Blake Bonser   

Dr. Moore       

Comp. Applications for Mass Comm.

November 10, 2001

Sports Media and Early Childhood

Through an entire educational process, teachers and adult figures preach the benefits of teamwork.  Growing up surrounded with social reinforcements such as “there is no ‘I’ in team” and “ TEAM =Together Everyone Achieves More” pushes students to sacrifice personal achievements in favor of working seamlessly with a group.  Growing up with this attitude has left America favoring accomplishments completed by outfits of people rather than individuals.  Nowhere is this more evident that in the field of professional sports.  Turn on the television today and stations such as ESPN, Fox Sports, and Comcast Sports Network overload their schedule with mass amounts of baseball, basketball, football, and other team sports.  While individual accomplishments are still recognized, American media coverage focuses primarily on team sports, leaving individual athletics searching for airtime.

            Originally the main focus was on the lack of coverage in mainstream tennis, but instead of narrowing it down to a single sport, when sitting back and analyzing sports coverage as a whole, it is obvious that all personal sports, not just tennis, suffer from a lack of broadcasting.  A new bunch of questions was generated, and posed to fellow floor residents.  The results were quite a bit more interesting than those from the previous survey.

            Having to throw out past research in light of the updated topic, it seemed the finds were few and far between compared to the previous topic.  But what was uncovered was rather interesting.  While some authors believe team sports in the media is as big as ever (Nauen), still others say its on a decline (Maher).

            A list of questions on the popularity of tennis among a younger audience was made, hoping to find that a lack of facilities and publicity also was a main contributor to the lack of popularity.  The original hypothesis was right in saying that tennis popularity in high school and college is minimal, and kept those questions.  When converting the topic to encompass all one person team sports, a portion of the questions were changed and room by room were distributed to floor mates, answers recorded using a hand drawn table.  For the record, the intended definition of an individual sport is one that may be organized as a team but matchups with opponents are one-on-one.  From this collected data, a table was made in Microsoft Excel, including all of the questions asked and tallying all the answers and turning them in into percentages.  They were then easily turned into graphs using the step by step instructions on Excel’s chart wizard function.

            The results from the posed questions for the most part were not much of a surprise:

Question One:

            Have you ever played a team sport before?

 

Figure One

 
Text Box:

While it might be that expected the “yes” answer would have a couple more responses, the number of people who had played a team sport was double that of those who didn’t.  Afterwards, it was later found that out of the five that answered no to the question, 4 of them had never competitively played any sport, team or not.  These results provide a foundation for the initial statements that teamwork is emphasized over personal accomplishment at an early age.

Question Two:

Have you ever played an individual sport (organized)?

 

Figure Two

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


There were no surprises here.  Growing up and thinking back on opportunities to participate in a sport, activities like basketball or soccer dominated the younger scene, and single activities were rarely offered.  Although more individual sports were offered as time went on, half of the participants who said yes did gymnastics at a young age, only to drop it shortly after.

Question Three:

 

Figure Three

 

As far as individual sports (tennis, golf, etc.) being on television…

 

           

No one has an issue with seeing too much of these sports on television, a problem some have with team sports.  A number of those polled would like to see more televised coverage of individual sports, with tennis leading the way.  But the most common answer supported those who felt apathetic to the issue.  This most likely spawns from a lack of seeing such sports on TV- Out of sight, out of mind.

Question Four:

Figure Four

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This one was a little shocking.  This question could have been thrown out since it pertained to tennis, but the gathered facts supported the thesis.  Every school in the Mountain Valley Conference (my conference) had their own courts, but 67% of those  polled said their high schools did not have on-campus courts.  This shows that the lack of publicity and coverage for professional individual sports trickles down to a high school level as well, and if funding is to be cut in athletics, after women’s, sports like these are first to go.  As not to be one sided, the following question gathers the opposite evidence.

Question Five:

 

Did your high school have all of the following: basketball court(s), baseball field(s), football field(s)?

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure Five

 
 

 


This response supported the hypothesis.  It is very uncommon for a school to lack even one of these programs.  The one person’s institution that lacked one of these facilities went to school in Europe .  This shows that while sports such as tennis and wrestling do exist in schools, they are much less prevalent and are seen as considerably “lower” than the 3 sports mentioned in the question.

Question Six:

                         What was the format of your school’s tennis team?

Girls and Boys

       Teams               X X X X X X X                                                =7

 

 


Just Boys Team

 

 


Just Girls Team

                                   

 

Combined Team

                                X                                                                      =1

  

No Team(s)     

                                X X X X X X                                                    =6

Figure Six

 
 

 


There were more “no teams” than expected, but once again this helps the case.  While a good amount of schools did have girls and boys teams, as illustrated in question 4, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have their own tennis courts.  Plus the one “combined team” shows that a lack of interest forces schools to pool together their tennis players to make a team.

Question Seven:

You are more likely to watch…

 

Figure Seven

 
 

Text Box:

This question reverts back to the media aspect of team and individual sports.  Are people more likely to watch these sports because their the ones televised?  Would this poll have a different outcome if golf was broadcasted as much as baseball?  This may be in part to a combination of a lack of media coverage, juxtaposed with a lack of adolescent exposure.

Question Eight:

Could you name 10 past/present tennis players?

 

Figure Eight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This question was nothing shocking.  It was surprising to see the amount of people who could name that many tennis players.  It’s safe to say that people would have no problem at all naming players in the NFL, NBA, or MLB.

Question Nine:

 

 

In professional football, a player must have one/two feet inbounds for a fair catch?

 

 

 

 

 
The majority of the people polled answered correctly, even then those who seemed less football savvy.  This shows that football knowledge is pretty widespread and even if a person doesn’t follow the game closely.

Question Ten:

 

 

 

 

Figure Ten

 
Text Box:

       In professional tennis to call a ball “in” or “out” they use…

 

This is extremely common tennis knowledge, and the majority got it wrong.  Tennis does it the old fashioned way and uses the human eye to judge ball contact.  It’s odd that people can correctly answer a commonly confused football rule but cannot answer the simplest tennis question.  Mass media makes people aware of team sport rules, while individual sport rules are left to be questioned.

            From this data gathered it can be concluded that the popularity of team sports can be rooted in the adolescent stage.  Team activities are promoted while individual accomplishments are downplayed.  When athletes become of age, the media takes over and brainwashes us with massive amounts of popular sports, all of which happen to be all of the team variety.  Efforts are being made to turn the tides on media coverage.  Although it individual sports will probably never become as big as team ones, channels such as The Golf Channel and The Tennis Channel are now available on many cable networks.  But until individualism is promoted as much as group effort at a young age, mass sports media will continue to be dominated by teams not individuals.

           

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Nauen, Elinor. Rooting for the Owned Team. MediaChannel.  http://www.mediachannel.org/atissue/coveringsports/index.shtml

Maher, John. It all clicks; Television market for 'minor sports' is rapidly expanding, and University of Texas athletic teams stand to gain major share of exposure. The Austin American Statesman. 10 July 2005 . http://web.lexis-nexis.com/universe/document?_m=271569209a1bac0f1b3355d32bf8aa2c&_docnum=14&wchp=dGLbVzz-zSkVA&_md5=b8bb12535f0b173d7a044b4372f094d4