Posts by Alison Fu

The NFL Draft Combine is the SAT of the Football World

About halfway through the three-and-a-half hour SAT I took with about 20 other kids in 2012, one girl asked to be excused. She never came back. Most of us test-taking students noticed the minor disruption, and after the time for a verbal section and a writing section was over, we realized she had fled the cramped public high

About halfway through the three-and-a-half hour SAT I took with about 20 other kids in 2012, one girl asked to be excused. She never came back. Most of us test-taking students noticed the minor disruption, and after the time for a verbal section and a writing section was over, we realized she had fled the cramped public high school classroom that College Board wanted us to think would determine our futures.

I’m not sure if an NFL-hopeful has ever ran out of Lucas Oil Stadium in the middle of his Wonderlic, but like the SATs, the annual week-long showcase consists of various mini-tests that fail to efficiently gauge the skills that will lead to professional success.

Just as it’s impossible to conclude that students who know the definition of the words “pellucid” or “obstreperous” or “calumny” are more equipped than their peers to handle a college setting, players’ 40-yard dash times, wingspans, and Cybex scores are insufficient measurements of football intelligence. 

There are countless Word of the Day services and test prep books that high school juniors pore over in Barnes and Nobles all over the country in the months and even years leading up to the SATs. Similarly, athletes can train over time to produce longer jumps and improve their agility to master the three-cone drill (yes, that is a thing). 

But in a reflex-driven sport that necessitates quick thinking, the entire combine system is somewhat paradoxical. One of the most well-known pieces of evidence supporting the fact that combine stats and pro success are not correlated is Mike Mamula‘s NFL career.

Mamula had a legendary combine. The 6’4″, 248-pound defensive end from Boston College trained specifically for each of the included drills, and ended up scoring 49 out of 50 on the Wonderlic, the second-highest score ever recorded by an NFL player, and had a 4.58 second 40-yard dash (the average at the DE position is 4.88 seconds).

This stellar showing led the Philadelphia Eagles to select Mamula seventh overall in the 1995 NFL Draft, trading up from 12th overall in order to secure the player they hoped would replace Hall of Famer Reggie White.  

Mamula ended up having the decently average five-season career that was predicted by his game tapes, recording 209 total tackles and 31.5 sacks across 77 games. 

But while mediocre athletes can have amazing combines, elite players can do poorly. Prior to the 2003 NFL Draft, Florida State’s Anquan Boldin, who was converted into a wide receiver from a quarterback, had a 4.7 40-yard dash time, the lowest out of all of the wide receivers that year. Despite catching 1,780 yards and 21 touchdowns in just 23 games at WR, Boldin fell to the second round of the draft, selected 54th overall by the Arizona Cardinals.

Almost immediately, Boldin showed that on-field performance should outweigh combine performance. In his rookie year, Boldin had 101 receptions for 1,301 yards and eight touchdowns, was the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and was the lone rookie in the Pro Bowl. He later went on to win Super Bowl XLVIII as a Baltimore Raven, and is considered a future Hall of Famer.

Doing well on the SAT is ultimately something to be proud of, as is having an exceptional combine showing. But considering the copious amount of evidence out there emphasizing the general uselessness of “testing” players and students in a controlled environment, you have to wonder if there is something more nefarious going on.

College applications have a variety of components, including letters of recommendation, transcripts, and personal essays. Evidently, schools are aware that students are more than their standardized test scores. 

Yet the SATs still have enhanced significance in the collective psyches of high school students, and though it may be due to an inherent human desire to live up to arbitrary bench marks (2100 is good, 1800 and below is awful), it has to have some roots in College Board’s own machinations. The abundance of bundled practice tests College Board puts up for sale and the $70 fee required to take the actual test indicate that the company is the one that perpetuates its tests’ importance. 

The NFL is the College Board of the football world. By now, coaches and owners know better than to draft a player based on how fast they run in one 40-yard instance. There are behavioral red flags to pay attention to, medical histories to take note of, and most importantly, lots of film to watch. Yet athletes can only attend if they receive an invitation, which undoubtedly adds to the pressure they already feel to perform well. 

