Indulge me for a few minutes as I delve into the mind of a sports columnist.

Not that I consider myself a serious member of the sports media who should be regarded as an authority, but – for better or worse – I have a platform to share my thoughts on the sports world to the Georgetown community and beyond. By virtue of my position as a columnist, it is assumed that I have something of note to contribute to the general sports conversation on campus.

For the most part, I believe I accomplish this. When discussing a topic that many aren’t aware of or presenting a unique take on a particular story that gets people to think, I advance the conversation. But by attempting to do my part, I’ve also discovered the pitfalls that have come to dominate the sports media industry.

When the sports media – and all news outlets in general – are at their best, they are able to uncover truth, present compelling arguments and accurately gauge the pulse of the public on the issues. At their worst, they try to make the news about themselves, either by sensationalizing or hiding a story, or taking outlandish positions on a newsworthy topic.

We’ve clearly seen these problems poison the general news media, as seen in political talk radio, evening cable “news” programs and Internet blogs. Whether we want to admit it or not, though, the same problems now confront the sports media.

Nowadays, ESPN and dozens of regional sports networks – such as SportsNet New York and Comcast SportsNet in Washington – are littered with shows that feature sports reporters, columnists and other experts offering their take on the day’s sports topics. Up to a point, these shows are interesting, as they allow viewers to attempt to understand and form their own opinions on the latest controversies.

But after a while, you begin to realize – usually it’s after they’ve screamed at the top of their lungs for a while – that these types of radio and TV programs don’t contribute to the real conversations had by sports fans. After listening or tuning in, I usually don’t feel more knowledgeable or that my views have changed. As is the case with the talking heads offering political commentary, I often just shake my head and change the channel.

What makes the majority of these types of shows unwatchable is that their conversations feel entirely contrived. Based on my own experience writing this column, I believe their contrived nature emanates from three distinct problems with the way sports are covered.

First, talking heads and columnists face regular deadlines: either press time or airtime. While this fact itself isn’t news, its consequences strongly affect the nature of sports commentary. Pundits are expected to have compelling, passionate commentary on the day’s sports topics whether or not there is something actually worth discussing.

Unfortunately, this arrangement forces commentators to discuss ad nauseam the silly and irrelevant when nothing significant is going on. But more importantly, they are required to provide opinions even when they may have none or feel they need more time to analyze something. Thoughtful reflection is not encouraged.

Second – and strongly related to the problem of forced commentary – is the nature of the opinion business, namely that those who provide the most unique perspectives are usually the ones to gain the most fanfare. Obviously the free market of ideas produces the best opinions, but when pundits try to upstage their competitors, there are obvious consequences.

I can’t help but think that sometimes commentators offer outlandish opinions that make little sense precisely to stand out, hoping that the notoriety will allow them to rise in prominence over their fellow analysts in order to gain airtime. The only other possible explanation to the outrageous ideas of some is that they really know little about sports, a charge so damning that no writer would admit to it. They would more readily confess that the nature of the business forces them at times to take stands they don’t necessarily feel are true than concede the possibility of the alternative.

Third and most importantly, sports commentary can seem so contrived because it usually does not take place in the context of the rest of our lives. Often, sports arguments on blogs and talk shows treat sports as if they are the most important or only things in our lives. I’ve written in the past about the significance of sports, but they too occupy only a place in the framework of life.

That’s why I can’t take seriously when sports commentary delves into minutiae or speaks about games and controversies as if they are matters of life and death. Sports commentary – often like its political counterpart – gives the impression that we live only for sports. It’s as if the experts fail to realize or admit that fans have families, jobs and other interests.

This is why this column is called “The Big Picture.” I never intend to delve too deeply into details or speak hyperbolically about the nature of sports because, as people who happen to be fans, our interests in sports are not found down those paths. Instead, I believe, the most significant discussions of sports take what happens on the field and attempt to understand them through the context of our lives. It gives true meaning to our sports experiences.

As I stated earlier, my position affords me the opportunity to contribute to the sports commentary on campus. It’s up to others to decide if this type of sports conversation is worth having.

Nick Macri is a senior in the College. THE BIG PICTURE appears every third issue of HOYA SPORTS.

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