Photo credit:Devin Heroux (@Devin_Heroux)
Thoughts on the wildest day in the off-season rumour cycle to date
2 months ago
‘Twas the strangest week in baseball offseason history, especially for Toronto Blue Jays fans. Granted, this is not a normal offseason, this is the offseason where global sports sensation Shohei Ohtani finds his new potential home and the stake has never been this high. The anticipation was always going to be there and it wouldn’t fade away until Ohtani inked his deal with a prospective team.
As baseball fans figured out that the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Toronto Blue Jays were the finalists for Ohtani’s potential destination, fans on social media jumped on conversations about the possibility of Ohtani signing with respective teams. But things heated up more when fans began sleuthing for private jet itineraries to observe Ohtani’s travels and potential decisions.
Things quickly intensified as some media members reported that Ohtani’s signing was imminent and that he was heading over to Toronto on Friday, December 8th. Once that information was out on social media, fans started speculating even more when another Blue Jays fan dug up information on Jays’ starting pitcher Yusei Kikuchi’s larger dinner reservation information near Rogers Centre. With that piece of information, the Ohtani to the Jays discourse devolved into pure chaos and exhilaration for fans. It got to a point where some notable Canadian media outlets such as CBC News and CP24 were actively following Ohtani’s supposed arrival, and let’s not forget that Pearson Airport’s social media account also added the Ohtani hype with their subtle post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
A hectic week on Ohtani rumour mill reveals an uncomfortable truth about credibility
For a second, it all made sense for the Blue Jays fans. It was finally all coming together. Five years ago today, Ohtani officially signed a deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Given this, it only seemed right for him to follow that exact timeline and some of the traditional media discussion seemed to support this narrative also.
But, unfortunately, it all came crashing down when USA Today’s baseball columnist Bob Nightengale posted that Ohtani wasn’t travelling to Toronto at all on Friday. Jays’ fans were left confused after seeing that particular post, but they soon realized what had hit them when a flurry of other prominent media members like Jon Heyman and Ben Nicholson-Smith also confirmed Nightengale’s post. That’s how the Jays’ fans found out that the Ohtani free agency saga was far from over, and it also confirmed their worst fears – they’ve been duped all along.
Maybe, just maybe, Jays’ fans overserved their own confirmation bias on a wild day like this. At this point in the offseason, the Ohtani discourse was already favouring the Jays over the Dodgers. With that information in mind, it was easier for Jays’ fans to track down small details to construct a narrative that benefitted them the most. But at the same time, a good chunk of the Jays’ fan base also counts on reliable media sources to expand on their narratives. That’s why when some media shared information about the possibility of Ohtani’s travel to Toronto, information spread like wildfire.
Should Jays’ fans have cooled down on overanalyzing some information about Ohtani? Maybe, because in the end, no one except Ohtani himself was going to know anything about his own free agency decisions. No amount of fan sleuthing would have been accurate if Ohtani was set to keep every aspect of his signing private. However, there’s no harm in having some fun trying to figure out more things about offseason signings and after all, social media is there to share all the hopes and dreams with fellow fans. Sports are supposed to be fun and fans should be encouraged to have fun.
Perhaps the part that stings the most for Jays’ fans is carrying the bulk of the blame for trusting and sharing information from sources they follow. And by sources, we’re not talking about opera singers or anyone’s dads. These are the sources that are certified by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) or have credibility in the baseball industry. Generally speaking, everyday fans don’t have any direct sources that can confirm their assumption, intuition or information about baseball transactions and signings. Therefore, they depend on those who are close to the sports industry to provide them with trustworthy information. That’s the reason why some information goes viral even more after a baseball media member shares more details related to it.
There’s no doubt that fans have the responsibility to do more research and be more cautious when they share their information even if it’s from a media member. In this day and age of fake news, no information should be blindly trusted since misinformation is all around us already. But it’s also unfair to put all the burden on fans when their only sin has been trusting what they thought was a reliable source.
People with dependable sources in the sports industry have the responsibility to report accurate information while keeping expectations in check. That’s not to say that they have to be perfect every nanosecond because everyone is prone to making mistakes. That said, repeated inaccuracy can reap unintended consequences such as erosion of trust in establishments. It’s a very fine line to walk and a heavy responsibility to bear but this is something everyone should keep in mind, especially if they’re in control of the news cycle.
Social media and technological innovations like AI have certainly worked against accurate reporting numerous times as they gave anyone the power to post any unchecked information. The idea of truth has become more elusive and relative amid rampant misinformation. Nonetheless, there’s still room for well-researched and insightful reporting. In fact, the demand for well-researched and precise journalism could see a rise because people will always search for fact-based truth even in the midst of disinformation.
There’s power in having direct connections in the industry and receiving information directly. Those who have this kind of access have the burden of carefully evaluating different information before disseminating or amplifying any content. It’s also their responsibility to guide the public towards factual information before misinformation takes over the discourse. There is a reason why great power doesn’t come for free. Responsibility and power go hand in hand, and for those of us who have the power of platform and trust, it’s on us to provide the checks and balances on fan discourse before more people begin to buy into misleading information.
In this sports industry, having access to good sources is an unimaginable power and it needs to be harnessed properly to do any good. Remember, power doesn’t come as easily as we want it to. With great power comes great responsibility.
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