The press has a very influential role in our society. It presents the news, reports the news, and tells us what is going on in the world.
And sometimes it instructs us in what we are supposed to think and believe. When it does that, it is counting on our cooperation in believing what it tells us, with the hope and confidence that we will not think for ourselves and form our own opinions.
Every year about this time I observe an example of this: the Pro Bowl.
Last Sunday the NFL season ended entirely with the annual playing of the Pro Bowl, the NFL all-star game, which is about to end a 30-year run in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Presently there are discussions about whether or not to extend the contract in Hawaii, and while none of us knows what the result will be, one thing we do know is that the Pro Bowl remains very unpopular with the press, and very popular with the public.
We know it is unpopular with the press because they tell us so. They tell us the game is irrelevant, and that no one cares about it.
However, like a lot of sporting events, it is on television.
And like everything on television, there is no obligation to watch. Watching is an expression of individual choice, a matter of personal preference by viewers.
Certainly, heading up to the game itself, we were all advised by the press that the game is irrelevant, that it does not matter — of course, the winning players get $40,000, and the losers get $20,000 each, so mathematically, some players and coaches would say that it does matter, if money has any significance in our lives.
Then the game was played last Sunday, and the ratings came out on Monday.
And as some of us knew would happen, the Pro Bowl, the game we were told no one cared about, was the highest rated of the 16 televised weekend sports events.
The Pro Bowl had a rating of 6.9. The next highest rating of the 16 events was a 4.5 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup: Budweiser Shootout, and the next highest after that, the third highest rated weekend TV event, was the NBA game between the Lakers-Heat, which attracted a 2.9.
So the NFL’s postseason all-star game had an audience more than double the highest rated NBA game of the weekend.
The NHL game between the Ducks and Red Wings had a rating of 0.9, or about one-seventh as many viewers as the Pro Bowl attracted.
So some people don’t like the Pro Bowl, that’s fine, I understand that.
But what a lot of those people try to do is tell us that we don’t like it.
Since TV ratings are the value system which determines what Americans are watching, and the ratings don’t lie, it would appear that the Pro Bowl critics are out of touch with the American viewing public when they say nobody cares.
Based on 16 televised events, the Pro Bowl could have finished anywhere from first to 16th, and it finished first.
And in our very competitive society, we have not yet come up with a higher finish than that.