Sports and Politics: Pondering the Purpose of Pundits

I work tech support for a cable company, which means that there are test televisions throughout our offices so that we can “monitor” the cable signals and make sure all of the channels are working, or at least have the ability to test when we get reports of issues.  Ostensibly, that’s what they are there for. And, yes, occasionally different agents will walk up to the television and change the channel to check on something, or go into the settings of the cable box to see what a customer is explaining.  But, mostly, these televisions are just an excuse for the guys to watch sports.  The tvs are almost always tuned to some sports channel or another, and I swear I have seen more sports in the last seven months than I ever have in my life, not being someone who is all that into watching sports.

But what I don’t get much is the idea of the pundit or commentator.  Sure, I realize why we need a commentator during a sporting event, someone to narrate and explain what is going on, but what is their job during the off times, during those hours and day when there is no game being played?  From what I can tell, they just like to hear themselves talk.  And they talk about the most obscure, random things that could even possibly be related to the sport in question.  Two to three days before the game they spend all of their time talking about the upcoming matchup – comparing the two teams, analyzing players’ past performances, guessing and making predictions about what the outcome of the ‘big game’ will be.  And then we have the big game.  And for two to three days after the game they spend all of their time rewatching and analyzing and explaining just how this team lost or that team won, or how this team might have, should have, could have done this or that or the other.  It seems like 90% of their job is speculation, making things up and speaking as if it were fact, or as if it mattered.

And then, recently, we have been seeing the exact same thing on the ‘legitimate’ news channels as well, with regard to the presidential election.  For weeks before each debate or poll or speech or event or whatever, they talk about the possibilities, about what could happen, about what should happen, about what might happen if this, that, or the other thing may possibly happen.  And then we have the big debate, or the rally, or the latest poll and they begin the whole process of analyzing, explaining, defining and redefining, explaining why this does or does not make a difference in the long run.  Honestly, though, it really is a lot of hot air.  They speak a lot while not really saying anything important or relevant.

What is the point?  Why do we have so many pundits on our television?  What is it about sports and politics that demands that we analyze and over-analyze every detail, until it no longer matters?  And more importantly, how do I get a job where all I have to do is ramble on about meaningless details and my opinion about how important they really are?  And at what point do we realize that polls and surveys have no actual meaning or relevance on anything?

Seriously.  Political polls do no matter. They do not represent what people really think, they represent what people want pollsters to think they think.  And does it really matter weeks and months before election day to know how many people think they may be voting for this guy or that guy?  But they send these polls out every week just so that they have something to talk about on their 24 hour news channels when they run out of real news to report.  What really bothered me was the Fox News polls, and their subsequent reporting of their results.  So, Fox News asks its viewers to tell them what they think about certain issues and candidates, and then Fox News reports the results of these ‘surveys’ as if they somehow have bearing upon the election.  As if we did not all already know exactly how most viewers of Fox News were voting anyway.

Basically, I guess I’m saying that I’m jaded – not with politics, I enjoy politics and discussing politics, but I am jaded with pundits.  People who pretend to know and demand that I pay attention to their opinions disguised as news or facts or meaningful speech.  I enjoy talking about politics with my wife and with coworkers and with friends.  I even enjoy reading news online from a lot of different sources.  I will admit, that I will probably be watching CNN or something tonight as the polls close and we start to get results, hoping that maybe we can know who the next president will be without having to wait weeks and months for it to all be decided.  We’ll see what happens, then, I guess.  But, either way, those talking heads on television will have plenty to fill their mouths with for another four years.

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