By Dan Bernstein–
Any time a Chicago sports team is in contention for a title, new eyes and ears are brought to computer screens, papers and airwaves. With them come deep misunderstandings, it seems, of what it is we do in the professional opinion/analysis business, and what should be expected of us.
Let us take a brief timeout from the noise to set some things straight. You may consult the following any time the Bears, Cubs, Sox, Bulls or Blackhawks are vying for something important.
First, we prefer that the Chicago team wins. A high tide lifts all ships in our business, since advertising dollars are the lifeblood of commercial media. Winning means more money for everyone, and money is good.
Beyond that explanation, which some may view as cold or cynical, know this: most of us working at this job in Chicago grew up here. The Walter Payton poster each of us cherished may now be rolled up in an attic or crawlspace of our childhood home, but it’s there – just as that innocent, emotional connection with a team still exists within ourselves. We have done our best while rising through the ranks of reporters, anchors and producers to learn to use our heads more than our hearts, however, developing the unbiased sensibility that ensures clear judgment.
Just as my Monday entry let you know directly, there are times and places for certain feelings to emerge — as when sharing sports experiences with our kids, for one example — but we have jobs to do.
Second, it is not our responsibility to cheerlead. Do not expect us to think the Bears are as good as you think they are, or to be as certain of victory. Skepticism, criticism, or questions about your team are not “hatred.” If your team is not favored to win a game, that is not because someone is insulting you personally or challenging your manhood.
Your default setting needn’t be that you are being disrespected when other teams are discussed or praised. Coaches use the “us against them” technique to improve players’ focus during the week of practice and their effort during the game. You are not a player.
It is not our goal to have players, coaches, executives or owners like us, or like anything we say or write. Importantly, too, we are not politicking you, the consumer, for sports-fan “votes” as if in some weird election.
If you want an echo-chamber for your internal pep rally, enjoy the thin treacle of local television. There, they are too frightened to do anything but try to make you as happy as possible, since any responsibility that may have existed in that business to treat you as a being capable of critical thought has long been abdicated.
Third, train yourself to not want such things. Though there may be simple joy in having every positive vibe reflected back at you throughout the journey with your team, those feelings can be superficial and fleeting. Try to find the richer, more textured experience that comes with the consideration of flaws, concerns and potentially-negative outcomes. Knowledge makes the process more fulfilling, and victory sweeter.
Lastly, we do not claim to represent Chicago or its teams, individually or as a group. When out-of-town fans (from both Podunk hinterlands and better-developed areas) call or write with venomous attacks on the media as if on the team, it is utterly without purpose or effect.
To those who already knew all this, we appreciate your patience in this matter.
We now return you to your regularly-scheduled lunacy.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.
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