The media’s job is to report on stories and uncover new information to bring to the public. At times the media does a great job of doing exactly that, except they focus a majority of their time focusing in on the East Coast. This is extremely prevalent when it comes to sports. The term “East Coast Bias” is known by anyone that follows sports on a consistent basis. It is so well known that it even has a page on Wikipedia. Wikipedia defines East Coast bias as the “alleged tendency for sports broadcasting and journalism in the United States and Canada to give greater weight and notoriety to teams and athletes on the East Coast of their respective countries than those on the West Coast”. I personally could not agree with that statement more.
It’s no secret that ESPN, the self-proclaimed World Wide Leader in Sports, covers and glorifies teams on the East Coast way more than they do with teams on the West Coast. Just take a look at this screen shot which led off the broadcast from a 2009 episode of Sportscenter. They are clearly obsessed with the Red Sox and Yankees. Anytime they get a chance to air a game between those two teams, they do. I do understand some of the reasoning for ESPN choosing to cover those teams and other teams on the East Coast more often than teams on the West Coast. East Coast teams bring in more ratings. If you were a network and you could make more revenue by putting on teams on the East Coast that would garner more ratings, you would do it. The higher the ratings the more advertising dollars the network brings in, bottom line. MLB Announcer for FOX and perennial homer, Joe Buck, had a good quote about exactly that. He states, “Fox is trying to run a business and when you have the Yankees on, when you have the Red Sox on you’ve got these teams people watch. That’s when you get the higher ratings and that’s what they’re basing their ad rates on.”
If you take a look at the MLB World Series ratings for the last decade it’s a fact that when East Coast teams are in the game, the ratings are higher. The 2012 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers set a record low for television ratings. The previous low before that was a tie between the 2008 World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays (which was delayed multiple times due to inclement weather) and the 2010 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Texas Rangers. The highest rated World Series in the last decade was the 2004 World Series which marked the Boston Red Sox’s first World Series win since 1918 and the 2009 World Series when the New York Yankees won their 27th championship.
There are many reasons, beyond ratings, why the East Coast gets so much more notoriety than the West Coast. The time zone plays a overwhelming factor into this discussion. Many writers or sportscasters aren’t awake to see what happens on the West Coast. Baseball games that start at 7:05 PM out here, don’t get underway until 10:05 PM out there. That usually means that by the time the game is over, a majority of the population is fast asleep. The Oakland A’s played a 19 inning game a few weeks ago that didn’t end until well past 1 AM PST which means some people on the East Coast were just waking up as the game here was finishing. If this was a Red Sox or Yankees game, Sportscenter would have been giving updates all night but since it happened out here and so late at night, it didn’t even make the East Coast newspapers.
Most of the East Coast bias blabber is just that, ways to vent about not getting the respect teams and athletes deserve. But what happens when that blabber really does cause people or teams to lose out on awards or recognition they are deserving of. Last Friday the NHL announced the finalists for the league’s MVP and two players from the Chicago Blackhawks were left off the list and the three people in the running are from the Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins, and New York Islanders. When this was announced many players went to the media and Twitter to express their displeasure. Ryan Getzlaf of the Anaheim Ducks told the media, “We were pretty well aware that it was going to be all East this year. That’s just the way it is.”
Is there anything really that can be done about the East Coast bias? I’ve been a sports fan my entire life and having lived on the West Coast that entire time, I can honestly say that I don’t think anything can and will be done about it. It’s something that you just learn to deal with. It’s not the end of the world that teams don’t get covered as much as they should on a major network like ESPN. Thankfully in most regions there are RSNs, Regional Sports Networks, which you can watch which cover the teams you love in depth. ESPN will always be the leader in sports but maybe they should change their motto to “ESPN – The East Coast Bias Leader in Sports”.