East Coast Bias – Fact or Fiction?

I quite often hear Dodger fans mention an “east coast bias” when responding to articles posted by ESPN, CBSSports, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports, even MLB. I live on the east coast – further east than any point in the United States, in fact. I must admit that I was not aware of an east coast bias in reporting national sporting events. Living within the reporting district naturally makes me less aware of any such bias, perceived or real. I certainly am aware that the Dodgers and other west coast teams do not get as much air time or ink as teams on the east coast. That does not surprise me. However, in the past few months that has changed.

I again encountered the term “east coast bias” with reference to Ken Rosenthal’s recent Are Dodgers Shopping Andre Ethier? article on Fox Sports. I simply saw it as a reasonable question considering the state of flux in which we find the Dodgers. I wondered if the commentary meant that the Dodgers were ‘hands off’ for east coast reporters, or if I was off base by often looking at what Ken Rosenthal was saying or writing, or if Dodger fans were a bit oversensitive; so I decided to do a bit of research into an east coast bias to affirm my position or to refute it.

Fox Sports senior analyst Ken Rosenthal. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports).

Fox Sports senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports).

I quickly found that an east coast bias is not as easy to track down as we might expect. There are differing positions on it, but “east coast bias” has made its way into Wikipedia. That alone suggested to me the creature is out there. The most difficult task was to define it. Does it mean inequality in length of time or numbers of words of reporting? Does it mean a slanted view by reporters, announcers and color commentators in their reporting? Since I am most interested in the Dodgers, does it mean negative reporting when the Dodgers are involved in the reports?

Those questions surely didn’t make it much easier, although I did find that there is an east coast bias in terms of the time allotted to west coast teams. To me that does make sense for a number of reasons.

A quick glance at a population density map reveals that about 50 percent of the population in the United States lives in the Eastern Time Zone. The most densely populated area lies between Boston and Washington D.C. The Pacific Time Zone in the United States contains about 14 percent of the total population of the country. Newspapers, magazines, TV are in the consumer business. They naturally cater to the biggest market available – hence more Yankee and Red Sox news. Sportscaster Joe Buck attributes the shift to the economics of running a business. “If you think there is a perceived East Coast bias, guess what? You’re right. That’s where people are watching, that’s where the numbers are.”

This 2006 population density map clearly shows where most of the people live.

This map clearly shows an east coast bias when it comes to population.

All of the teams in the Mountain and Pacific Time zones were at one point expansion teams. They do not have the fan base of the eastern teams because of tradition. There are generations of fans that have religiously followed the older franchises in sports. There have been slews of kids that grew up eating, drinking, and sleeping their favorite teams for decades longer than those in the west.

The time difference itself is a strong impediment to equality of time in reporting. It is a difference to which I can attest. I sleep through more than one half of the Dodger games played in the Pacific Time Zone. If I am sleeping, then most likely many of the most influential writers are sleeping as well.

If anything draws fans to games or to television and written baseball sources it is winning. A simple rule in sports has always been that winning garners attention. The more you win the more attention you get. That principle even affects the selection of most valuable players, as Dodger fans so well know – Kemp vs. Braun in 2011. Since the Dodgers won their last World Series in 1988, the World Series has been won 11 times by teams in the Eastern Time Zone, 7 by teams in the Central Time Zone and 5 by teams in the Pacific Time Zone. Until the west coast teams solve that inequity, the east coast bias and perhaps more appropriately the east of the Mississippi bias will continue.

Is there an east coast bias by ESPN and other media outlets? The answer, in my opinion, would definitely be in the affirmative, but the argument can be made that it is deserved.

I expect that for some, the reference to the bias in reporting baseball related events comes down to the announcer and color commentator level and how the viewer perceives it. That is, presenting what seems to be a view which favors eastern teams – or not – and attempts to predict the winner by offering reasons to justify that selection. That is much more difficult to pin down, but some writers do offer some examples of what they perceive as one-sided commentary. For example, a claim the Giants had gotten lucky in games one and two of the recently concluded World Series. Even former San Francisco Chronicle writer Gwen Knapp, now writing for Sports On Earth, seemed to reflect a bias when she wrote that the Giants “have been so fortunate in the last week that even their mistakes end up working to their advantage” and “the Giants’ luck took on a paranormal quality late in the NLCS.” Is it a bias? I suspect we all have to decide if the reporting is simply trying to be colorful, is bordering on incompetence, or does it have an east coast bias? Does it make any difference if there is a bias, as we see it? Will the bias affect the outcome of the game?

