SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05: TV personality Steve Levy attends ESPN The Party on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN)
Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN
Photo: Mike Windle/Getty Images for ESPN

ESPN anchor: ‘We’ve been allowed to become more like a fan’

Steve Levy says SportsCenter anchors are allowed to act like fans now, unlike when he started on the show 25 years ago. 

How do you feel about that?  

I like it, but first here’s what Levy said during an interview with Mason native Dan Patrick, who is a former SportsCenter anchor: 

“You’re in essence allowed to root for your team openly on the air. That’s been a big change. We’ve become, or been allowed to become, more like a fan, openly rooting for your team or your city… 

This gets at a larger issue for the sports media today, an interesting evolution happening at multiple levels. 

I’ve come to believe bias gets a bad rap in our business. 

Knowledge is necessary to be an informed reporter or columnist. 

Not to oversimplify things, but you can’t tell the correct story without knowing what’s going on. 

Knowing things inevitably leads to developing opinions, at least for people with any sort of intellectual curiosity (that’s a good thing to have, by the way), and getting those opinions along with the news of the day can be very useful to readers/viewers. 

How and when to share these viewpoints can become complicated quickly, but I still believe reporters who become knowledgeable on a topic (this is ideally all reporters, of course) can offer more than just a regurgitated version of what we have learned — even if they have to lead with just the facts. 

Of course, what Levy was describing to Patrick on Tuesday isn’t quite the same thing I just described. 

A SportsCenter anchor isn’t doing the same job as a traditional reporter or a columnist (or someone who does video commentary). 

Anchors are more sharing than breaking news, generally. They are there to tell viewers what happened, and to do it in a fun way when possible. 

It makes more sense for them to be rooting along with the viewers when the opportunity arises. It’s humanizing and memorable. That’s good for the people on either side of the screen. 

Plus while we’re throwing around the “i” word (intellectual), pretending anchors, reporters and writers don’t have opinions is intellectually dishonest. 

Viewers/readers know the score — why lie to them? 

Besides, the public is likely to perceive biases even when they’re not there, so there’s no sense in running from it anymore. Better to get them out in the open in that case. 

In all of this, there’s one thing to keep in mind: Regardless of one’s viewpoint, there is no substitute for telling the truth. 

In this day of hot takes and never-ending spin cycles, nothing beats honesty. 

As messy as the sports media industry picture has gotten in the age of the Internet (and especially social media), I still believe if we stick to that, we’ll be OK, whether those truths are hard, light-hearted or somewhere in between. 

No need to check your fandom at the door. 

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