Widgets Magazine

Sawhney: Team photo follies irrelevant to super sunday

As Super Bowl XLV draws ever closer and the media circus around it comes to a climax, many of you have undoubtedly heard about the Green Bay Packers’ team photo drama that, if you listen to the inane drivel of an ESPN “analyst,” threatens to distract the Pack and hand the Lombardi Trophy over on a silver platter.

Somehow, this thing has blown up into a massive national story, despite the fact that it isn’t a story at all. ESPN and other esteemed national news outlets feel the need to cover all football, all the time (because, hey, football sells), so whenever they get a tidbit of “controversy,” they relentlessly hype and publicize it. This is an unfortunate reality, but I have some advice for ESPN: I know you want higher ratings, but you shouldn’t abuse your position as the biggest sports media outlet to magnify stories that just aren’t there.

To give a brief summary of the “controversy,” every year each Super Bowl team poses for a team picture in the week leading up to the game. Green Bay was scheduled to have its picture taken on Tuesday, but the 16 Packers on injured reserve, who suffered season-ending injuries, were not scheduled to arrive in Dallas until Thursday. Injured players Jermichael Finley and Nick Barnett took to Twitter to express their displeasure at the situation, and star quarterback Aaron Rodgers sniped back a few days later, basically calling out Finley and Barnett for not staying with the team after they were injured and choosing to rehabilitate themselves elsewhere.

The Packers, and specifically the players involved, probably could have handled this situation better. I’m sure there are internal venues more readily accessible to the players on IR than Twitter (and it doesn’t help that the mainstream media has discovered this newfangled Internet device only a few weeks after your grandmother.) Finley and Barnett could have told team officials they wanted to be in the photo or asked teammates to intercede on their behalf. Similarly, Rodgers didn’t have to call them out for rehabbing elsewhere, but an ESPN reporter pointedly asked him for his assessment of the situation.

Nevertheless, it’s a bit of a leap to go from “several players expressing displeasure” to “full-blown controversy threatening to tear the team apart.” For starters, this isn’t about playing time or the depth chart — it’s just a team photo. It’s really not that big of a deal. If the injured players weren’t allowed to join the Packers in Dallas or be on the sideline during the game, then that would be a pretty big deal, but that was never the case.

More than anything else, this case points to two problems in our mainstream sports media: it is very quick to latch onto anything football-related and anything Twitter-related. Obviously, football is the monster of the American sports landscape, and this leads to idiotic stories like this one getting more airtime on “SportsCenter” than games in other sports that are, you know, actually played.

I also think that ESPN still hasn’t figured out how to report on Twitter properly. We saw this during the Jay Cutler saga as well, when pundits read deeply into the short messages that other players were posting about Cutler’s exit from the NFC Championship Game with a knee injury (later revealed to be a damaged MCL). As hard as ESPN tries, you can’t make a news story out of a quote that’s 140 characters or less. Twitter lends itself to making short statements, but I don’t think a person can really make an adequate criticism in that tiny space.

Of course, we suffer from this in college sports too, where the biggest games of the year have weeks of speculation and hype leading up to them. Sometimes, I wish the rest of the sports media would just do what we did for this year’s Orange Bowl: fly in the day of the game, report on the game and the postgame press conference, and then fly out the day after. I guess that would just be too logical.

About Kabir Sawhney

Kabir Sawhney is currently a desk editor for the News section. He served as the Managing Editor of Sports last volume.