Sunday, June 1, 2008


Cyclops thinks you are stupid.

We now interrupt the 2008 French Open for a Stupid Headline Alert.  I missed much of the first week of the French due to work obligations. Copious amounts of rain means I didn’t miss much. But CNNSI didn’t see it that way. The American sports website ran two gigantic headlines during the tournament’s first three days. They were:

“Huge American Breakthrough at French.”


“Federer and Nadal Survive Upset Bids.”

How are these statements wrong? Let us count the ways.

Blake Wins First Round. I was skeptical of any huge American breakthrough seeing as how the first round hadn’t even been completed yetWinning a first round match isn’t a real breakthrough. But click through to the tennis page and the title became “American breakthrough” minus the “huge” qualifier. Click through again to the actual article and the headline was “Blake’s breakthrough.”

Ugh. Finally. The headline should have been “Blake wins first round.” End of story. So desperate are they to make every tennis headline an American headline that they exaggerate routine wins.

Blake Needs Higher Standards. Blake winning a first round in a grand slam should never really be a story, no matter how bad his previous records on clay.

The headline is overly-desperate. True, Americans have sucked hard at the French in recent years. But I’d avoid lavishing praise on the US players for winning single rounds, or even a few. That’s setting the bar too low and it’s a betrayal of all the Americans who went before our current crop of bad players.

Federer Wins in Four Sets. There was a time when Federer losing a set would be a headline in and of itself. But that time isn’t now, and it has never been that way at the French, which Federer has never won. Consequently, Rog beating Montanes 6-7, 6-1, 6-0, 6-4 is not an “upset bid.” And there’s nothing to “survive” if, after losing a close first-set, you bash your opponent’s head in during the final three sets.

Nadal Routines Unknown Frenchman. In tennis we use routine as a verb, and it applies in situations where the match was both easy and unremarkable. Nadal beat Nicolas Devilder 6-4, 6-0, 6-1. The only thing to survive about Devilder’s game is his surname. Nicolas the Devil should be a player you need a few prayers to survive, but using this logic Ana Smashnova would be the number 1 player too.

In conclusion:  

There are four-set matches that are indeed upset bids. That applies only to four very tight sets. And there are three-set matches that a man is lucky to survive. That applies to three tiebreak or 7-5 sets. CNN’s framing suggests that every match between an underdog and a favorite is an “upset bid” from the moment they step on the court. The only way CNN’s headlines make sense is if they apply the same logic to other sports, so that when the Celtics beat the woeful Knicks by 20 they have “survived” the “upset bid.”

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