Was Ken Rosenthal reflecting an east coast bias? I don’t think so. What I do think is that since the Dodgers are now the big spenders on the block, the entire baseball world will wait and watch for them to fail. The Dodgers now garner attention from the east and will continue to do so – win or lose. The attention will not be simply reporting what has happened. It will be pointed, asking questions about what is happening with the Dodgers, speculating on what is going to happen. It may be negative. Much of the negative reporting regarding the Dodgers in the past two decades has not reflected an east coast bias. It was brought on by one billion dollars worth of free agents that failed, by trading a Mike Piazza, by signing players with personal and drug related problems, by the Manny Ramirez circus and by two disastrous ownerships. The news reported was the news that was made. Did that news actually reflect a bias? If so, can the Dodgers slay the east coast bias? You bet they can – by winning and restoring the franchise to one with class. But most importantly – just win baby.

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14 Responses to “East Coast Bias – Fact or Fiction?”

  1. Ron Cervenka says:

    Sorry Harold, but in my opinion, anyone who doesn’t believe that there is an east coast bias is in serious denial. Apparently what us left coasters are forced to endure you right coasters are insulted by.

    I also think that you are lumping homerism (I made that up) and east coast bias together, when they are two separate things. Being a homer is what Tim McCarver (who I consider among the worst color commentators in the business) and even Joe Buck do whenever any team in plays the Cardinals; or that moron who does the Yankee games (“An A-Bomb… From A-Rod” “Thhhhhhhhhhhe Yannnnnnnkeeeees Wiiiiiin” – ya, that guy). Even Jon Miller is a homer with the Giants; but I can’t honestly say that any of these guys have an east coast bias.

    Obviously, the ultimate professional who, although employed by the Dodgers, shows no homerism is Vin Scully. On the other hand, the Dodgers do have a broadcaster who is extremely biased – Eric Collins, who is the absolute worst broadcaster in the business.

    In my opinion, east coast bias is when east coast teams and individuals are considered better or given greater recognition than west coast teams and individuals simply because teams and individuals from the west are not followed as closely as those on the east due to the significant time difference. Face it (or deny it), the baseball writers living on the east coast are in bed when west coast games begin, including many belonging to the Baseball Writers Association of America – the guys who vote for the annual MVPs, Cy Young Award winners, and more importantly, the Hall of Fame. I mean, you tell me that Ryan Braun honestly and statistically deserved to be the 2011 MVP over Matt Kemp. This was east coast bias at its absolute worst.

    Did Ken Rosenthal come across as having an east coast bias in his Ethier article? No, not in my opinion he didn’t. But he absolutely came across (and always comes across) as having a chip on his shoulder about some teams and the Dodgers seem to be his biggest chip of all. I honestly believe that Rosenthal has grown too big for his short man britches. Whereas he at one time came across as being unbiased team wise (not coast wise), he now seems to ride the bandwagon and reports what (he believes) the fans want to hear. A classic example of this was his Pressure article a couple weeks ago. This is pure garbage and is nothing more than playing into the hands of frenzied fans – especially Yankees fans.

    As much as I have lost a great deal of respect for Ken Rosenthal over the past two seasons, he is still head and shoulders (no… wait… that’s not possible for a guy who stands 5-5)… he is still better than guys who thieve on perpetual negativity and antagonism like T.J. Simers and Bill Plaschke. These guys are the scum of the earth and clearly find great pleasure in kicking guys when they are down or purposely trying to incite guys into saying something out of anger for sensationalism purposes. Worst part of all is that these guys actually believe that people like their garbage. You should see the looks on the faces of the players whenever T.J. walks into the Dodgers clubhouse; they absolutely loathe the guy.

    The most professional writers (and broadcasters, for that matter) can have a favorite team but their material is more fact-based than biased based; guys such as Eric Stephen, Mark Saxon, Tony Jackson and Kevin Kennedy, who absolutely loves the Dodgers but is perhaps as unbiased as the aforementioned Vin Scully.

    Speaking of Kevin Kennedy, he is (in my opinion) anti-east coast bias. Kevin broadcasts his MLB on XM show from Southern California and frequently talks about the Dodgers and other west coast teams not as a homer or out of bias, but to bring well deserved attention and recognition to them.

    As for east coast fans being better or stronger fans because of a longer tradition or more generations of fans in the family, that’s a load of crap. Do you honestly believe that any Yankee fan or Red Sox fan is any greater a fan than I or my son or daughter is of the Dodgers? This is utter nonsense and, quite frankly, an insult to every fan not living on the east coast.

    I am not opposed to reporters reporting the news and the facts, but I am opposed to sensationalism in journalism just to sell newspapers (or get hits on a website). Report the truth, not the juice.

    Fire away.

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      I am a bit puzzled by some of your response Ron. Hitting a nerve is never good, eh! I thought I had gone to fairly great lengths to establish that there is such a bias, in my opinion, having acknowledged it at least twice in the post. I did not attempt to refute it. I apparently missed the mark or you simply assume that in writing the post I am in denial that such a bias exists.

