Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anyone hear if Wartburg won the national wrestling championship?

Seriously, did you catch this blog's feedback section turning into a debate on what schools, sports, and athletes deserve more media attention? I appreciate the passion, both from the defenders and attackers.

This spirited discussion has no right or wrong answer, so I won't pretend I know exactly what we should and shouldn't report. However, like you, I do have opinions. My views are shaped by both research and observation.

Here's the cold reality: no matter what we cover, someone gets left out, and they're not happy. There is absolutely no way to please everyone.

The challenge with most all college sports in our state beyond D1 (FBS) football and men's basketball is that you are dealing with niches of strong support. For anyone to suggest that our news or SoundOFF audience is as interested in Wartburg wrestling as they are Drake's amazing basketball season is ludicrous. Setting aside the fact Wartburg's not even in our viewing area, and Drake is, it's not even remotely debatable. Make no mistake, you can find a Wartburg wrestling fan who cares about the Knights as much as any one fan cares about the Bulldogs, but when it comes to mainstream interest, it's a no-doubter.

There are people all over the metro area, and beyond, talking Drake hoops right now. Thousands of them are folks who don't typically follow sports. I know because I hear from them all the time. This team's once-in-a-lifetime season excited people in ways that take the story beyond sports fans.

Remember a few years ago when Northern Iowa played in the national championship football game? I thought that was a huge deal, and it no doubt was to Panther fans, but most other people just had a passing interest, another source of Iowa-based pride. I'll never forget being in a packed bar/restaurant the night of the title game. There were a couple hundred fans on hand, and only about six of us paying close attention to the game. What do you think that bar would be like if Iowa or Iowa State played for the national championship in football? This state would revolve around that game the entire week. The same will happen the next time Drake, Iowa, or Iowa State play in a Final Four. There would also be a lot of interest and pride in our viewing area---Central Iowa---if UNI made the NCAA basketball semifinals, but it would not be like the other three. That's not disrespecting UNI, it's the reality of where we live and where the most passion lies.

Women's basketball is another tough call. This week, I heard from a really angry fan of Amy Stephens' Bulldogs. This viewer was offended at our lack of coverage for the ladies in comparison to the men. I can't tell her she's wrong to feel the way she does, because she's entitled to her opinion, but the reality is a much smaller percentage of people get really worked up and passionate about the women's teams. Iowa and Iowa State just made the NCAA Tournament. How do you think the buzz compares to what it would be like if the men were in?

It's not easy, and no one has the right to say your sport doesn't matter, because it does. It's just a question of widespread interest.

Forget the argument, "well, if the media covered it more, more people would care." Yeah, maybe a few more here and there, but I know from personal experience, we could do nightly stories on Simpson's excellent women's basketball team, or Grand View's baseball team, or Valley's swimming team, and you're still not going to convert people to passion. They either have that or they don't. We're in the business of trying to inform and entertain as many of our viewers at once as possible.

Once in a great while, a story comes along that's so compelling, people who didn't have passion before, suddenly care. Recent examples: Zach Johnson, Shawn Johnson, and the Drake Bulldogs.

I ran track for four years in high school. We were never on a local sportscast. Andy Fales swam in high school---same deal. (I do remember how exciting it was when the local TV stations came to our football or basketball games.) I went to college at a division II school, we were overlooked compared to the big boys. It's not going to change, and it's not the media's fault.

Another argument I often hear is that "these girls (or boys) work every bit as hard as those basketball players you keep showing". True. They do. Members of the marching band, debate team, and student council work hard too. Should we show highlights? With unlimited time and resources, we would. Why not.

The most difficult conversations I have are with proud parents of athletes in sports that receive next to no media coverage. There's no good answer because their kids are no less important than those who play football, but the interest of others is different. I love to run, but I don't generally want to watch others run. (There are exceptions.)