Take into account that the entire week is broadcast on NFL Network and that it takes place only a couple of weeks after the Super Bowl, when withdrawal symptoms are beginning to emerge, it appears that the NFL is actually completely aware of how people perceive the combine. 

But the entertainment value–and thus financial value–of watching talented athletes try their hardest to jump their highest and run their fastest is what maintains the existence of this week of tests. As long as the NFL is able to generate a buzz for the showcase, and as long as fans remain insatiable for all things football-related, especially in the face of a long offseason, the combine will stay. 

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‘Steady Teddy’ Can Be A Vikings’ Leader For Years To Come

After trading their second and fourth round picks to the Seattle Seahawks, the last pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft belonged to the Minnesota Vikings, they used it to nab 20-year old quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the University of Louisville at No. 32. The Vikings originally wanted to select Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel,

After trading their second and fourth round picks to the Seattle Seahawks, the last pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft belonged to the Minnesota Vikings, they used it to nab 20-year old quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from the University of Louisville at No. 32. The Vikings originally wanted to select Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, but passed on him at No. 9 in favor of outside linebacker Anthony Barr, and were unable to trade up in the draft afterwards—the Cleveland Browns selected Manziel at No. 22.

The Vikings’ inability to secure Manziel may prove to be a best-case scenario for the franchise. Taking over as play caller for Minnesota after starting QB Matt Cassel was injured in Week 3 of the 2014 season, Bridgewater went 6-6 in the tough NFC North. Going .500 as a rookie is doubly impressive when considering that Minnesota was both without their main offensive player in running back Adrian Peterson, who was suspended with six games left in the season for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after being charged with child abuse.

The Vikings have long relied on Peterson rather than a franchise quarterback to carry the offense, so Bridgewater’s role throughout 2014 was an acclimation process for him, as well as the coaching staff and even the fans. Instead of alongside Peterson, his 12-game rookie season was spent under the tutelage of offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who coached the Dallas Cowboys to consecutive Super Bowl wins in 1992 and 1993.

Once Cassel went out, Bridgewater had the responsibility of leading an offense with one of the worst offensive lines in the league and an unreliable receiving corps. Understandably, Bridgewater played conservatively and had to go through the growing pains that rookies experience, but what was interesting was his improvement from the first six to final six games of the season.

In games one to six, Bridgewater completed 125 of 205 pass attempts for a 60.9% completion rate and 1,329 yards, throwing four touchdowns. In games seven to twelve, Bridgewater completed 122 of 177 attempts for a 68.9% completion rate and 1,440 yards with eight touchdowns. 

In those first 12 starts, Bridgewater also showed his composure on the field. He was able to move in the pocket, work under pressure, and end 2014 with a 64.4% completion percentage, which is third all-time amongst rookies (after Ben Roethlisberger and Robert Griffin III). Bridgewater’s steadfastness on the field also translates to a calm, unemotional persona off the field. Bridgewater’s philosophy is to never call attention to himself, and instead focus on the bigger issue: winning games.

I’m one of those guys who never tries to get too high, never tries to get too low because I know I play a position where the eyes are always on you,” Bridgewater said. “If you throw a touchdown and you’re excited and happy on the sideline, the camera is on you. If you throw an interception, the camera goes right to the quarterback. They want to see you throwing your helmet, slapping Gatorade bottles, and I’m not that guy. I kind of hold it all in, go on the sideline, put a towel over my head and then hit the reset button and I’m ready to go. 

Bridgewater’s gradual improvement has continued into his sophomore year. The Vikings have entered their bye week with a 2-2 record, and Bridgewater had arguably the best start of his career in Week 4’s 23-20 loss to the Denver Broncos. He completed 27 of 41 passes for 269 yards and no interceptions, and also gained the respect of the Broncos.

