In late November 2010, I attended a discussion panel featuring renowned sportscaster Bob Costas in which he and three other panelists discussed the current and future state of sports. (Full discussion can be seen here.) In response to what is most different about the world of sports today as compared to previous generations, all the panelists unanimously agreed that it was the role the media plays in sports. Said Bob Costas, "Watch ESPN from noon until five. There are a half dozen or more shows which take the same ten or twelve topics, just with different panelists, and they present the same questions, all of which are ginned up to be more and more provocative. The idea that any adult is in a state of high dudgeon over a dozen different sports topics is preposterous."
Now, obviously big-market teams with geographic fan bases like the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and Mets are always going to have more media coverage than your average sports team. However, the exposure of the problems surrounding the New York Mets this spring has reached an entirely and absurd new level. Between ESPN, SNY, talk radio, blogs, message boards, and daily conversation, I am sick and tired of hearing how the Mets are going to be awful this year and how we should already be looking to 2012. Typically, spring training is supposed to bring about a time of positivity and happiness. No matter the extent of your team's success or failure from the previous season, spring training is a time for clean slates. However, in just the past three weeks, I have been bombarded with more negativity from people regarding the Mets than I've ever seen in my life. Yes, it is certainly true that between injuries and financial troubles, the Mets are having a much more eventful spring training in 2011 than any team should ever have. But is there a chance that the second-by-second scrutiny of the media is doing more to provoke the fan base to the point of hopelessness than to report the reality of the state of the Mets' clubhouse?
Among the dozens of articles and reports I read related to the Mets on a daily basis, there are usually a few mentions of the large amount of positive energy within the clubhouse. Especially with all the young talent the Mets have in players like Josh Thole, Ike Davis, and Jon Niese, the team is extremely eager for opening day and ready to surprise their opponents. While it is rarely ever an indication of success in the regular season, the team has shown signs of good baseball over the past few weeks in Florida, including overcoming a four-run deficit in the ninth inning against the Atlanta Braves on Monday afternoon.
Unfortunately, these are not the stories you see on the front pages of the sports section. You see that Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez were released, the Wilpons are in extreme financial debt, and Carlos Beltran is having difficulty overcoming his knee injuries. Of course, these are all worthwhile stories to report on, and as my high school English teacher once told me, "No one wants to open a paper and read 'Everything's Great.'" But journalists and news reporters have a responsibility to give the whole story, not just the part that will bring in the most revenue.
Bottom line: I am looking forward to opening day. It's been five months since I've seen a baseball game that had actual importance, and even if the Mets really do turn out to be everything the media portrays them to be in 2011, I'm going to keep rooting for them day in and day out until season's end. As we saw with the San Francisco Giants in 2010, baseball is a game in which the best team does not always come out on top. I'm not suggesting the Mets will win the World Series, but I can dream, can't I?