The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

SI.com and ESPN.com envy each other

Posted by disappointmentzone on 1 May 2007

If you logged onto the internets this afternoon and went in search news from the sporting world, you might have looked at ESPN.com. Or maybe you would have checked out SI.com. Both are pretty popular websites for sports news. I routinely visit each site multiple times a day. You probably do, too.

I prefer SI.com over ESPN.com because ESPN.com likes to hide all its content behind a firewall and I’m not about to pony up for Insider — certainly the largest boondoggle in all of sports media. SI.com employs good writers and allows anyone to read everything that is posted to their website, which seems much more in the spirit of internet journalism than Insider. There is much less fuss and bluster on SI.com (and, to be fair, and equal amount of sheer idiocy — Jenn Sterger anyone?) and a lot fewer annoying videos that automatically play — loudly, without fail — each time you reload the page.

Anyway, I’m firmly in the SI camp.

Which is why I don’t know what to make of what I saw today. (1)

From the front pages of SI.com and ESPN.com:

si.jpg espn2.jpg

You know, there is a lot of talk — a fair amount if it warranted — about the potentially crippling effects of the conglomerate-ization of media in a liberal democracy. An informed citizenry benefits from a multiplicity of news sources, each competing for the best coverage of any news event. The same argument probably does not extend to the world of sports, or at least not with the same potential ramifications, but still. Seeing both ESPN.com and SI.com feature the same news story with the exact same figures is bothersome.

It’s not like this story about the crappy Yankees is national news. This isn’t the Super Bowl or NFL Draft. It’s some historical statistics about the incidence of baseball teams making the playoffs after less-than-stellar Aprils. It’s a local story covered by the same angle by both organizations.

How curious.

The stories aren’t exactly identical, though. ESPN.com opts for the long view:

• Of the 144 teams that made it to the postseason [since 1982], only eight (or 5.6 percent) came out of April more than three games under .500.

Whereas SI.com is partial to recent history:

How many teams recover from that kind of terrible start to get into the postseason? Would you believe 4.8 percent? That’s right. From 1996 to 2006, 62 teams played worse than .400 baseball in April. Only three of those 62 teams made the playoffs.

This is remarkable news coverage. Seriously. It’s not just how outrageously obvious both stories are. Wouldn’t you know it, but if you play baseball very poorly you do not have a great chance of making the playoffs! Also, this just in from the Dept. of Sports Cliches and All Things Obvious: winnings games matters!

But it’s also how that obviousness masquerades as something else. I think the assumption is that the actual story of both articles — not winning baseball games hurts a team’s chances of making the playoffs — is covertly obscured by their reliance upon numbers rather than rhetoric, which render the stories somehow “original” or “insightful”. Which is just stupid.

Especially when both websites run the same story on their front page.

Anyway….

1: I really wish I knew that SI.com posted its story first and ESPN.com copied it. All I know is that Tom Verducci filed his story at 11:13am. I saw the ESPN.com page around 2pm, but the article on ESPN.com is not time-stamped. Which means that it could have been written in the three hours after SI.com posted its story. But I doubt it. Maybe the editors for both websites called each other last night and decided to mail it in today. Just run the same stuff, take the day off, and return tomorrow. Who knows.

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