Friday, August 29, 2003
Going bi-coastal on the bias
By Jim Caple Page 2 columnist
I grew up in Washington, lived in Minnesota for a decade and then moved back to Seattle. So, like Fred Willard says in "Waiting for Guffman," I consider myself bi-coastal, "if you consider the Mississippi River one of the coasts."
And let me tell you, having been ignored on both the great West Coast and the Mississippi Coast, I know there is definitely an East Coast bias.
All the evidence you need.
I could give you dozens of specific examples, but I was too busy last night reading the cover stories in ESPN the Magazine and Sports Illustrated about New York tight end Jeremy Shockey. After that, I had to read all the stories previewing this weekend's HUGE series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. And then I had to watch "Friends'' (set in New York) and "Will and Grace" (set in New York). And then I had to watch reruns of "Seinfeld'' (set in New York), "The Cosby Show" (set in New York), "All in the Family" (set in New York), "The Dick Van Dyke Show'' (set in New York), "I Love Lucy'' (set in New York) and "The Honeymooners" (set in New York).
And after that, I really was going to look up some evidence of the New York bias, but I got distracted reading the latest issue of the New Yorker.
Most people west of the 212 area code are convinced there is an East Coast bias because New Yorkers are obnoxious, arrogant, self-important and full of themselves, while Bostonians are obnoxious, full of themselves and convinced that no one has ever suffered like they have. I know better. New Yorkers ARE obnoxious, arrogant, self-important and full of themselves while Bostonians ARE obnoxious, self-important, full of themselves and convinced that no one has ever suffered like they have. But that isn't why there is an East Coast bias.
The East Coast bias isn't malicious. It's just that the East Coast bases its interest in sports on the exact same three criteria everyone else does: Location, location, location. To paraphrase former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill's famous description of politics, "All sports is local."
New Yorkers care most passionately about New York teams, and Bostonians care most passionately about Boston teams. The only difference between them and everyone else in the country is that the major media companies and publishing companies are in or near New York and Boston, so they feel compelled to share their interests with the entire nation.
It's all perfectly understandable. Are East Coast TV producers and magazine editors more interested in the Yankees and the Red Sox? Of course they are. They see them play on local TV. They listen to them play on the radio. They read about them in the local paper. They attend their games. So naturally they're more interested in those teams, just as I'm more interested in the Mariners and the Washington Huskies. So when it comes times to assign stories, those are the teams they think about first.
That's why we get two national cover stories in the same month about a tight end with two career touchdowns, and biographies on Lenny Dykstra.
There also is this time zone thing. Barry Bonds is the greatest player in baseball; but as long as he continues to insist on hitting his home runs after New Yorkers have gone to bed, a lot of people are going to miss his dramatics. He hits them too late to make the late news back East. In this era of 24/7 coverage, it's old news by the time New Yorkers wake up the next morning.
Trust me, you would see and hear and read much more about West Coast and Mississippi Coast teams if ESPN was located in Sacramento instead of Bristol.
There are regional biases everywhere, even if we can't all inflict them on everyone else the way the east does. Out here on the other coasts, we care passionately about our local teams and ignore the East Coast teams as best we can. Chicago fans pay attention to Chicago teams. Colorado fans pay attention to Colorado teams. San Francisco fans pay attention to San Francisco teams.
I have no idea what North Dakota fans pay attention to, or why.
And now if you'll excuse me, I have to watch a recap on the New York City blackout.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com.