“Bias” is a word that has lost all meaning in public discourse. This is almost entirely because of social/political reactionaries who use it as a cudgel against logical, fact-based opinions that don’t support their worldview and preferred narratives.
They scream “biased!” in an attempt to discredit anyone with an opinion they don’t like and thus avoid the cognitive dissonance that can arise from engaging legitimate opposing views intellectually. For these people there can be no sincere, considered opinions that contradict their own; there are only people who are too biased to see the Real Truth, which of course always supports their opinions.
It’s no surprise this phenomenon has spilled over into sports fandom, which features the same kind of mindless tribalism that fuels reactionary politics. Sports might be plagued even more by these impulses because even thinking people can get a bit nutty when it comes to rooting for their teams.
That brings us to CBS commentator Gary Danielson, who takes a lot of flak from Alabama fans who accuse of him of being "biased" against the Crimson Tide. Danielson told al.com that the criticism bothers him:
The duo of play-by-play man Verne Lundquist and analyst Gary Danielson has been broadcasting games together for eight years. Danielson, a Purdue graduate, has been calling college games since 1991. His hyper-sensitive detractors say he's biased and wants Alabama to lose.
Of course it's absurd, but he hears it.
"It frustrates me that I don't do a good enough job that people actually think that I care about one team more than another," Danielson said by phone this week. "I don't think that's their problem. It might be partly, but it frustrates me that I can't do a good enough job getting my communication skills to go across the airwaves."
I’m hoping Danielson doesn’t really believe it’s his fault that Alabama fans (or fans of any other team) accuse him of bias. There is no way he could convince people who believe he’s against their team that he’s not, except perhaps openly rooting for their team or being over-the-top rosy in his analysis of it.
And even that tact can backfire if the temperature of fans is running cold against their team. You frequently see that any time fans become restless about their coach. I've noticed, for example, Georgia supporters who rejected criticism of the Bulldogs now view any positive assessment of Mark Richt as coddling him.
It’s relatively harmless if fans believe media are biased against their team. That's part of the often-irrational fun of sports. But it's problematic when this tendency for fans to believe their teams are beyond reproach and critics are just biased leads them to form a collective psychosis about issues more important than opinions about a sports team.
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