It has long been suspected. Now it is confirmed. It is has long been whispered. Now it is a shout. Jesse Ventura, the governor of Minnesota, got his head into too many hammerlocks when he was Jesse "The Body" Ventura, the professional wrestler. And the guys applying the hammerlocks squeezed too hard, too long, in too sensitive a spot.
The suspicions were partially confirmed a few months ago, when Ventura decided that being governor didn't occupy enough of his time and he would seek additional fulfillment by doing color commentary for XFL football games.
The suspicions were totally confirmed a few days ago, when Ventura blamed the media for the XFL's demise after one inglorious season. "For 12 weeks," Ventura said on his weekly radio show in the Twin Cities, "you had to dig around to try and find a score [from XFL games]. ... And then, lo and behold, the league folds. It's now a lead story on the nightly news and front page of both our newspapers. Tell me that's not media bias."
Okay. I will. Jesse, my man, it's not media bias. The only reason you believe such a thing is that your skull still hurts from Mad Man McGurk or Bennie the Bull or whatever the hell the names were of those other guys in the ring.
First, the XFL got more publicity prior to its first game than any other start-up league in history. What with its ties to the World Wrestling Federation and its promises of more sex and violence than the NFL, the media were all over the new league: news reports and opinion pieces and magazine profiles and TV interviews and radio talk-show segments. True, a lot of the press was negative, but that was all to the good; it made everyone want to watch. The shot-and-a-beer crowd would tune in for the sex and violence, the Chablis-and-brie crowd to shake their heads at the further decline of Western civilization. All the XFL had to do was play football well enough to keep the two crowds awake. It did not.
Second, it is not true that "[f]or 12 weeks you had to dig around to try and find a score." I found scores in the New York papers. I found stats. I found entire articles, sometimes more than one on the same game. If the coverage diminished as time went on, it was because the TV ratings diminished. In other words, guv, the coverage reflected the lessening interest in the XFL; it did not cause the lessening interest. Journalism was doing its job.
Third, of course it was "a lead story on the nightly news and front page of both our newspapers" when the league folded. It was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. So was the founding of the league, which was even more of a lead story for a longer period of time.
I have noticed a surprising thing in my years as a news-watcher: It is the people who get the most publicity who seem to whine the loudest about not getting enough, or not getting the right kind. Or perhaps it's not so surprising; perhaps the publicity-grabbers get so used to their names in print and their images on the screen that even the slightest change throws them off-balance. They are like junkies whose pushers suddenly go away for the weekend.
As much as any man in American public life, Jesse Ventura is a creation of the media. It was the media that put his name in lights for years even though he did nothing more constructive to society than slap around other men in his undies. And it was the media that increased the wattage when he ran for governor of Minnesota, thinking him such a great story because he was such an outsider, so atypical of political candidates, such an intriguing character.
The demise of the XFL was the result of good judgment by football fans, not bias by the media. The demise of Jesse Ventura will be the result of good judgment by everyone who has listened to him over these past few years.
The media will just report it.
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