I wish we could be all things to all people. You'd be happier, you'd like me more, and more people would watch our television station. However, we have to make choices every day. Sometimes those choices are dictated by what else is going on. The Barnstormers have a scrimmage Saturday. On some Saturdays we'd be there. This Saturday, there's no chance.

We'll keep doing the best we know how, and the "how" keeps evolving. We're all still learning.

Thank you for your time and thoughts.

What do you say we move this in another direction next time?


Anonymous said...

The Wright Middle School chess team creamed the Brody Middle School chess team and not one word on Sound Off.
Don't make me get lubed on Boones Farm and call your azz!

James said...


I don't envy the decisions that you have to make on a daily basis.

Balance is important. I grew up in the QCA and on the NBC affiliate (KWQC) they have the "Highlight Zone" on Friday nights during HS Football and Basketball season. The entire sports cast is focused on High School sports.

I realize that DSM is a much larger market, and I think that you do a great job, it would be nice to see something similar on WHO.

Anonymous said...

Dang nabbit Keith! You mentioned Wartburg, but you failed to mention every wrestler by name and weight and record and what year they're in!!! Burn in hell you son of a...

Anonymous said...

It's people like our chess fan who don'r really bring anything to this debate. I don't think anyone is asking WHO,or anyone else, to install a correspondent at every school in the state. I also am sympathetic to how much time and personnel is available to cover sports in the state. But my argument is still that when an Iowa team wins a national championship in a "major" sport, they deserve a couple of seconds recognition. I know there is no right or wrong answer, no hard and fast rules,but by having this debate, you may find that there is a greater demand for this type of information than you believe exists.

Anonymous said...

Actually, no, only a handful of people demand it. It's not worth it.

Keith Murphy said...

I agree that Wartburg winning a national wrestling championship deserves, at minimum, a mention... partly because we have a former Knight wrestler who works in our newsroom, and we're all a little scared of him (even though he's a nice guy).

As mentioned, there are no easy answers. Should Northwestern (of Iowa) be a story because the Red Raiders just won an NAIA division II national championship in women's basketball? They don't play in Central Iowa, and I've never heard anyone mention Northwestern in conversation, but Deb Remmerde and company just took the title. They worked hard and won it all.

It happened on a busy day and I don't think Chris mentioned it, but if nothing else, we just got it into the blogosphere, right? Fortunately, SoundOFF helps us catch up on some of these stories that deserve a "thumbs up".

By the way, I'm reminded by your feedback what an awesome game chess is. Seriously. I haven't played in years, but I need to break that back out. It's easy to get into it.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Northwestern. I wasn't aware that they won the championship, but am still proud of them for doing it. I know that in a lot of areas NAIA is looked at as even lower than NCAA D3, but winning a national championship is still a great achievement.

Keith, I agree that Sound Off is a great place to make known these smaller school's accomplishements. I still belive that the more the general public hears of these schools, the more thay will want to know. It's still news, and a lot more positive than a lot of sports news today.

Anonymous said...

Face it Murph, you're never gonna win this argument. Too many ex-wrestlers out there who have always been jealous of the basketball players. Could be a napolean complex, could be the basketball players always got the pretty girls. Some of these guys have issues that can't be resolved without years of therapy.

Anonymous said...

P.S. I'm not knocking all wrestlers. I was one, and it is the most physically demanding I have ever done, including the military and a marathon. I'm just saying there are two major collegiate sports, Football and Men's Basketball. Don't blame Keith Murphy or his staff, blame society.

Anonymous said...

I think this blog has been selected to be the forum on small college coverage because Keith and his crew are more in tune to the public, and less into "we'll do it this way because that's the way it's always been done". And being the D2 football stud he was, he knows what it's like to be on the short end of coverage. I guess that if there is anyone to break new ground, these are the guys to do it.

Anonymous said...

Why are you people talking about chess? You're wasting valuable time that could be spent going over Wartburg's incoming wrestling recruits! That machine runs itself, but they still have some glaring holes to fill!!!