“(Bridgewater) got the ball out fast,” Broncos cornerback Chris Harris said. “Anytime you can win, you take it. I mean that team, they have to be a playoff team.”

The Broncos are widely considered to be the best team in the AFC, so the Vikings close game against them was an especially hard loss to swallow. Bridgewater was able to lead two scoring drives in the second half to tie the score, but his heroics came short and highlighted the biggest weakness on the team, which is their pass protection.

Bridgewater was sacked seven(!) times, and could have went down even more if not for his athleticism. Two of the sacks came in the Vikings’ final drive of a game, a drive that also saw Bridgewater scramble for a first down. In other words, Bridgewater had a breakout game but no win to show for it due to glaring issues on Minnesota’s offense.

Once projected as a potential first overall pick, Bridgewater’s lack of arm strength and smaller stature were what dropped him in the draft. In his first sixteen starts in the big leagues, however, he has showcased traits that do not show up on stat sheets or scouting reports, and also shown that his weaknesses can be improved on. 

The Vikings may have failed to consummate their trade for Johnny Football, but acquiring Steady Teddy instead is not just a great consolation prize, but is also the addition of a franchise player who, with continued development and some help from the front office, has the potential to lead the Vikings into the playoffs and beyond.

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Bortles’ Steady Improvement As QB Means Little Without Wins

As the New York Mets have shown throughout the MLB postseason, elite pitching overpowers elite hitting, and good defense can stifle good offense. In the NFL, however, you cannot win without putting points on the board. Sacks, fumble recoveries, and forced three-and-outs are impressive, but in the 94 matchups that have been played thus far this season, the only shutout

As the New York Mets have shown throughout the MLB postseason, elite pitching overpowers elite hitting, and good defense can stifle good offense. In the NFL, however, you cannot win without putting points on the board. Sacks, fumble recoveries, and forced three-and-outs are impressive, but in the 94 matchups that have been played thus far this season, the only shutout came in Week 3, when the Seattle Seahawks embarrassed the Chicago Bears, winning 26-0.

If offense and success in the league are interrelated, then on one hand the demand for scoring contributes to the dynamism of the game, but on the other, talented players on less offensively gifted teams are overshadowed by losing records. 

One of the most obvious examples of this oversight is Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. The Jaguars have long been a punchline in the league, and considering the team is currently 1-5 and last place in the AFC South, that reputation will hold for at least another season. But hidden amidst the Jaguars’ four straight losses after winning against the lowly Miami Dolphins in Week 2 is Bortles’ drastic improvement from his rookie year.

In 2014, the inexperience of the No. 3 overall pick out of the University of Central Florida showed in all aspects of his game. After taking over the starting role from Chad Henne in the beginning of the season, Bortles went 3-11 and tied for second in the league in interceptions thrown with 17. He was also 28th in the league in completion percentage (59.9%), and dead last in QBR (69.5). 

His accuracy was obviously a problem, and his footwork also had a lot of room for improvement. In his defense, however, Bortles was playing with three rookie wide receivers, as well as two rookies on the offensive line and a second-year left tackle who missed 11 games the season before. As a result, Bortles was sacked a league-leading 55 times. 2014 was thus a season that Bortles used to work through the kinks of playing in the NFL for the first time, improve his fundamentals, and amass footage to study in the offseason.

Six weeks into the 2015 season, it is evident that having a year of experience has made Bortles much more comfortable on the field. His QBR has shot up to 83.5, and after throwing 11 touchdowns and 2,908 yards in 2014, he had already thrown 13 touchdowns which is fifth in the league, and is on pace for over 4,300 yards. 

Jacksonville’s overall offense has also improved–the team jumped from No. 31 in total offense in 2014 to No. 15 this season, and from No. 29 to No. 10 in receiving–but the team has not found a way to turn these positives into wins, or points. Out of the 32 teams in the league, the Jaguars are 30th in points per game with 18.8.

One of the main contributors to this stat is the team’s inability to score in the red zone. When the Jaguars have been within 20 yards of their opponent’s end zone, they have scored a touchdown just over half the time (52.6%), good for 20th in the league.

