How the Media Shapes Our Opinions

“Your team stinks, and so does your favorite player!” If I had said that while standing in front of an avid sports fan, it would elicit one of two responses. I would either be met with raucous laughter, or be sent reeling from a blow to the jaw. Either way, it would prove a point: like it or not, the media shapes your opinion.

As a man of peace, I’d rather engage in civil, fun debates filled with sarcastic banter, exchanging pros and cons as to why I’m right and they’re wrong, or vice versa. To the die-hard fan, that type of good-natured ribbing would only exist in the recesses of my mind. From the standpoint void of mockery, ill-will or a bare-knuckled brawl, I make this bold statement: I can, and WILL, change your mind. How, you ask? Because I’m writing this and you’re reading it. Because I have a microphone, and people listen. I know that sounds arrogant, but let me elaborate further. I read sports blogs. I’m not just a sports radio host, I’m also a fan. I have pretty strong opinions one way or the other most days, but sometimes I find myself listening to a broadcast and saying “Yep, that’s true!”, when just days before I believed the complete opposite. How did that happen? Was it simply a point of view I hadn’t thought of? Maybe. That would be a legitimate reason, but it’s not always the case. Often times, perception leads to reality, and sometimes that perception is contrived from a few key factors: timing, emotion and insecurity.

Timing

We all lead busy lives. If you’re anything like me, you have a family w/kids in sports. You probably have a full time job and demands that accompany it. You deal with sports practices and games, friends, church and countless other things that require so much attention, your calendar looks like a paint store explosion. Carving time out to enjoy your favorite team compete may be a luxury you don’t have as often as you like, or if you do it’s usually sandwiched in between shuttling the kids off to practice and a never completed honey-do list. As you tumble in and out of your gas hog SUV, which is probably tuned to your favorite sports radio station, you’ll have the game on. Occasionally, you’ll get the intermitent highlight break. It’s during that break where the seeds of manipulation can be planted. Along with the scores, our minds get filled with the emotions of the announcer, whether positive or negative. Later on, when the kids are finally asleep and your spouse is passed out in their chair, you may actually get to watch the highlights you’ve been dying to see since you already know the score. With your brain recalling those highlights, it remembers that passion, that point of view from which you received the information. Don’t believe it? Let’s try an exercise. I’ll name a broadcaster, you give me an adjective to describe them. Vin Scully. Dick Vitale. Brent Musburger. Chris Berman. Keith Jackson. Did words like ‘smooth’, or ‘calm’, ‘exciting’ or ‘annoying’ come to mind? Of course they did. Love them or hate them, they are remembered for their talent, and it’s why we watch or listen, and it’s the same with local sports radio. When certain times of your day are consistently filled with the same voices/opinions, it’s easy to begin to think like they do. After all, why do you keep listening, to be unhappy? Have you ever yelled at your radio?? Really? Me too. Dang it.

Emotion

Those announcers we just mentioned instill something in us, or pull something out of us. Raw emotion drives most of the things we do, and the ways that we think. Life has a habit of doing that to us as well. There are a couple things in life I shouldn’t do. I should never go to the grocery store hungry. I eat poorly, and buy so much food I risk missing my mortgage payment. I should never, under any circumstances, enter an argument while I’m tired. I end up sounding foolish and losing anyway, as well as the inevitable apology it induces. The moral of those little items is that hunger and sleep drive me. I’m emotional by nature, and when passion comes out, for whatever reason, it becomes difficult to tame. In sports, when emotions run high, it’s like a runaway freight train screaming down a hill in a straightaway. And that’s ok. But what becomes of us when our favorite team or player gets spoke ill of? Combustion. Do you ever find yourself spewing expletives that would make sailors and bikers cringe simply because you disagreed with your view? That’s emotion, and obviously, you aren’t buying into their opinion. However, the next time you hear that person talk, do you write them off at the start because you’re still stewing about the last comments? If so, you may have allowed them to shape your opinion….like it or not.

Insecurity

Do you hate to be wrong. I sure do. Are you ever concerned with looking foolish? Me too. Do you ever dread tomorrow’s water cooler chat because you just don’t know as much as the others? Been there before. The media can shape the minds of many sports fans simply by their insecurity from not knowing as much as the deliverer. We’re all gifted with different levels of common sense, although my bride may challenge me on whether I have any. When we aren’t sure about something, and what we read or hear sounds like it could be right, we tend to forego research and tend to agree. Over time, it becomes our opinion.

Let’s try one more exercise, but you have to keep an open mind. I promise I won’t try to hypnotize you…..hey, wake up!!

“Ray Rice is a machine. He’s short and strong, and runs over would-be tacklers. He’s worked very hard at his craft, and is key to the Ravens future success. It’s a shame he’s suspended 2 games due to domestic violence issues, but hopefully, he and his wife will get back on track soon.”

Now, let’s tackle the same topic in a different way, and remember, keep an open mind…..

“Ravens RB Ray Rice will miss the 1st 2 games of the regular season because he allegedly knocked his fiancee unconscious at an Atlantic City Hotel. He may be a good football player, but he’s a bully, abuser and bad husband. She’s the fool who married him after the fact.”

How did each statement make you feel? Angry? Sad? Indifferent? Did the first one make you feel concern for the Ravens when I made the domestic issue the backstory? Did the second want to make you kick Rice out of the NFL (and in the……) AND shake your head at the woman who took him back? If any of these are true, them maybe the way you think CAN be shaped by the media. There is power in words, and combined with environment and emotions, we can possibly be manipulated by them.

Ok, so you’re ready to kill me. You can’t see straight, you want to curse me on social media. If you do, then I’ve done my job, but it’s not what you think. The purpose of this post is to inspire you to think for yourself. If it didn’t change your mind and you are already an independent thinker, then I’m proud of you. Debates are healthy, and should be spirited as long as they are filled with respect. We can agree to disagree, but the bottom line for me is this. YOUR opinions matter, and so do mine, especially when we are our own authors of them. Read. Listen. Agree. Oppose. Either way, don’t let the media shape your mind. Until then, my team will crush yours, and here’s why…..