The “Hidden Should” of Sports Media


As a counselor who has worked with clients ranging from drug and alcohol addiction to juvenile justice issues to day to day anxiety, I have experienced a number of people in my 13 years. Suffice to say trying to break down all of those clients to one shared issue would be tough, and not highly ethical. Yet one thing that stands out for most clients in my experience is what we call the “Hidden Should.” It is an issue we deal with in Anger Management, family and marriage issues and the use of substances.

The “Hidden Should” is the use of the word should, or a similar word/concept, in everyday sentences that dramatically changes the rest of the thought or sentence. “That driver should go faster.” “That driver should slow down.” “My mom shouldn’t of sent me to that school.” “I shouldn’t of made such a poor choice.” The use of the “Hidden Should” creates a thought process that leads to people setting definitive limitations on themselves and others. It is an absolute, black and white, right and wrong type statement that leads to definitive feelings. If someone, including yourself, doesn’t do exactly what you think they should do then you are angry. Or if they do exactly what you think they shouldn’t do then they failed.

This “Hidden Should” seems to have permeated recent sports media, specifically NBA “insiders” and “reporters.” When the Cleveland Cavaliers were choosing between Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker the team didn’t leak much/anything it seems. Yet these “reporters” seemed to feel the pressure of the “Hidden Should” that they “should have some information” on their decision making process. Because of this pressure that they should these reporters seemed to pull “sources” or “feelings” or “leanings” out of the woodwork to provide information to the “demanding” general public.

This became even stronger in the LeBron James saga. The best player in the NBA was deciding on his future, and the future of the league. There was a bunch of time between when Free Agency started and when he actually made his decisions. Instead of going on TV every day, every hour, and saying “Umm we have no idea” the reporters seemed pushed by the “Hidden Should” to present some type of information. Every hour, it seemed, new reports were coming out by different people about what LeBron was likely to do. “His family and friends” one day. “Pat Riley” the next. A “whisper” here. A “leaning” there. The “winds are blowing.”

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And yet nothing. James’ camp wasn’t leaking information. The Cavs again weren’t leaking information. The Heat were trying desperately to keep him so they weren’t leaking information. Yet the sports media seemed to feel like they should have information. So that definitive thought meant they had to supply something. Yet what do you do when you have no source to supply something? When you feel pressure to do something because you should? You do what most people do, give in and do whatever you can to fill that “need.”

Now we are waiting on the Kevin Love situation. The Cavs, again, are not likely leaking anything. While the Timberwolves and Warriors could be, anything revolving around what the Cavs might do may all be pressed by reporters feeling the power of the “Hidden Should.” What we know for sure is that the Cavs have said outright that Andrew Wiggins isn’t being traded. Beyond that it is all conjecture.

I leave the sports media with a phrase we use often in counseling “Don’t should all over yourself.”