“The one more improvement would be to win, obviously,” Blake Bortles said. “We’ve done everything. All our numbers are pretty good with the exception of offensive scoring, which (is) the bottom-line. It’s the only one that matters, right?”

Bortles was selected to be the Jaguars’ franchise quarterback and his sophomore year is showing that he has the potential to take on the role. However, even though the quarterback is often touted as the face and leader of the offense, the other players on the team also have to find a way to execute and put up points. If they fail to do so, winning will be an impossible task, and Bortles’ progress will have nothing to show for it. 

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As Offseason Ends, NFL’s Quest For World Domination Continues

The long, long NFL offseason is finally over. The past seven months of football-less existence have only been gearing us up for the official start of the year: Week One.  

A lot has happened in the time leading up to this moment. Rex Ryan became the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Jets quarterback Geno Smith

The long, long NFL offseason is finally over. The past seven months of football-less existence have only been gearing us up for the official start of the year: Week One.  

A lot has happened in the time leading up to this moment. Rex Ryan became the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Jets quarterback Geno Smith got his jaw punched to smithereens by teammate IK Enemkpali over $500. The Washington Redskins are in the midst of a very ugly breakup with formerly beloved QB Robert Griffin III. And there was also some minor thing that happened to a bottom-tier team’s low-profile quarterback that revolved around…squishy footballs?   

Hopefully, all of the shenanigans that happened throughout the league during the offseason can be pushed to the side to make way for what is to come starting September 10, 2015 all the way until Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016.   

One of the most major upcoming developments that was somewhat overshadowed by the rest of what occurred during the offseason might end up being the defining moment in the NFL achieving global dominance. Back in March, the league announced that it would be live streaming the October 25th matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars (how exciting) around the world via a digital platform.  

After shopping the rights for this monumental Internet move to multiple players including Google, Apple, and Amazon, the league announced in June that it had chosen Yahoo! to broadcast the game.   

“The NFL has always been committed to being at the forefront of media innovation. Through this partnership with Yahoo– one of the world’s most recognizable digital brands – we are taking another important step in that direction as we continue to closely monitor the rapidly evolving digital media landscape,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.  

Yahoo will allow viewers to watch through the Yahoo site itself, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Screen, and Tumblr via computer, smartphone, smartTV, or game console. Bills vs. Jaguars will be played in London as part of the NFL’s continuing efforts to broaden its worldwide audience, and the live stream will start 9:30 AM Eastern Standard Time.   

Although the matchup will still be available in the Bills and Jaguars’ local markets, everyone else around the country will only be able to catch the game through the options offered by Yahoo. This will mark the first time the NFL has used a medium other than those provided by their television partners to bring the game to fans, and will also be an experiment to gauge how overseas audiences respond to the accessibility of a free broadcast.

Moving further into the digital media landscape and offering free games to viewers around the world will inevitably lead to a lucrative contract with the lucky partners the NFL chooses to help them reach their expanded audience. But at the same time, the league has already granted distribution rights for games all the way into 2023. DirecTV also recently signed an eight-year, $12 billion deal with the NFL.  

Taking this into consideration, if the live stream receives positive feedback, all of the league’s digital partners will want the streaming rights for future games. So the Bills-Jaguars game will not only be used to test the waters for worldwide NFL coverage, but will also allow the league to potentially increase the value of its product and use it as leverage to create a new source of revenue. 

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Jen Welter And The Beginning Of Female Coaches In The NFL

When Sarah Thomas was officially appointed a permanent NFL referee earlier this year, she made headlines for being the first woman to hold the position. In such a male-dominated, testosterone-driven sport as American football, achieving this feat was monumental. It was regarded by many as the first step to introducing even more women into all professional

When Sarah Thomas was officially appointed a permanent NFL referee earlier this year, she made headlines for being the first woman to hold the position. In such a male-dominated, testosterone-driven sport as American football, achieving this feat was monumental. It was regarded by many as the first step to introducing even more women into all professional sports leagues.   

