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Five Signs the Sports Media is Setting you up to FAIL

Looking back, maybe being a bust in the NFL wasn’t all Ryan Leaf’s fault.

In 1997, the robotic star of college football was University of Tennessee Quarterback Peyton Manning (pictured, right). He was interesting only by his greatness on the field. Manning needed a foil; a Ying to his Yang and some drama to help sell stories. Enter Ryan Leaf (pictured, left).peyton manning university of tennessee ryan leaf washington state

Leaf was a cocky, strong armed, belligerent king of a small college town (Pullman, Washington) where football is as important as silicone in Beverly Hills. The sports media jumped at the chance to create a dramatic story line, hailing Leaf as a challenger to Manning’s throne as the best college prospect. They manufactured the belief that Leaf was Manning’s peer, but he wasn’t. Far from it.

Leaf became a failure at the NFL level. Truth is he never was the story the media created; he was a self-proclaimed ‘immature kid with a super huge ego’ who bought into his own hype machine.

Every athlete is responsible for their own actions, but the sports media can play a role in the process pushing interesting storylines often over the whole truth. Never fear, there are five warning signs all athletes can look out for.

They give you a nickname that starts with “The Next…” or “Baby…”:

harold miner nba baby jordan usc player of the yearIn the race to declare someone “The Next Big Thing” there has never been a more insulting example than USC swingman Harold Miner being dubbed “Baby Jordan”.

Miner had a shaved head, could jump out of the gym and stuck out his tongue, like Jordan, when he shot jumpers. Only one problem, despite Sports Illustrated naming him the collegiate player of the year in 1992, Miner’s jumpers rarely went in, he didn’t play defense, couldn’t pass and didn’t rebound (wait, that’s four pretty big problems). He retired after getting cut by the Toronto Raptors during his fourth year in the NBA.

Comparing Miner to the greatest basketball player ever was laughable at best and set unrealistic expectations that no other human being could achieve.

Other examples: Adam Morrison (The Next Larry Bird), Brian Wiseman (The Next Wayne Gretzky), Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Baby Shaq) & Rick Mirer (The Next Joe Montana)

The news and sports media conspire to “cross-over-expose” you:

It’s fair game for ESPN to incorporate Tim Tebow into every story whether relevant or not (“We move on to women’s tennis…that drop shot looked just like a Tebow pass!”). But when the news media jumps on board, look out below.

During the Broncos six-game winning streak stories like: “Drug Sniffing Dog Named Tebow thwarts Trafficking Case” and “Colorado Microbrewery developing new ale named Tebrew” highlighted the nightly news.

tim tebow s denver broncos pictures images action photosI for one began to blame Tebow for the over-exposure he had nothing to do with. I began Tebowing (sorry praying, I’ve been brainwashed too) for Brett Favre to announce his return just so I could watch the vein pop out on Neil Everett’s forehead during the open to SportsCenter.

At this very moment some sports reporter is working their tail off to find dirt on Tebow. When you become the “it” story, the only way to continue the tale moving forward is to find the skeleton (or cocktail waitress) in the closet. That is how a sports media career is made, not from writing the 7,000th story on Tebow’s good deeds.

Look out Timmy, sports journalists will work even harder than the Buffalo Bills secondary to expose you. Send them as many hand written cards as you want, they are still gunning for you!

Other Examples: Brett Favre (get off my lawn!), Tiger Woods (he fits almost everywhere) Derek Jeter (no FAIL yet, but as a Red Sox fan I can dream)

They make you out to be someone you know you are not:

Even before Tiger Woods’ death-defying demise, there were signs that he wasn’t quite the role model the sports media tried to perpetuate.pga tour tiger woods pictures images

When Tiger fired his first professional caddy, Mike “Fluff” Cowan, the media assumed it was something Cowan had done. Turned out, Tiger didn’t like Cowan’s new found celebrity and desired the spotlight always be pointed at him (Red Flag). The media wouldn’t chastise Tiger for swearing in front of children in the gallery after a bad shot (Red Flag); instead they would marvel at his competitive nature.

Looking back, Tiger’s fall appeared even more dramatic since his adoring audience had been duped for years into believing he was ‘such a good guy’.

Give Charles Barkley credit, he’s always known exactly who he was.

Other examples: Alex Rodriguez, Kobe Bryant, Mike Vick, Marion Jones

They say you can’t lose:

The most glaring example of this phenomenon is the New England Patriots heading into the 2008 Super Bowl undefeated and seemingly unbeatable. But, since I have vanquished that memory from my brain there is nothing intelligent I could possibly say (other than blaming Asante Samuel). So let’s head down Mike Tyson lane.

mike tyson boxing pictures images and photosIn 1990, well before his Hangover drum solo, Mike Tyson was 37-0 as a heavyweight boxer with 23 of those fights ending prior to the third round. In the eyes of the sports media and the world he was unstoppable. But the media isn’t supposed to follow the crowd; they are supposed to question the performers.

Tyson was falling apart emotionally, humiliated on national TV by former wife Robin Givens, suffering from the death of his mentor Cus D’Amato and bombarded with an adoring media who always referred to him as “The Baddest Man on the Planet”.

Tyson stepped into the ring a 42-1 favorite over James “Buster” Douglas unable to lose. Until he did. And that is why we watch sports, no one is unbeatable. Don’t believe your hype.

Other examples: 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, 1980 USSR Hockey Team, Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, 1983 University of Houston (Phi Slamma Jamma)

They made you seem untouchable…until you weren’t:

We don’t need to rehash the story of Joe Paterno’s fall from grace, but never before has there been a more glaring example of egos gone wild. College sports are ripe with power hungry, immune to criticism coaches who are coddled by administrators and media alike into believing they can get away with anything.

Someone remind me when Paterno or Urban Meyer or John Calipari was ever pushed by the sports media. Kid gloves. Even ESPN waited and waited until they took the Penn State sex scandal as seriously as they should have. Joe Pa was untouchable, beyond reproach…until he wasn’t. Politicians are jealous of the protective bubble surrounding college coaches.

But it doesn’t stop there. The sports media has started younger; coddling teenagers into believing they can do or say anything they want. Have talent, will bury stories…until it becomes impossible to bury.

Other Examples: Jim Tressel, Rick Pitino, Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, Bruce Pearl, Magic Johnson, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and the rest of the Steroids Era in Baseball.

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