Examining The Media Circus

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Eric Weeks, TheJetsBlog.com

The media coverage of the New York Jets has been a sore subject for some time now, and continues to be an on-going issue. In comparison to cross-town rival New York Giants and the other 30 teams in the league, the Jets have received a barrage of negative press, often times unwarranted, and have successfully been painted as a band of misfits and clowns, much to the delight of others.

While the media’s coverage of the team is troubling, there’s a much larger issue at hand. An issue of integrity that should no longer be overlooked. It can’t be overlooked. After the jump, New Jersey Newsroom writer Evan Weiner examines what has gone wrong in New York (Ed. note: I recommend reading the article in its entirety).

Day after day, the New York tabloids and ESPN attached the “circus” label on the Jets. The general public bought the notion created by the mythmakers. The Jets record was mediocre and the media pushed the story while ignoring real problems in the real world that collided with the NFL fantasy world. There was a murder-suicide in Kansas City involving Jovan Belcher. Belcher allegedly killed the mother of his child and then committed suicide in front of Kansas City Chiefs officials near the team’s campus in December.There was a DUI-manslaughter charge involving a Dallas Cowboys player. Joshua Brant was arrested following a car crash that took the life of his teammate Jerry Brown. After being released from jail, Brant was on the sidelines cheering on his Cowboys teammates.

Despite all of this, the New York tabloids and ESPN insisted that there was a Jets circus.

The real “circus” in the Jets camp is something the New York tabloids and ESPN aren’t covering too heavily. The team has had three players arrested in the off-season. Two were fired following their arrests, Claude Davis and Cliff Harris. Both were taken in for marijuana possession. A third, running back Mike Goodson-who somehow did not make the San Diego Union Times database, was charged with drug possession and a weapons charge. Goodson is still employed with the Jets.

The media inflicted “circus” tag is inappropriate, ill advised and is a product of lazy journalism driven by a tabloid mentality as New York media seems to want to emulate the financially strapped New York Post.

The franchise hired Tim Tebow who became the central character in this so-called circus. Tebow could not perform but the story continued because the mentality ‘it sells newspapers’ exists in the New York market. Of course that is not the case as both the New York Post and New York Daily News have lost 10 percent of the readership and both papers have laid off employees. The New York market’s Newark Star Ledger, a paper that covers the Jets, may not last until the end of the year.

The Jets franchise is a “circus” but it was not the only New York area NFL team to have a player associated with the team in 2012 or on the 2013 roster arrested. The mighty and well-respected New York Giants were tarnished with the arrest of Michael Boley on February 8 on child abuse charges. The only good thing about this from the Giants and the NFL’s viewpoint was that Boley was fired from the team three days earlier.

The Jets had a fourth player arrested, which seemed to be unnoticed by the circus attendees, the tabloids and ESPN. Bryan Thomas was taken into police custody on October 31, 2012 and charged with assaulting his wife and in possession of drugs. Thomas, who is a free agent, was arrested again in April and charged with beating his wife.

But Mark Sanchez’s butt makes him the butt of the national media jokes.

To be fair, there are some cases where the Jets have brought the attention upon themselves, for better or for worse. Still, much of the snark and circus persona that is perpetuated by the media is unnecessary pomp and circumstance, particularly when there are 31 other teams in the National Football League that have similar issues that somehow remain overlooked or downplayed. Ever since their lone Super Bowl victory in 1969, there was always some level of snark associated with the team because they have struggled to recapture their former success, while, in some cases, failing to take advantage of opportunities to help themselves (see: NFL Draft, 1983).

When Rex Ryan was hired away from the Ravens in 2009, the media coverage changed dramatically for the Jets. Rex forced people to pay attention, largely because the league had rarely seen such an outspoken and confident coach. And his style worked. It had its detractors, but for the most part, it was heralded, in some cases, as a breath of fresh air. But that was when they were winning and grinning. Then another change came in 2011 and 2012 with Rex increasingly toning down the rhetoric; he didn’t really have a choice as the team finished 8-8 and 6-10, respectively. Interestingly enough, it was during this stretch where a plethora of anonymous sources and manufactured headlines drove a fanbase to the brink of insanity and painted a largely inaccurate portrait of a team trying to now piece together their future.

I understand that companies need to make a profit, but the circus shtick is only going to take you just so far. Fans have grown tired of the soap opera-esque attention grabbers, both in print and online. The majority of people I’ve spoken with have said they want more analytical articles that breakdown the Xs and Os not over-dramatized and unimportant issues. They want beat writers to put their storytelling abilities to good use and craft gems such as this or this.

If you want to discuss Tim Tebow running shirtless in the rain, that’s your (or perhaps your editors) prerogative, but if you’re going to, we don’t need a 1,000 word essay and we certainly don’t need to revisit the issue multiple times in articles down the road that have very little — if anything — to do with the events preceding.

Now the examples of Aaron Hernandez, Jovan Belcher, and Josh Brent are on the extreme since they are issues that have deservedly gained worldwide attention and sparked numerous debates. A player on the Houston Texans could be arrested for possession of an illegal substance and, while it does get league-wide attention, isn’t overblown. Meanwhile in Florham Park, New Jersey, the circus is in full swing complete with dancing elephants and clowns galore.

In the mood for some irony? Here’s a statistic courtesy of Bent: “…after the Braylon arrest, the Jets went two years and eight months without an arrest to a single player or official. There were 118 NFL player or official arrests in that time period (32 months). NONE of them were Jets players.”

Care for another dose of irony? I present to you Exhibit B (courtesy of @KSBeautifulMess via Twitter):

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If that’s what they’re pawning off as a circus these days then I want my money back. In all seriousness, while outsiders may have a few good laughs at our expense, it’s statistics like that that really show how far the media is willing to push an agenda that has little credibility. It’s unfortunate and will undoubtedly continue in rapid succession at least until the Jets give them something else to talk about. Until then we can only take the John Idzik approach: Deal with reality, not perception.

Cap tip to bonozoffa for the link!




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