|East Coast still beast of bias|
By Eric Neel
Page 2 columnist
Does the East Coast Bias really exist?
Is there an East Coast Bias? This is what we're asking? Because that's not a question. It's a yes. It's a duh. It's one of the simple, basic truths.
The Pac-10 gets no respect, the Yankees get shoved down everybody's throats, and Willis Reed's two-bucket hobble in '70 gets more awed love than it deserves.
Those were the core principles of my upbringing, the stuff my daddy whispered in my ear every night before bed -- right after "do unto others" and just before "did you brush your teeth?"
See, I'm an LBC boy originally and a Cali guy still. My people came west three generations ago and have been living under the shadow of the bias (and talking smack about it) ever since.
Which means, I guess, if I listen to the little journalistic integrity demon sitting on my shoulder, that I'm, uh, actually a little biased on this bias question. Which means, I guess, that you can't really go by me, that maybe even I can't really go by me, and that maybe I need to ask around.
I started at the top, with an original SportsCenter guy, and the soul of ESPN integrity, Mr. Bob Ley:
Me: Bob, is there such a thing as an East Coast Bias?
Bob: Absolutely. It exists in a virulent form resistant to all antibiotics. It is a major issue. I grew up and was educated in the East, but I think the first step toward coming clean is recognizing we have a problem.
Me: What's the worst of it?
Bob: The deification of the New York Yankees -- we're just waiting for them to cure cancer.
There it is.
You gonna mess with Bob? I know you're not gonna mess with Bob.
This story's done. The Bias is alive and spreading in America. Case closed.
You're not satisfied. You want a larger sample size, some other voices.
All right. I knew you would.
I went from Bob back home and asked my little girl if the Bias is real. She said "no, Daddy" but I didn't make much of it -- she says "no" to everything but ice cream and the Teletubbies these days.
So I moved on.
Asked a guy I met at the Alibi, a bar downtown where I live. "Oh, it's real all right," he said. And I'm feeling good listening to him, taking comfort in our shared knowledge of the deep truths. But then he headed in a direction I wasn't prepared for, busting out a thesis on "secret radio waves" and "hidden messages." I was hoping he was talking about one of those "buy popcorn now" or "you are thirsty" subliminals they used to flash in the middle of movies, but he wasn't. He was talking voices of the bad men screaming and giggling in his ear. And he wasn't so much talking about the East Coast as he was about the outer limits, if you know what I'm saying.
The search continued.
I talked to Dave Anderson of the New York Times, and he said: "What do you mean by East Coast bias? That never occurred to me, to tell you the truth. At the Times, we consider ourselves a national paper. My whole career I've just written what has been there to be written, I don't care if it's East Coast or West Coast."
Another voice from New York struck the same note: Phil Mushnick, the media critic for the Post, said: "I think the perception of the bias may be driven by an inferiority complex by those outside the East Coast. It's not a real important issue."
Then I though, yeah, that's just what the East Coasters want me to think. I must resist. I must trust my western heart.
So I tried to get back to my roots and called a couple of old friends next. My buddy Brent said, "I got three words for you: Geee-Noooo Toretta." My old friend Wes chimed in with an eloquent riff on how all this zeitgeist nostalgia for the Brooklyn Dodgers was really just a front for East Coast-centrism, just a way of keeping the light of the L.A. years under a Flatbush bushel. And our pal John just said, as he always does, "don't you mean Least Coast Bias?"
Good, clean, definitive stuff from these guys, but these guys are woven out of the same cloth I am.
I needed to reach further out.
How about Ron Rapoport of the Chicago Sun-Times?
"I think there is an East Coast bias. Some of it has to do with time differential. Barry Bonds returns from being with his father, hits an extra-inning walk-off homer and it doesn't make the Eastern papers. That sort of thing. But the worst of it might have come in Ken Burns' baseball documentary. Stan Musial and the Cardinals barely existed with so much emphasis on the New York teams."
