Category Archives: sports

On “McNabbing”

Drew Magary, speaking the truth:

 I have a theory about this. Let’s call it the McNabbing of quarterbacks. NFL executives and analysts have devised a system in which any talented and suggestible young quarterback will find himself hounded and hounded until, in the end, he assumes the very characteristics that they mistakenly believe he possesses. This isn’t a traditional case of building someone up and tearing him down. This is trolling on an elaborate scale. This is finding a ripe target and molding him in the image of your worst bogeyman. Johnny Manziel may not have been a douchebag a year ago. But by the time the machine is finished with him, he will be.

The Trouble With Florio: Why Athletes Should Never Say Anything, Ever

I’ve written in the past about how I’m not an especially big fan of Mike Florio, editor of ProFootballTalk. Much as I’m a blog booster, and admire that Florio was able to build his blog from scratch into something influential, it doesn’t mean the blog itself is good, at all. Florio isn’t a particularly good writer or reporter, but tries to be both, and there’s an ever-present smug, insufferable tone that comes through every single day.

Take this post from the other day, written by Florio himself, titled “It’s time to end the ‘he was answering a question’ excuse.” It’s an argument I’ve heard before, often in relation to political gaffes, when a politician says the “wrong thing” in response to a question he wasn’t expecting. But Florio applies it to football players:

When someone says something inflammatory, controversial, and/or divisive, they often get a pass because the inflammatory, controversial, and/or divisive comment came not as an affirmative statement but as an answer to a question.

Okay, I’m with you so far. Example?

 The concept first hit my radar screen in 2011, when Giants quarterback Eli Manning declared himself to be an elite quarterback.  Sure, he was asked by Michael Kay of ESPN New York whether Eli regards himself as elite.  But just because a “yes” or “no” question has been posed doesn’t mean the guy has to say “yes” or “no.

Okay, first of all, what’s the problem with Eli Manning declaring himself “elite”? Is that supposed to be an earth-shattering gaffe for some reason? The guy had won a Super Bowl at the time, and has since won another. Manning was asked about a stupid sportswriter debate, and answered in a way that was truthful. What’s the big deal?

 He could have (and even though he went on to prove his elite status that season should have) said, “That’s not for me to decide.  I don’t worry about labels applied by others.  I worry about what I can control.”

So in other words, he shouldn’t have given a substantive answer, and instead replied with mushy bullshit. Shame on him for that.

Recently, that dynamic reared its head in connection with Panthers quarterbackCam Newton, who apparently said that he wants to be a team captain because he was asked whether he wants to be a team captain.

Regardless of how the topic is teed up, if a guy says, “I want to be a team captain,” it means he wants to be a team captain.  In this era of 24-hour news cycles (which helps justify player salaries and off-field earnings), players need to constantly run whatever they plan to say through the filter.

Once again- who cares that a star quarterback wants to be a team captain? Is this some kind of major controversy? And why wouldn’t he say yes?

Sounds to me like Florio is defining “controversial, divisive comment” way, way down. It used to mean a racial or ethnic slur, an aggressive ripping of a teammate or coach, or some reference to off-the-field scandal. Not friggin’ wanting to be a team captain.

This post is illustrative in that it shows what Mike Florio wants and expects from athletes: Never, ever say anything interesting or memorable. Always answer all questions with boring, rehearsed, uncontroversial replies. Be an automaton at all times, because saying anything newsworthy means you’re selfish, and not a “team guy” or something.

Florio must be the only journalist in the world who doesn’t want his sources to give good quotes.

The First Heel Turn in Sports

This week saw a Minnesota high school hockey moment that I wouldn’t normally associate with Minnesota Nice:

 Farmington, Minn., High School senior goalie Austin Krause purposely scored a goal for into his own net, then showed his middle finger in the direction of the coaching staff and gave a salute before leaving the ice in the third period Tuesday night in Farmington.

I think this is the one thing we’ve never seen in sports: A full-on, pro wrestling-style heel turn, in which a player actually turns on his own team mid-game and helps the other team, to a chorus of boos. Sure, players have shown weak effort or quit. But we’ve somehow never seen a guy actually turn heel on his teammates. Until now.

Shame on Cal Ripken, Non-Scab

There are certain things much more worthy of our outrage these days, I realize. But there was a letter to the editor in last week’s Sports Illustrated that I just found spectacularly wrongheaded.

In response to a column by Phil Taylor about the falling legitimacy of sports records, Rick Middleton of Carleton Place, Ontario, writes in with the following:

“I have always thought that there was one record in the sports books that was a bit distorted and deserved an asterisk: Cal Ripken’ Jr.’s consecutive games record. Ripken’s streak should have ended the moment the major league baseball players went on strike on Aug. 12, 1994. The players were not locked out by the owners, rather they walked out. Since Ripken was a part of the players’ association he, too chose not to play, thus ending his consecutive-games streak.”

Uh… First of all, Ripken didn’t miss any games. He played the last game before the strike began in 1994, and was back to play again when games resumed in 1995. His consecutive games streak was uninterrupted because he played in all of them. It’s not like Ripken chose to skip games that went on without him- they didn’t take place.

Not to rehash the 1994 baseball strike, but the players struck to in order to prevent the owners from imposing a salary cap after the season. The writer seems to be criticizing Ripken- nearly two decades after the fact- for not crossing a picket line that didn’t exist and refusing to play in games that weren’t played. He could’ve crossed the picket line in 1995, but… the Orioles didn’t field a team of replacement players, and the strike ended before the season began.

The worst part of all? I could totally see a sports columnist with decades of experience- and a Hall of Fame vote- making that exact same argument.