On the Supposed “East Coast Bias”


[Note: This post was conceived by the darkest recesses of my brain.  The issues I will discuss may not even exist.  It is entirely possible that I made them up.  But please, enjoy the forthcoming rant.]

The East Coast Bias is, as defined by Wikipedia, “an expression referring to the tendency for sports writers in the United States to give greater weight and credibility to teams on the East Coast of the United States.”  The existence of this aspect of the bias is difficult to doubt, and, for the purpose of this article, I won’t bother to.  Whether the bias stems from East Coast cities being geographically centered (as opposed to West Coast cities, which are spread apart and considerably out of the way for a sports writer to travel to) or because most West Coast games finish too late to be written about in the next day’s newspaper (around 1 PM ET) is pretty irrelevant.  Either way, major sports media like ESPN do cover East Coast teams almost exclusively, which causes the end result of East Coast fans knowing virtually nothing about West Coast teams.  And it isn’t fair.  CC Sabathia’s probably going to win the Cy Young because he plays for the Yankees, and ESPN loves the Yanks; If CC played for the Mariners, he wouldn’t get nearly as much coverage.  It’s a vicious cycle of ignorance and contempt toward teams from the Westernmost third of the country.  Right?

Or so I thought.

I’m currently completing my second week as an undergraduate at Williams College.  I’ve encountered lots of people from lots of places, and the majority of them are from New York and Boston.  Having a chip on my shoulder about being a fan of a West Coast team, I was reluctant to talk about the Mariners for a while.  Eventually, someone brought up Seattle sports in conversation, asking me how Chone Figgins could have tanked as badly as he has.  Okay, at least the guy knows Chone Figgins.  Lots of people know who Chone Figgins is.  I was not ready to shed my cynicism.  More guys joined the discussion, commenting on the emergence of Jason Vargas and Doug Fister as dependable starters this year.  Wait, what?  Who are you people, and why do you know about a struggling team from Seattle?  Pretty soon the conversation had turned into a discussion of which AL West team had the best utility outfielder.  I was floored.  People know who Ryan Langerhans is?  Maybe the vicious cycle of ignorance and contempt wasn’t really a problem after all.

So my original hypothesis – that E.C. sports fans are sorely uneducated about W.C. teams – was, in a relatively small sample size of a school of about 2100 total students, apparently wrong.  I don’t know why this is.  It could be that increased use of the internet in the last decade allows people from either coast to check out teams from all time zones.  Maybe people are staying up later to catch Pacific time zone games.  Who knows.  Or it could be that the problem never existed in the first place.

Score one for Ryan Langerhans.