If Only Our Government Got As Much Coverage As Football

Bison football has become such a big deal in North Dakota that the media is now running coverage about how much coverage the football team gets.

It’s all very meta. Not that it ever takes much for the Fargo media to descend into an orgy of preening. Everything from the Fargo television show on FX to ESPN GameDay visiting the city has inspired endless coverage.

Social media. Live blogs. Etc., etc.

Meanwhile, next month North Dakota’s 2015 legislative session will begin, and it’s going to be a crucial one. The state is at a bit of a crossroads. We may well be at the tail end of the oil boom. Oil prices are bring a huge amount of uncertainty to the budget process. There’s a war emerging between county governments and the state prison system over jail space.

Rep. Scott Louser during an event here in Minot today predicted a spike in the number of introduced bills, suggesting that lawmakers could see over 900 (see past trends here).

The Legislature will works its way through policy which will touch the lives of every person who lives and/or works in the state. But guess how many reporters will be in Bismarck to cover it all?

Not nearly as many as will be covering the Bison playoff game tonight.

The Bismarck Tribune has a dedicated capital reporter as does the Forum News Service and the Associated Press. There are maybe a few others from other organizations who will be at the session providing one level of coverage or another, but suffice it to say that the session will get nowhere near the scrutiny this year’s Bison football season has received. Or the UND hockey season.

But who deserves the blame? Not the folks in the media, I think. They’re simply responding to market demand.

The problem, I hate to say, is us. Our society has poor priorities. It’s why sports coverage trumps political coverage (at least at the local level). It’s why academics take a back seat to athletics at our universities.

Talking about politics – the process through which we set the laws we live by – is often seen as an impolite topic. I hear talk radio hosts actually apologize for focusing too much on politics.

But sports are always a safe topic.

Not that the sports obsessed are ever afraid to express their opinion of the things our policymakers do after the fact. They can’t be bothered to contact our lawmakers, or to show up at their local park board meeting, but they’ll sure weigh in if some issue manages to crack through the shell of their fanaticism.

I get that sports are fun. I’m a baseball fan myself. I watch or listen to just about every New York Yankees game, every year. I understand the appeal.

Let’s face it, though. Your average citizen is more likely to know how many yards-per-carry the running back on their favorite football team is averaging than who their elected lawmakers are or what tax bracket they’re in.

And that’s sort of sad.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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