Published March 19, 2011 - 9:05am
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We are increasingly moving towards a sports world where talking about sports is just as big (if not bigger) than actually watching sports. Whether it’s the traditional media formats of television and radio, or the newer forms of media in blogs and Twitter, the conversation over sports has never been more intense and more dominating.
As media companies work towards bigger and better ratings to fuel bigger and better revenues, sports leagues as a whole also do the same.
One major contributor that has proven over and over again to help fuel interest and ratings is controversy.
Exhibit A: Erin Andrews
The superstar ESPN reporter Erin Andrews has been big for several years as a result of her personality and solid reporting on the sidelines of college football games. There was one event, however, that arguably helped catapult her career even further: the peeping tom scandal where some pervert took pictures of Erin Andrews in her hotel room.
While I’m not suggesting that this was a positive thing in any respect (it was a horrible, disgusting act), and I’m sure EA wishes it never happened, the controversy of the event absolutely made her a bigger name. She went on to be a main part of a season of Dancing With The Stars, was “promoted” to anchor part of ESPN’s College GameDay, and now even does work on ABC’s Good Morning America. She’s bigger than ever.
Interestingly, EA looks to be getting better at the publicity game as she has helped fuel the latest rumor that she might be the next Bachelorette.
Exhibit B: NCAA College Basketball Selection Committee
While not exactly controversial in the same sense as the previous example, everyone loves to argue about who gets left out of the tournament each year in March Madness. The Selection Committee makes their picks and there are always some teams on the outside looking in that feel like they should have been in the tourney.
You could make the case that the NCAA likes this annual conversation because it draws more interest to the tournament (not like it needs much help). The teams that people argue shouldn’t have gotten in now maybe get a few extra eye balls when viewers want to see if they were deserving.
Exhibit C: The BCS
Nothing is more hotly debated than the top two teams in the country every year in college football. It’s the same discussion every single year, just with different teams. It’s both an absolutely maddening conversation but also thoroughly enjoyable, and I’d be pissed if it went away.
The controversial manner in which the top two teams get “selected” to play in the national championship game fuels countless hours of sports talk radio material and even more hours of college football banter between friends. It absolutely fuels interest in college football.
The BCS is genius in this respect. How many times did I write about Boise State last year (before they lost) saying how they are terrible and undeserving of consideration in the national picture? Plenty of times. It fueled my interest in Boise State. I wanted to watch them more and see them with my own eyes so I could back up my argument (or ruin it).
The bottom line is that controversy absolutely fuels interest in anything, especially sports. Whether it is the exclusive membership rules at Augusta or sketchy text messages from an iconic NFL QB, controversy leads to headlines which tend to dominate our discussions and our focus. It’s a whole new world in sports.