      You suggest we – meaning I- since I wrote the post, am insulted by what you on the west coast have to endure. First, I am not insulted by what you might have to endure. If in fact your wrote your statement as you intended,(” Apparently what us left coasters are forced to endure you right coasters are insulted by.”) it suggests we are insulted by what you have to endure. To me, that means we are insulted by the east coast bias you have to endure. How would that be bad? Secondly, how can I feel what you have to endure since I don’t live in the Pacific Time Zone. I live in the midst of the bias. I can be sympathetic, understanding as a life long Dodger fan, but I can’t feel it to the same degree you do. Hence, I went in search of the creature looking for a possible explanation of it.

      In my opinion, Matt lost his deserved MVP not strictly because of an east coast bias but also because of another bias. That bias is that your team has to win, a point I also made in the post. That point was central in the discussions way back then.

      In my post I mentioned the east coast writers probably go to bed shortly after I do. I have faced it, no need to deny it. That was one of several points I used to help explain how such a bias can be born. Like it or not, it is about money, and where the most people are the most money is to me made, the most reporters are at work, or asleep. Time zone difference definitely is an extenuating circumstance.

      Most importantly, I did not say that east coast fans are better or stronger because of a longer tradition. It is not my intention to ever insult any fans. Have you ever heard me insult Giant fans? The Dodgers even in bad years draw at the top or close to the top of all major league teams. Fans don’t get much better than that. I suggested that the fan base is larger, deeper,(not stronger or better ) because of a longer time span associated with the many more teams in the east. That is the base to which the media caters, not because they are better fans, but because there are more of them, developed over a longer period of time.

      • Ron Cervenka says:

        “I must admit that I was not aware of an east coast bias in reporting national sporting events.”
        “…but “east coast bias” has made its way into Wikipedia. That alone suggested to me the creature is out there.”

        I admit that I was a little surprised that it took Wikipedia to convince you (or at least suggest to you) that this “creature is out there.”
        ———————————————————————

        “Most importantly, I did not say that east coast fans are better or stronger because of a longer tradition.

        Then I have to ask you what does this suggest?

        “They do not have the fan base of the eastern teams because of tradition.”

        I can pretty much assure you that the Dodgers have a better fan base than most eastern teams (and I’m talking about fannies in the seats fans) year after year than any other team in baseball (except during the McCourt boycott years, of course) – this in spite of a 25-year World Series drought.

        Regardless, another great post with a lot of passionate comments (even if Evan B is in denial that Eric Collins is the worst broadcaster in the game).

        • Bluenose Dodger says:

          What does this suggest?

          This is what I wrote in my first response: ” I suggested that the fan base is larger, deeper,(not stronger or better ) because of a longer time span associated with the many more teams in the east. That is the base to which the media caters, not because they are better fans, but because there are more of them, developed over a longer period of time.”

          You don’t need to assure me about the attendance at Dodger Stadium Ron. I wrote” The Dodgers even in bad years draw at the top or close to the top of all major league teams. Fans don’t get much better than that.”

          Can’t help on Eric Collins. Not sure I have ever heard him.

        • Evan Bladh says:

          Announcers worse than Eric Collins:

          Daron Sutton
          Chris Berman
          John Sterling
          Tim McCarver
          Suzyn Waldman
          Hawk Harrelson
          Joe Morgan
          Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper (due to their anti-Dodger bias)

  2. OldBrooklynFan says:

    Wow, I really liked this article BD. I think it’s very hard to see if there’s such a thing as east coast bias. If there is it has nothing to do with writing negative about a west coast team,IMO. I agree that most of the media is asleep before the west coast games end and that, at least on the east coast, they don’t get as much of a write-up as east coast teams do.
    I believe that the Dodgers and Giants had more coverage when they first left, at least to my recollection. I think that was because they felt that many of their fans on the east coast still had a big interest in them.
    I think as the years went by it did depend, as you say, how well the teams did. Most of us Dodger fans were fortunate that the Dodgers were one of the best teams in the NL, during those early years.
    Thanks to modern times though, we now get enough information on our favorite teams out west via the internet.
    Getting more closer to the point, I don’t think the media favors the east coast teams.

  3. Evan Bladh says:

    Great topic and article Harold.

    Turn on ESPN’s Sports Center and watch the lead stories, especially during baseball season. Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Mets, then they move on to the second tier teams: Braves, Rays, then back to the Red Sox, a couple of clips with Cashman interviewed about a Yankees trade rumor, a Bobby Valentine clip about something stupid he said, some in the set reaction. Once in a while a Dodger oe Giant highlight but it’ll be super short. They’ve usually moved on to other sports by then: Patriots training camp, NY Giants preseason, Tim Tebow Jets rumors. I can’t even watch that show, it’s so biased now. My son calls ESPN the Eastcoast Sports Preference Network.

