And that sucks
This isn't necessarily an article staking an opinion as to whether sports have become politicized, per say. It seems pretty clear that they have.
This isn't necessarily an article staking an opinion as to whether that politicization is a good or bad thing. I happen to think it is a good thing, but that's the extent of my thoughts on the matter. If you disagree with that opinion, there are no amount of my words that are going to change that.
Instead this is an article hoping that sports can at least avoid the extreme polarity with which politics are now discussed. In the world of politics, every news story is black and white, liberal and conservative, night and day. Someone looking for a nuanced take that balances both sides has to go out of their way to find an outlet like KCRW which releases their “Left, Right and Center” podcast once a week. Even then, the listener can usually guess which way the “center” guest leans within the first segment.
The increasing polarity in which sports “takes” are being cooked up became increasingly evident in the wake of the Kevin Durant news on Monday. As soon as the news came out, there were immediately two camps: The writers saying that Durant took the easy way out and if (or more likely, when) he wins a title it will be cheapened; and the writers telling those writers they are absurd, and that Durant is simply doing whatever any of us would do in our own profession, and he doesn't have to answer to sports writers who aren't impressed. To make matters worse, the two camps seem, for the most part, to be split along political lines, with conservatives taking the “Durant took the easy way out” stance, and liberals taking the “don't tell him what to do” stance.
The debate was so strongly split that even writers that (thankfully) took a different angle for their KD article (because every sports writer had to have one) felt the need to chime in on Twitter, or in a lone paragraph in their article, on where they came down on the debate.
The increased polarity in politics has been a phenomenon that scholars are only just starting to analyze, and is likely to not have a solution any time in the immediate future. Ask conservatives and they will say President Obama has overreached on his executive power time-and-time-again during his time as President. Ask liberals and they will say he had no choice but to do so with the Republican-controlled House looking to antagonize the President every chance they had. Either way, it's hard to imagine presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump, saying “Islam is peace,” while visiting a mosque, as Republican President George Bush did just six days after the September 11th attacks. It's just as hard to imagine presumptive Democratic nominee, Hilary Clinton, following in the footsteps of her husband's policy of cutting welfare programs when Bill was in the Oval Office as a Democrat.
Sports isn't quite at the level of politics yet – most of the articles you read on Durant will have a bit more nuance to them – but it's not hard to see the sports media landscape devolving into two entrenched sides that look a heck of a lot like the current political scene.
For those who want sports and politics totally separate this will be devastating, but even for those who think sports can be a vehicle for political commentary, this will be bad news. Our current political scene is a moribund deathscape, a land where subtlety goes to die, and conversations are made up entirely of two sides screaming while never listening to each other.
Let's make sure this doesn't happen with sports. Writers need to feel that they can add a little of each side to their article without feeling like they're going to be called wishy-washy. Readers need to seek out both sides, or maybe even better, find the articles that aren't so entrenched in one side of the debate (they are out there), and give those writers the clicks instead.
It may be too late for politics, but it's not too late for sports. Let's swing back to level-headed.