Surviving Sunday: Packers News, Notes and Links for the Football Deprived

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Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football
Surviving Sundays with no Packers Football

Sometimes I wonder why Packers players and other professional athletes bother speaking with the media. If it wasn’t mandated by the league, would the incentive to speak to the press be enough to entice players to do it?

In years past, the answer would be yes. These days? I’m not so sure.

Interaction between the media and players is a big reason why sports have exploded in popularity. The media is supposed to be an extension of the fans. By speaking to the press, you’re essentially speaking to the fans. Sports wouldn’t rank as high on America’s cultural landscape without athletes like Joe Namath, Charles Barkley, Pete Rose and Wayne Gretzky being not only great players, but larger-than-life people and ambassadors for their respective sports through interactions with the media.

In other words, athletes used to need the media. Media exposure is a big reason why professional sports is now a multibillion dollar business and many athletes are multimillionaires.

These days, it seems like it’s the other way around. It’s media outlets that need the athletes.

For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to pick on the radio show Green and Gold Today. Before I do, I want to make clear that I listen to G&G Today daily and love it. I trust Jason Wilde on the Packers more than any other reporter and Bill Johnson is the rare combination of over-the-top, yet insightful.

But two things bothered me about the show this week and illustrate why I wouldn’t speak to the media if I were a pro athlete in this day and age:

  • Greg Jennings didn’t use Aaron Rodgers’ name in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press this week. This may or may not be Jennings dissing Rodgers. Either way, Johnson said, “Last night when I read that I felt like a sucker. I was defending Greg Jennings. I thought he was different. I didn’t think he was just another dopey wide receiver that all they care about is the number of catches they get. All of that just went out the window. To me, he’s just another selfish guy…” Really? One quip in an interview changes your entire viewpoint on Jennings as a human being? So if Jennings just ignores the interview request from the Pioneer Press, would Johnson still think Jennings is a swell dude? I know Jennings probably doesn’t care what Johnson thinks of him, but how does Jennings benefit from doing an interview like this if people are going to make judgments about his entire character based on a comment or two? Jennings doesn’t benefit. But Johnson’s radio show sure does.
  • An ESPN report came out that said Ryan Braun may be one of many baseball players facing a 100-game suspension for using steroids. Wilde and Johnson wondered out loud if Braun — who is good friends with Aaron Rodgers — being linked to steroids reflects poorly on the quarterback. A couple of soundbites were played from a year ago where Rodgers defended Braun when the Brewers outfielder wriggled out of a steroid suspension because of how his urine sample was stored. Wilde and Johnson (rightfully) concluded that Braun’s steroid issues have nothing to do with Rodgers. But the whole situation shows why there is little benefit for an athlete to speak to the press. Rodgers stands up for his friend, and a year later, the soundbite is resurrected and played in a way that some folks may connect Rodgers to steroids. Most people won’t make that connection (at least most sane people), but some will, and likely have. Rodgers speaking to the press about the issue and being honest did nothing positive for his image or how he’s perceived. It did draw some attention to the radio show, though.

The media puts a microphone in athlete’s faces and wants them to be honest, say something unique, be insightful. Then when they are, we — the reporters who gather the quotes and the fans who read/listen/watch their stories — pounce. We judge who they are as human beings. We dig up old soundbites and make vague connections to scandals. We pick and poke and prod and yell and scream and come to all sorts of conclusions, some of them rational, many of them not.

How does this benefit the athlete? It’s definitely benefiting the media companies through increased viewership, readers, listeners, page views and downloads, but how does speaking with the press benefit today’s athlete?

In the past, most press was good press. There wasn’t nearly as much media and a lot of this stuff helped build huge followings for individual athletes, teams and leagues.

I’m a part-time sports reporter. I’m in clubhouses and locker rooms all the time. There are media members buzzing around like flies after most games, and I’m in Minneapolis, hardly a large market like Boston or New York. When I’m sticking my recorder in the middle of a media scrum trying to get a few quotes, I often wonder what the athlete would do if he wasn’t mandated to speak with us.

If I were the athlete, I would speak only on rare occasions. Why should I have to help a newspaper sell more copies or a radio show gain more listeners by giving them quotes and soundbites? I can communicate with fans on my own through Twitter and other social media outlets without using some dude with a voice recorder and notebook as a middle man.

