I don’t always agree with Thomas Holzerman, but I’m always interested in his viewpoint. Typically I read his work at The Wrestling Blog where he covers every aspect of professional wrestling. If you are a fan of wrestling, or ever were, I’d highly recommend checking it out. He is also a passionate Philadelphia sports fan, and with the media’s obsession with the Eagles this year I thought it would be nice to get his take on the talking heads’ coverage of his favorite football team, and the backlash of other fans.
From the moment Vince Young uttered those words, the Eagles, who made some really big free agent acquisitions in the offseason, were branded as such by the media, quick to hitch its wagon to a team in the NFL like it could in the NBA with the Miami Heat. Fans began to place the onus of hubris on the fanbase, as if we were the ones who crowned the Eagles as the team that would render the regular season meaningless because they were such a lock to win the Super Bowl with this squadron. It was a blatantly dishonest tactic, but hey, no one ever said fans were rational people who thought logically about things like factual assignation of quotes.
"I will be playing the role of Christian Laettner!"
Much to the dismay of cocky fans of other teams around the league, the one group of people who didn’t want anything to do with the Dream Team label was the collective fandom of the Eagles. I can tell you all right now that while there was a general good feeling about the pieces put into place, no one in this town wanted to take on that mantel. As far as I’m concerned, the only Dream Team played basketball for the United States in the 1992 Olympics. This team? Well, there were some nice pieces in place, but I, just like every other Eagles fan who didn’t have his or her head stuck where the sun of criticism and truth didn’t shine, had major concerns about this team. One was an undersized offensive line under a new positional coach who had to institute his system with a truncated training camp. The other was a defense coached by the previous offensive line coach. To the surprise of no one in town, the two main problems on this team that were readily apparent after the 1-4 start were the defense and the offensive line.
Not many people would argue this point, but sports media in general has a dumb tone, at least the media in the mainstream that gets the highest ratings or buzz. So it’s not surprising that the cadre of sports networks that included but certainly wasn’t limited to ESPN and Fox led this charge that because the Birds added a bunch of cornerbacks and a backup QB that could have competed for starting jobs in Buffalo or Cincinnati at the time (funny how things turn out given how well Ryan Fitzpatrick and Andy Dalton are playing, huh?), they were just going to roll the league. Never mind that smarter people than I (or quite frankly, a good 60% of “expert analysts” who have platforms) have preached for years that Championship teams are built from the inside out and that games are won in the trenches.
So, because the media set their own expectations for what the team should be, they, and by proxy, the millions and millions of fans out there who wanted to see the Eagles fail, reveled in schadenfreude when the team dropped the next four games after their season opening win at St. Louis. Even though it’s a disappointing trend in media, it’s nothing new. Folks who say that media has lost sight of its goal of reporting the news, not making it, are mistaken because I’d argue if the media was impartial, it was too long a time ago for it to be relevant to the conversation. I mean, William Randolph Hearst started a war with his yellow journalism at the turn of the last century. What makes anyone so shocked that ESPN would do the same, especially when the subjects are much safer to play with?
So it shouldn’t be surprising that everyone is hopping back on the team’s bandwagon now that they’ve rattled off two wins in a row, including a 34-7 curb-stomping of the Dallas Cowboys, which for most people in America, is as soul-satisfying as eating hot soup on cold day. They’re the chic pick to win the division, and why not? The offensive line has protected Michael Vick for the most part (much to chagrin of Ben, but that’s just a ribbing aside, because I can), and the defense has righted itself, mainly because Juan Castillo has figured out that making three corners who excel at press coverage play zone is just absolutely brain dead. Whether that was by his own cognition or at the nudging of the new “defensive consultant” is a matter of conjecture at this point.
Regardless, there are those on the team who’d rather those media bandwagon jumpers just saved their knees the shock of landing and stayed away. Jason Avant caught fire for suggesting that those who hopped off the bandwagon earlier in the season should stay off it rather than getting back on, suggesting that the team reveled in having doubters. Of course the media took this to mean he was bashing the fans, but who in their right mind would tell fans not to root for their team? To me, Avant was clearly talking about the talking heads in the media who wrote the team off for dead within the first third of the season and then are now pumping them up like they’re a lock to go into Lambeau Field in January and knock the Packers off their perch.
It’s funny how a team can go from the NFL’s version of the Miami Heat to the classic Bill Simmons meme of “NO ONE BELIEVED IN US” in a scant half season, but here the Eagles are in that very spot. It’s also totally an invention of the media, but no one ever said they didn’t like to make things interesting. It’s all an annoying sideshow, but it makes a ton of money and gets a ton of people chattering. In short, blame it on the backup quarterback. Usually, he’s the most popular guy in town, especially one like Philadelphia. This year though? He’s only popular in his dreams.