Along with Thomas, Dr. Jen Welter, Ph.D—whether intentionally or not—has also been advocating for a future where the sidelines are not only populated by men. At the end of July, Welter accepted a coaching internship with the Arizona Cardinals, working with the inside linebackers and directly under head coach Bruce Arians. Her internship was throughout the Cardinals’ training camp and preseason, making her the first woman in the NFL to hold the title of “coach”.   

The 37-year old who graduated from Boston College with a business degree began playing tackle football after graduation and soon left the corporate world behind to dedicate herself to bettering her skills and knowledge on the field. Last year, Welter played as a running back on the Dallas Revolution in the Arena Football League, becoming the first woman to hold a non-kicking position. At the same time, she was also the team’s linebackers coach.   

Welter’s experience as a coach—and as a player—undoubtedly contributed to her securing a leadership position on an NFL team, but also established a credibility that her players had to respect.  

“I was a great athlete. I read plays really fast. I studied a lot of film,” Welter said in an interview with Cosmopolitan.com. 

“I was very big on technique: using leverage, taking smart angles, all of those things. That’s what made me a great player. When I went to coach the guys, those were the same things I emphasized. This is how I can help you. They respected it because they knew it was legit. They knew it was coming from someone who was experienced and someone who did it.”  

Welter further explained that although she did not encounter any sexism during her internship from any level of management or the players, social media was, inevitably, a different story. The biggest challenge she faced while with the Cardinals was actually her uniform.  

“The equipment guys really wanted to do a great job, and they did, but they would be like, ‘Jen, we have never had to do this before.’ They would try to order khaki pants and they wouldn’t know the translation between guy sizes and girl sizes… When I got there, they had these khaki pants for me, and they were so big. I probably would have offended somebody because they would have fallen down. “  

It is the opportune time for people like Welter to jump start the inclusion of women in other sports-related areas, and for others to take the resulting opportunities to make the presence of women on the field during game time a common sight.   

Although Welter’s internship with the Cardinals ended on Wednesday, she is optimistic that she will be able to leverage the face time and publicity she has received from her history-making role and continue pushing the idea that women in sports is not far-fetched but definitely achievable.   

“People will say, ‘Jen, you’re living your dream.’ No, I’m not,” Welter said. 

“To me, a dream is something that you lay awake and thought, I’m going to be an NFL coach. I never had that dream because there was nowhere to look for that dream. It wasn’t like I could look on the sidelines and see a woman out there. And yet, now, that is something every little girl can put on her list of possibilities.” 

The league and the greater social landscape has, in general, gotten over notions of female “inferiority” in a historically male industry, and now it is time for this attitude to actually manifest and result in more women blowing whistles, throwing penalty flags, and getting Gatorade showers. 

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Injury-Riddled Giants Must Take Measures To Maintain Player Health

For two seasons in a row, the New York Giants have had the notorious honor of being the team with the most injuries in the NFL.  

With the start of the preseason, New York already looks on track to keep the streak alive―prior to Saturday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Giants were already

For two seasons in a row, the New York Giants have had the notorious honor of being the team with the most injuries in the NFL.  

With the start of the preseason, New York already looks on track to keep the streak alive―prior to Saturday’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Giants were already four safeties short: Mykkele Thompson is gone for the season after tearing his Achilles heel in the preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, Nat Berhe tweaked his calf and now needs surgery, Cooper Taylor is sidelined due to a toe injury, and Landon Collins suffered a knee injury in the opener. 

After their 22-12 victory against the Jaguars, two more safeties were added to the Giants’ ever-growing injury list. Rookie Justin Carrie fractured his ankle, and starter Bennett Jackson will be out for the season after tearing his ACL―a huge blow since Jackson is a key role player on the secondary, an area the Giants cannot afford to lose any players in.  

