Saturday, November 20, 2010

Miracles!

My first thought on this one was -- well, that's a novel bit of restraint, isn't it? Someone's instinct was to proclaim State's not-quite-tying catch a miracle, but cooler heads prevailed and it was downgraded to "nearly miraculous."

It's not a perfect solution. Reporting on sports near-miracles still entails some assumptions about miracles, and miracles take a lot of the fun out of watching the stuff in the first place. (You may conclude from Bucky Dent's home run that the world is a cold, random and luckless place, but you may not conclude it is governed by magic.) But then I was reminded of the same paper's treatment of -- wow, could it be a Carolina game from just a few months back?

To recap, then: Carolina rates a "miracle comeback" for dropping a pass in the end zone, then dropping another pass in the end zone. (Either one would have tied the game, but at the standard exchange rate of 6 points for a touchdown, neither would have won it; even if the same pass had been dropped twice, it wouldn't have been the "winning TD.") The farmers get a "nearly miraculous" for actually catching a pass in the end zone (against, ahem, we have to point out, Carolina, whom they went on to beat). Can you start to imagine why some people out there in readerland might suspect a bit of a double standard?

We'll never entirely erase such perceptions, even if we do stop enthusiastically fueling them. There's a reason that college football and the Fractious Near East are the two areas in which the "hostile media effect" was first demonstrated. But we can try to damp things down a little, and banning miracles -- period, without exception, under all circumstances -- would be a start.

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