Tuesday, February 12, 2008

USA Today: A Model For Journalistic Insight

Two People Who Care Too Much About Image

You know what sucks about traveling? Having to read the USA Today. I can't think of another situation in which I might actually sit down and read one of these things, yet for some time now I've been picking this coloring book up every morning and getting through the headlines.

You know what's great about traveling? Getting to read the USA Today. It's stupidity and lack of actual journalism make it a great blog resource.

Exhibit One Million: The Big Ten Image Takes A Tumble:

"The Big Ten Conference is fighting a perception that it's taking a big dive this season, a blow for a conference that has had nine Final Four teams in the last nine years, more than any other conference."

What great about this story is that it's talking about fighting an 'image', not results or stats or actual trends. So how is an image about an entire conference created? Anyone who has followed football for the last couple of years has no doubt been involved in one of these moronic arguments. There are too many ways to measure. Do you look at the best teams? The worst? How many teams don't suck? How many teams make bowls? The always circular logic of who beat who? It's mind bogglingly (a word?) moronic.

Well now that argument is bleeding into basketball, for no other reason than to try and exclude teams from the NCAA tourney because "their conference sucks".

However, basketball attempted, and to some degree succeeded, in solving this problem before the conference freaks turned up the last couple of years. It's called RPI. It's not perfect, but it includes SOS and, for the most part, it's a nice objective tool to use when evaluating each individual team based on their own accomplishments.

But, never mind all that, this is about image, because that's important. There is no better justification for including or excluding a team from the bracket than the public image of their entire 10 to 12 (to 16!) team conference. That's fair.

Of course this entire bit is pointless because image is driving primarily by non-factually based headlines that are published on free newspaper. Free newspapers that are handed out at airports, hotels and offices all over the nation.

So, in effect, the USA Today is arguing with itself.

But, since we should probably talk about something relatively interesting, let's actually look at USA Today's own conference rankings (well Sagarin's, brought to you by the USA Today):


1 PACIFIC-10 84.48
2 BIG 12 82.49
3 BIG EAST 81.86
5 BIG TEN 81.00


3 PACIFIC-10 83.05
4 BIG TEN 82.35
5 BIG EAST 81.64
6 BIG 12 80.35


2 BIG EAST 3.36
3 BIG TEN 82.49
5 PACIFIC-10 80.53
7 BIG 12 80.03


2 BIG EAST 82.77
3 BIG 12 82.46
5 BIG TEN 81.82
6 PACIFIC-10 80.23

So what the hell was the USA Today talking about? The Big Ten has always had crappy teams. I know this because I am a Penn State fan and sometimes we beat Northwestern. That's two right there.

But even still, when was the Big Ten that good that they warrant a front page headline talking about how tarnished their image has become? Finishes since 2004: 5th, 3rd, 4th, and 5th.

It sucks that I do more research than profession writers. But then again I suck at writing, so I guess that tells you something about the industry.


psu2002 said...

i can't tell if she's hot or disgusting

Lowcountry Lion said...

Teams in any sport in the midwest (read the Big Ten and Penn State with the exception being Notre Dame) are not perceived as being "sexy", "hip", or intriguing.

The perception is that the Big Ten teams are boring and the style of ball they play is boring and stale just like the states they hail from; Iowa, Ohio, Minn., Indiana, etc.

That perception is only reinforced when none of the Big Ten teams has or has had a "hip" or charismatic coach(Rich Rod. to Michigan being an a brand new exception) like Pete Carroll, Charlie Weiss, Urban Meyer, etc.

Of course, it certainly doesn't help the conference's image when Ohio State is getting smacked around in MNC games either.

Couple all of that with the obvious resentment of the Big Ten Network from ESPN (Don't tell me it doesn't exist. John Saunders has made his contempt for the Big Ten and it's Network very clear.) and it becomes very clear how and why yahoos from the other conferences and media outlets discuss the Big Ten's "image" problem.

Paterno Lives! said...

I hear you low-c,

I don't remember when the big ten was perceived as such an elite conference. yes they are down, but not any lower than they've been over the past couple of years.

Regarding ESPN, of course they are going to talk shit...the BTN represents a very serious threat to their status as the dominant sports programming provider. If the other 6 power-confs follow suit, ESPN is going to be airing a lot more dart tourneys.

Paterno Lives! said...

edit: other 5, of course.

Nick said...

You didn't include enough colorful graphs to make me read this post, USA Today wins again.