Friday, April 22, 2011

Fox Sports, and Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

The USA Today had an exclusive interview with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today.  In it, he complained a lot.  I'll get to that.  But first I'd like to touch on the coverage of that interview by Fox Sports.  It is somewhat amazing that the Fox piece, which is basically just paraphrasing an article from another media source, managed to sneak in what I consider to be an amazingly biased and inaccurate depiction of very, very recent events.

In the article, which you can read here, Fox Sports (no byline--good move!) describes the breakdown of talks thusly (emphasis emphatically mine):  "The 'union' Goodell is referring to is the NFL Players Association, which decertified as a union last month after more than two weeks of federal mediation did not produce an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement. The owners responded to the decertification by locking out the players."

There's a definite problem here with the implied cause-and-effect.  We've seen all the evidence anyone could want to see that the owners were planning on this lockout for years.  They opted out of the old CBA early; they structured TV money deals that had third parties paying what amounted to lockout insurance.  If the NFLPA hadn't decertified, the wording of that paragraph suggests, the owners would not have locked them out.  Which is of course bollocks.  They were going to lockout the moment the CBA expired.  The idea that the lockout was a response to anything the players did is laughable.  Yes, the lockout started after the player's union decertified, but it also happened after the CBA expired, which was the key moment in this particular timeline.  That's what's known as shitty journalism (as opposed to just plain old shitty writing).  It's also got a fancy Latin name--Post hoc ergo propter hoc.  How to properly write it up?  Jarrett Bell of the USA Today gets it right in his timeline: "Unable to reach agreement on a new CBA, the NFLPA applies to decertify as the collective bargaining agent for the players at 5 p.m. ET. Seven hours later, the NFL locks out the players after the expiration of the CBA at 11:59 p.m. ET."

Was that so hard, Fox News?

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