I am tired of the lazy “Millennials are soft” narrative.
Monday night, sports fans were treated to one of 2016’s early instant classics as #1 Kansas University went 3 overtimes to fend off Buddy Hield and #2 Oklahoma 109-106 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. It was one of the better regular season basketball games in a long time. Brent Musburger and Dick Vitale nearly lost their voices. It was a great time had by all, thanks to millennial athletes.
Meanwhile, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver was busy doing his best Grandpa Simpson impression by blaming “Millennial Culture” for his team’s second to last place record in the Western Conference.
“My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with setbacks,” Sarver told the Arizona Republic. “I’m not sure if it’s the technology or the instant gratification of being online. But the other thing is, I’m not a fan of social media. I tell my kids it’s like Fantasyland. The only thing people put online are good things that happen to them, or things they make up. And it creates unrealistic expectations.”
It’s cool though, because local journalists are Sarver’s version of a Facebook wall to rant on, and his “instant gratification” are hot take sports talk shows like FOX Sports Live (I thought this was supposed to be a highlight show) with panelists echoing his sentiments…because none of them are millennials themselves.
On this particular FSL panel from Monday night, moderator Randy Travis led off the discussion with the typical “We all know Millennials are the most coddled generation…”, and I felt more compelled to change the channel than ever. Ironically, everyone on this panel was screaming “Let Johnny Manziel be Johnny Manziel” just beforehand.
I appreciate Sports Illustrated’s media reporter Richard Deitsch for pointing out exactly where I wanted to take this on Twitter.
The group in question is exactly the audience Fox Sports 1 is fighting for with ESPN too. Fox Sports Live was originally packaged to us as the “fun” sports show with entertaining highlights, anchors who get it (like Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole), and smart analysis. Instead, the network adds former ESPN First Take executive producer Jamie Horowitz – who brings Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock with (reasons millennial audiences wanted an alternative) – and we’re back to searching for something else again. ESPN then capitalizes by handing the late night SportsCenter reigns to their most millennial friendly talent, Scott Van Pelt.
In case you weren’t aware, the millennial generation covers people born between the early 80’s to the early 2000’s. These are impactful business owners (Mark Zuckerberg), soon-to-be college grads (Jack Gleeson aka Prince Joffrey from Game of Thrones), teenagers standing up for important causes (Malala Yousafzai), and kids who never saw Michael Jordan play live. They love nostalgia (reminiscing about 90’s Nickelodeon shows and NES cartridge games) and can’t wait for what’s next (standing in line around the block for the new iPhone).
Millennials are another young generation, shaped as much by previous generations as they are criticized by them. The people who can’t stand anyone younger than them actually gave birth to them and had the opportunity to raise them the way they wanted to. The irony is hilarious. Yet for every Phoenix Suns team, there’s a Golden State Warriors roster dominated by 20-somethings on top of the basketball world. The best player in the league currently and millennial athlete, Stephen Curry, had his game influenced by a specialist from the previous generation…his dad.
Obviously the disconnect isn’t limited to basketball, as Mr. Sarver generalizes. The old folks write pointed letters when Cam Newton dances in the end zone. They take to social media and sports talk radio when Jose Bautista flips his bat. Alas, when a millennial has something to say to defend their generation, they tell you to shut up and stop being so sensitive.
I remember that “wambulance” joke from Modern Family. It was funny the first dozen times the kindergartner on the show used it.
If the Suns are victims to “Millennial Culture”, then why are the current Chicago Cubs 7/1 World Series favorites with a projected lineup whose average age is 26? What the Suns are victims of is an organization and leadership that spends more time blaming everything but themselves for their own losing culture…and bad scouting.
Rather than sit back and criticize a generation for your problems, be proactive and either adapt or provide a productive solution. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, change the channel. Otherwise, this will be you someday.