Page2's Jim Caple called Stan the Man baseball's most underrated Hall of Famer. How do you think he gets underrated? A little Joe D Bias maybe?
Sorry, I know my vote on this question already has been cast.
I checked with Spicoli who said, "This is U.S. history, I see the globe right there."
Deep, as usual. But not quite on target, as usual.
I talked to Harris K. Telemacher (you know, the weather guy from "L.A. Story" ... no stone unturned, baby), and when I asked him about the bias he just said he'd have "a half-double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon."
I wanted to ask him about the '91 national championship vote in college football. I wanted to ask him whether he thought maybe Bonds got such a cool reception in part because he played in San Francisco. But his mind was elsewhere -- he was in love with a British chick -- he was no help.
Checked with Brian Wilson. You know how that went: "The East Coast girls are hip," etc., etc. "Wish they all could be California girls," etc., etc., which I'm pretty sure is a West Coast Bias thing, actually.
Andy, a Chicago writer I know from school, worked the sarcastic tip for me:
"There's no East Coast bias, Eric," he said. "It just so happens that Americans everywhere agree: Jeremy Shockey is incredibly interesting. He's all we talk about. At work, at the dinner table, at church. Wherever we are, it's the same dialogue: blah blah Shockey blah blah Shockey blah. He's our national tight end."
"This bias question is so pathetically California of you," he added. "Go knit yourself a hemp purse, hippie. Jeremy Shockey is the best there ever was. At anything."
National tight end, hemp purse -- Andy's a funny guy. (You were being funny, right, Andy?)
Elliott, a writer friend in D.C., who grew up in Pennsylvania and lived for several years in New York, said even if it is a thing, he doesn't want to hear it.
"Tighten up, West Coast!" he said. "Too much self-satisfaction and laid-back 'I'm OK, you're OK' attitude are not going to put the kibosh on the mile-a-minute, in-your-face yakkity-yak that keeps the East Coast top of the pile and the center of attention. Plus, we get up, like, three hours before you slackers."
Bam. El's a hard man. Gotta respect that.
And he's gotta respect Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Art said "the bias is less than what it used to be because of 24-7 saturation coverage." But he also said that "despite all our technological innovation, time zones still exist -- that's the logical source of the bias. But the emotional source of the bias is that people tend to be egocentric, and the East Coast media think what happens there is the be all and end all.
"The East Coast does know that L.A. exists, and they've heard something about San Francisco, most of it unpleasant. As for Seattle, they still think we have flaming arrows in our covered wagons."
As for San Francisco, I asked Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Ray, does the East Coast Bias really exist?
"There can be no question," Ray said. "Ignoring the obvious curvature-of-the-earth and time zone issues, I refer you to the Ken Burns baseball epic, in which the entire history of the game is told through the evil prisms of New York and Boston, and through the satanic vision of Doris Kearns Goodwin."
"Sounds bad," I said. "What can be done about it?"
"The solution, of course, is to make the earth turn backward," Ray said. "Unless de-population of the entire nation east of St. Louis would work better. A third option -- to make people in our business stay up late once in a while to watch a game that might happen to end after midnight -- is clearly not feasible."
Ray got me all riled up. He had me thinking about going Superman on this thing -- save Lois from the crevasse, save the western half of the country from the big, bad bias, sign a major deal for a sequel -- I was flying.
And that's the key, I think. That venom in Ray's voice tells you all you need to know about the Bias. Whether it's real or not doesn't matter. What matters is that conspiracy, suspicion, envy and resentment fuel fandom and rivalry, make the juices flow, transform us all into something hungry, devoted, and not-quite-rational. In the West, the East Coast Bias theory keeps us edgy and mean. In the East, the East Coast Bias theory fills folks with a healthy disdain for their western brethren.
Why are we spending a week talking about this Bias on Page 2? Because the Bias is good, because we need the Bias, we want the Bias. We want to spurn and be spurned, we want to fear and loathe.
Eric Neel is a regular columnist for Page 2 -- and, yes, he lives in California.