As long as I perform on the field and help my team, my image should take care of itself. The rest I can handle through social media or a PR firm. I don’t necessarily need a reporter or third-party media outlet to get my name out there or enhance my image, or the league’s image, like in the old days.

As a serious fan, it’s great having guys like Wilde around the team to provide us with context and sift through a lot of the B.S. that coaches and players say. But as a player, there’s very little value in speaking to the media. It seems to create more headaches than it’s worth.

I wonder if the major sports leagues will ever reach that same conclusion?

Packers News, Notes and Links

  • John Rehor covers everything you need to know about Brett Favre accepting some of the blame for his divorce from the Packers. Things appear to be moving in the right direction. Hopefully No. 4 is retired at Lambeau Field in the near future.
  • The ALLGBP.com crew interviewed former Packers fullback William Henderson and it’s a must listen. Really great stuff.
  • Want an update on the Packer ILB situation? Well, the update is that there’s not much new to report.
  • Here is the first of many “Jermichael Finely will be more focused this season” stories that will run before week 1.
  • Could the Packers use the franchise tag on somebody in 2014? There are several good candidates.

Non-Packers Links and Other Nonsense

I was so busy this week, I didn’t have time to do much non-Packers reading. Help me out: Use the comments section to tell me what non-Packers stories I may have missed.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • Dan Collins

    Strangely enough, political reporters could be heard over the past few weeks saying that this use of social media is destructive to their careers, because the users often cut them out of the equation by going directly to the public. It seems that in that case, a lot of them don’t trust the assigned media to deliver the story the way they would like, so they go over their heads. Generally speaking, the sports press isn’t quite as sour or cynical as the political press, though the line’s getting blurrier all the time. You can hardly go to Deadspin, for example, without a reporter demonstrating his (often underdeveloped) political awareness in the course of a column. We’ve gotten to the point where we are looking for evidence of PC thought crimes on the part of guys who get paid to smash other guys, only not too high on the body. That may have been a great play when the interviewee smote the receiver in the flat and stripped the ball from him, but what does he think of gay marriage?

    Now, I’d prefer that the Packers came to a cordial detente with Favre that would permit them to retire his number to great fanfare, but it’s not a huge deal either way. What Favre did, good and bad, mostly good, he did. I was privileged to watch him play for my team, and now I’m privileged to watch another great QB play for them. But Donald Driver’s retirement was enough Packer heartstring tugging for the time being. I wish Jennings luck wherever he goes, whatever he does, but I’m not too interested in what he feels at the present about the Pack. Maybe 10 years from now, he will have formulated an interesting perspective. Or maybe not. That’s just the way it is. He’s a talented receiver. He doesn’t get paid for insightful guest columns in Forbes.

    He and the Packers had a consensual business relation that both parties executed to relative mutual satisfaction. He left, because this is the sort of decision that every team must make under the salary cap. The question is now whether the Vikes get their money’s worth under that arrangement. Jennings is presumably the same guy. If you’re disillusioned, it’s because you were illusioned before. You haven’t been jilted by Jennings, but by your prior image of him, and who cares, besides you?

    Favre wants in from the cold, because being a respected Packer hero after football is a good gig. That doesn’t make him insincere. He was probably sincere when he texted his Crocs photos as a Jet. We loved him, and sometimes hated him, for what he did on the field. Is he a good guy? I dunno. Like most of us, he’s probably a mixed bag. If you’re looking for Packer heroes, you’ll find them in the highlight reels.

    If Jeremy Ross fumbles a punt, I don’t care what he thinks of East Timor. That doesn’t mean that a guy who fumbles a punt can’t have informed ideas about East Timor. It doesn’t mean Ross is a dummy; it just means I’m a cynic. Tom Crabtree’s an opinionated guy, but just because he’s a good special teams player doesn’t mean I care more about his tweets over Trayvon Martin than anyone else’s. We’ve politicized everything so much, if I were in their cleats I wouldn’t want to say anything about the issue du jour, and that goes for team politics, too. I doubt Jennings can get inside his ex-teammates’ heads and live there rent free by not mentioning Rodgers in an interview, but apparently he can do so with fans. Me? I don’t care. If Favre and the Pack make nice, I’ll happily watch the highlight footage, and I’ll be happy for the retirement ceremony, and maybe I’d pay for him to sign my Crocs at a function, if I had Crocs, which I never will. If they don’t, I’ll whip out my tiny nanoviolinino and play an almost inaudible sad song, and watch next season’s games.