Since winning Super Bowl XLVI in the 2011 season, the Giants have failed to make the playoffs and finished with only six wins last year. This underwhelming performance can be attributed to a lackluster at best, incompetent at worst, offensive line that allowed quarterback Eli Manning to get sacked 28 times, and made it impossible for running backs to gain any yardage at the line of scrimmage.  

But the Giants have adopted the persona of “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” for good reason. With the likes of Lawrence Taylor, Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan, and Justin Tuck, elite defenses have long been a hallmark of the Giants. Manning can have the best statistical season of his career―which he did in 2014―but with a shoddy, injured defense, combined with an underwhelming offensive line, the Giants will once again find themselves sitting at home come playoff time.

That is why it does not bode well with the Giants continuing to lose several players seemingly each week, especially on defense. On-the-field injuries are unpredictable, but with the Giants’ depth getting thinner and thinner, the team and its personnel have to play it safer.  

Head coach Tom Coughlin seems to agree with that sentiment, replacing the final day of training camp with a “recovery day” which allowed players to choose two from a lineup of stress-relieving, health-promoting activities. These included massages, yoga, and pressure boot therapy.  

If using an off day to proactively reduce and prevent injuries works in the team’s favor, i.e. they continue to win while avoiding injuries, Coughlin is open to scheduling more recovery days throughout the regular season.  

Coughlin’s willingness to allow his players to substitute practice with downward dogs underscores exactly how serious the Giants’ injury woes are. Before, the team’s injury predicament was something that was being continually discussed, but little had actually been done to contain the problem. Now steps are finally being taken to actively reduce the probability of injury. Hopefully, these strategies will work, and combined with a little luck, will give the Giants the opportunity to reclaim their reputation as a top team in this league. 

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No Amount of Surgery Will Remedy Geno Smith’s Career

In the days and weeks leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, Geno Smith, the young quarterback out of West Virginia, was touted as a definite first-rounder. As a result, he was invited to stay in the beloved green room on the first official draft day to wait for his name to be called by

In the days and weeks leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, Geno Smith, the young quarterback out of West Virginia, was touted as a definite first-rounder. As a result, he was invited to stay in the beloved green room on the first official draft day to wait for his name to be called by one of the 32 teams in the league.    

Smith received a lot of national camera time, but was not chosen by the New York Jets as the No. 13 pick, while the Buffalo Bills selected EJ Manuel, who ended up being the lone quarterback drafted in the first round, as No. 16.   

Considering New York, Buffalo, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Minnesota Vikings were touted as potential, probable destinations for Smith by the end of the first round, panic undoubtedly set in within his camp by the time Manuel was picked.   

Smith returned to the green room on the second day and was finally drafted as No. 39 overall by the Jets, who initially wanted to trade up in the second round to acquire him, could not consummate one, but was still able to nab him. Following this well-documented Draft Day slide, Smith promptly fired his agents, rumored to be because he viewed himself as a top four pick.  

True or not, these events only underscored what his critics pointed out before and after the draft. Many noted that Smith’s decline toward the end of his last season at Virginia State was a cause for worry, while others thought that the way he dealt with the draft highlighted some maturity issues. In its annual draft guide, Pro Football Weekly also painted Smith in a negative light, writing that he was “not a student of the game” and “doesn’t command respect from teammates.”  

Despite these criticisms, Jets general manager John Idzik, who was also a rookie at the time, declared that Smith and Mark Sanchez would be battling it out for the starter role.

Idzik has since been fired, and last Tuesday, Jets head coach Todd Bowles stated that Smith would be out six to ten weeks. Not because of a strained groin or twisted ankle, or any injury sustained on the field. But because his jaw was fractured in the locker room. By a teammate. More specifically, linebacker IK Enemkpali, who was a reserve player drafted in the sixth round.  

As it turns out, the altercation occurred because Smith refused to reimburse Enemkpali, who has since been released from the Jets, the $600 the latter paid for airline tickets for a charity event he hosted. Smith had promised to repay the debt, but when he kept stalling, Enemkpali confronted him in the locker room, leading to the quarterback’s broken jaw.  