    Your Joe Buck quote was about as honest a take as I’ve heard from from an announcer. I don’t agree with him, but at least he admits that there is a bias.

    Out west there are some rabid fan bases. The San Francisco teams (Giants and 49ers) have some very passionate fans. The Rockies set those MLB attendance records in their initial years, there was such a thirst for baseball in the region. Look up in Seattle and tell me that Seahawks games don’t have the loudest screaming fans in the NFL. Decibel levels in that stadium say otherwise.

    Then there is the East Coast bias against Dodger fans where they regularly and without fail exaggerate the number of empty seats at Dodgers Stadium, talk about the “arrive late and leave early” element at the stadium, there’s always a beach balls comment or focus in on that. Even in our franchise’s most magical moment with the Gibson homer, they focused in on the taillights of a few cars leaving the parking lot that night. I have news for the East Coast Bias guys. There are fans that arrive late and leave early EVERYWHERE. Did you see the Yankees playoff games last year when they started the game with the Stadium over 50% empty? Not much talk about that, and it was inexcusable because it was the ALCS.

    I understand the time zone differences and such, but if a writer is covering the sport for a living, he has the obligation to follow the game 100%. In this age with DVRs and satellite reception, there is no excuse to not check up on the West Coast too, even if it’s the following morning. Their failure to report on it is just plain laziness.

    And Ron, with regard to Eric Collins…give it up man! Give it up.

  4. MFGRREP says:

    I believe there is in fact East Coast Bias, but then again I think we West Coasters are also Bias. I think the east coast guys are more vocal then we are in the west and they typically get the first word in due to the time difference and when we have our say out west the east is typically asleep. I think every person has their favorite team and that’s a good thing. But as one of you said if you’re going to be a sportscaster then you have a responsibility to be fair and non-judgmental in the performance of your duties. With that said I’m happy to say that we are blessed to have the best and least bias sportscaster in the business in Vin Scully so in our own way we are West Coast Bias. What I can’t stomach is when you have a sportscaster assigned to doing network games and they can’t be fair, like McCarver and Morgan etc… But what I hate even more is a Charlie Steiner who is paid by the Dodgers and yet gushes at the just the sight of a Yankee player. That in my mind is the worst and I can’t stand to see it in our Dodger family.

    BTW, talking about East Coast Bias, when was the last general election ever decided by the state of California? In fact how often has a General Election been decided before California has even finished voting? Fact is we’re last on the clock, except for Hawaii and Alaska and the furthest from most decision making centers, including Baseball!! It’s a cross we’ll have to bare and move on!! But hey come New Years Day how many East Coasters will be wishing they were in California watching the Rose Parade in the warmth and bright sun shine? Come for a visit; just remember to leave your money go back to where you come!!

  5. MFGRREP says:

    BTW, I forgot to mention, nice article Harold !! Good debate 53 !!

  6. ebbetsfld says:

    West Coasters are overly sensitive to the East Coast Bias. Of course it exists, but, as has already been said, time zones have a lot to do with it. For example ESPN’s SportsCenter runs at 11 PM here in the east well before the west coast games are over. Therefore they can’t report something that hasn’t happened yet and fill the hour with east coast and midwest results and highlights. I’m the exception to most of the east coast fans in that I stay up watching the Dodgers on MLB.TV until the game is over. Then I turn on SportsCenter, get the LA feed, and find that their coverage is evenly balanced since now all the games are over.

    If you check all the Major league sports, I believe you’ll find the majority of the teams are located in the Eastern and Central time zones. This also leads to the bias.

    It’s a fact of life. As a Dodger fan, I resent the snubs of the Kemps, but I just don’t think it’s as big a deal as some of you.

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      Winning is a factor as I have read in several articles. Guess which west coast team has had the most coverage, topping east coast coverage for others teams in the sport? You guessed it, the Lakers.

    • Bluenose Dodger says:

      A point I had the stats for Dick and neglected to include them when talking about fan base – 22 of 30 MLB teams are located in the Eastern and Central time zones.

  7. KSparkuhl says:

    Harold, I realize we kicked off this debate on the forum… and you put together a well thought article here. I’ve been busy and wanted to post here sooner. After reading what everyone has said, I can’t add much to what’s already been covered.

    The East Coast Bias is there. Ron and Evan stated and echoed my sentiments as if I were saying them. We’ll see if things change, now that the Dodgers are the big-spenders in baseball… but I doubt it.

    Of couse, they always have the “late arriving crowd” horse they can beat to death when the team does well. Thanks for the article my friend.

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