  • Savage57

    There’s a lot going on in this article. It’s asking a chicken or egg question that really doesn’t have an answer but makes you think through a lot of possibilities. I commend your honesty and your ability to hold the very thing you do up to the harsh light of scrutinizing whether it has enough offsetting value anymore and hasn’t been overcome by events.

    Part of the article sounds like it harkens back to a time when less was more, and what little there was ran through some fairly strong filters. Now with the neverending stream of content through the explosion of channels and bandwidth, the appetite of the media has grown in lockstep. It is a gaping, insatiable maw always demanding to be fed. So feed it we do and not always with well thought out purpose or intent or consideration of consequences. Or, to that point, is the responsibility for relevance and fairness equally shared by writer and reader to consider prior to acting? Either in producing the information or responding to it in a measured manner.

    In current times trying to manage the volume of information we consume (or provide) and then make sense of it is like drinking from a fire hose.

    The way we consume information today, with my presence here at this hour serving as exhibit A, is akin to the boon in the amount of water we drink. Rarely do we do anything today without ensuring we have a bottle of water with us. I recall entire summer afternoons oy my youth going without a drink and never having two thoughts about it.

    So what happened? Exactly when did we get so thirsty?

    • Tarynfor12

      Technology….

      Kids back in the day couldn’t carry a water fountain in their pockets,it didn’t mean the thirst wasn’t there,it just wasn’t as easily quenched.

      You were mad when the early edition of the paper didn’t have all the scores because of time zones,now you get whatever,whenever and wherever you are with that little thing called a phone via various names as…well too many to list.

      Each individual needs to seperate the assinine from reality but without the assinine….boring.

      Many a Packer hates Colin Cowherd and yet listen to him daily,admittedly or not,for what they believe to be assinine remarks…doing his job and very well at that.

      The other and most important thing..context!
      The ability to take what was said and construe it to whatever you want it to be…even the smartest are made to look the dumbest….assinine or reality…you get to choose…

  • Dan Collins

    Good question. Once again, I don’t know, but I do know that there are plenty of people who read McCarthy’s comments after OTAs like they were clues in a Dan Brown novel. When I was younger, prior to drafts I used to read PFW’s pre-draft issue like it was the Talmud. Last year, I was a Gurley man, but they kept Boykin instead, then went out and drafted a Gurley-ish physical prospect late and added another in free agency, so what do I know? I thought we had a DL that outperformed Daniel, too, in preseason, but Daniel was kept. But, see, I can’t even remember the guy’s name, and that’s probably not a bad thing.

    Guys like Jersey Al know a lot more about this stuff than I do, and Thompson knows more than they do, and I can’t even remember where most political operatives I used to remember went when they switched to the private sector, and that’s probably not a bad thing. My dad used to like a beer when he came in from the hot sun, and I think, “That’s going to dehydrate me.” I’m a serious though casual fan of the Pack, better informed than some, less informed than others. I have opinions, but they’re not worth a lot. I sure hope the offensive line flip isn’t a flop. I hope Lacy isn’t on IR all the time. I hope the team can have a training camp where everyone’s not injured. A lot of this info, I don’t know what to do with it.

    I prefer football to politics, but unfortunately politics makes more demands on me. I hate to see the two get mixed. I’m just a guy. I can’t read the football tea leaves. Others can, some. It’s a diversion. There’s nothing wrong with that, but most of us should leave the obsessing to the experts, and let it be a game.

  • Adam Czech

    Taryn:

    I wasn’t writing about fans. Of course the media is great for us fans. I was writing about players. What value is their for players in this day and age to speak with the press as often as they do? I see very little.

    • Tarynfor12

      I agree with the little to no value for the players…other than the contract that likely requires it or commercialism for his own assumed worth.

    • PatMc

      Like Miss Universe contestants: Only that they want world peace and all children to eat. Unless their agents tell them to pipe up about contract negotiations they need to realize anything they say will bite them.

      • Dobber

        Miss Universe wants to eat children?

    • Dobber

      We live in a sound bite world. To open your mouth begs others to rob you of context and bestow little more than hype or shame.

  • Brooklyn81

    Adam i totally agree with you about the media and players! Great Column!