", broken down into four "regions", with the goal of finding the "hottest" athlete. Since celebrity and endorsements count as much as on-the-field achievements, it's obvious that ESPN is seeking to justify the fawning coverage they've already given to many of these jocks.
Sidney Crosby is the only NHL player in the field, seeded seventh in his region, and facing Derek Jeter in the first round. The 7-seed is insulting on its face, but a match-up with a media darling like Jeter in the first round? I'd say ESPN was intentionally trying to eliminate Sid in the first round, just so they'd have something to point to the next time someone calls them out on their anti-hockey bias.
Out of sight, out of mind. That's how ESPN covers hockey.
P.S.: Don't think you're off the hook, Sports Illustrated. Explain to me why your cover story, after the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup, was Yet Another New York Baseball Team, not the champion of one of the four major leagues in North America?