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?