The context of the situation worsens Smith’s reputation exponentially and also makes his status on the Jets a lot more tentative. Quarterbacks are seen as the leaders of their teams as well as someone who can mediate issues between other players. It is obvious that Smith breaks the norms of the quarterback position. Not only did he allow the locker room situation to escalate to a level that may cause him to miss five regular season games, he has been indirectly called out by his own teammates and even Bowles.

Fast forward two seasons, and Pro Football Weekly’s, as well the words of Smith’s other critics, seem eerily prescient. 

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The Symbiosis Of Deflategate And The Sports World

Last Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed Tom Brady's four-game suspension, citing the fact that the New England Patriots superstar destroyed his cell phone as one of the main reasons the punishment was upheld.  

Here is a simple recap of all the events that led to this most recent segment of

Last Tuesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed Tom Brady‘s four-game suspension, citing the fact that the New England Patriots superstar destroyed his cell phone as one of the main reasons the punishment was upheld.  

Here is a simple recap of all the events that led to this most recent segment of the Deflategate saga:  

  • On Jan. 18, weeks before the Pats prepared to play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, it is revealed that the team is under investigation for playing with balls that violate the league’s weight limit.   

  • Two days later, officials reveal that 11 out of the 12 footballs New England used were underinflated.  

  • Bill Belichick is as Bill Belichick as ever, robotically denying any wrongdoing.    

  • After a shocking interception in the final moments of SB XLIX, the Pats return to Foxboro as the newly crowned NFL champions. Three months later, the Ted Wells Report is released, infamously stating in a line that would make the spinning top at the end of Inception proud: “It is more probable than not that Tom Brady was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities…involving the release of air from Patriots game balls.”  

  • Brady is promptly suspended for four games, and the team is fined $1 million and forced to forfeit a 2016 first-round pick as well as a 2017 fourth-rounder.  

  • Brady and the NFL Player’s Union appeal his suspension, which ultimately is denied.  

From someone on the outside looking in, Deflategate resembles a very bad soap opera rather than a full-blown “scandal.” But for those entrenched in the football world, when a new report concerning anything with “Deflategate” in the title is released, it might elicit an exasperated sigh or furtive eye roll…but we still end up reading it. 

We scoff at the fact that Tom Brady’s destroyed cell phone is being used as proof of non-adulterous cheating, but then eagerly devour the details and even do the math: 10,000 text messages over four months translates to a pretty reasonable 83 texts a day. 

At the end, the fact that throughout Deflategate, everyone, their moms, and their extended family have formed opinions on this “issue,” actual science has been called upon to explain the implications of a football that has one less pound of air than a regular one, and Patriots haters have pounced on this latest misstep of the sixth-most valuable sports team in the world, only adds to America’s NFL craze.

When commentators, panelists and writers eloquently express why they think the Patriots have either forever tarnished their reputation or that the team’s record overshadows this controversy, the opinions that are presented may be authentic, but the underlying theme is an obsession with keeping controversy news-worthy. 

Deflategate is as important and news-worthy as we (and the league) want it to be. In an alternate universe, the Patriots would have gotten a slap on the wrist and Brady would be free to enjoy his offseason with Gisele and his favorite pair of Uggs. But then, what would there be to talk about until the preseason starts?

Considering that the majority of football spectators probably consume sports media on their tablets and smartphones, they expect brief, split-second alerts, easily digestible stats and continued updates on the latest controversies. In other words, if flagship programming were to dial back Deflategate coverage an focus just on technical, on-the-field news, viewers would either tune out or switch to another medium. 

Thus, the fans’ appetites are what media outlets base their content on, and this content is what perpetuates fans’ appetites. The TMZ aspect of sports journalism is infiltrating mainstream sports journalism, and the daily sports circuit has already progressed to a point that we cannot turn back from. That said, there is no “problem” with the incessant coverage of what are ultimately non-sports related topics. It is just a phenomenon that highlights a shift in the current generation’s attention span.  

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