Monday, October 31, 2011

The Flavor of the Month…

Back when such a thing as ice cream parlors existed (and you didn’t need to spend $29 for a guy to mix your flavor on a stone slab) they used to have the “Flavor of the Day” or sometimes it was every week or every month. Regardless, it was a constantly changing treat, usually something you wouldn’t normally try, an attempt to get folks to expand outside vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. And so it has been with quarterbacks in the first two months of the NFL season! The 24/7/365 nature of sports news needs a new story approximately every four days and anointing quarterbacks as “THE ONE” has become something of a national pastime.

Attend me: After the lock-out ended, the Eagles went on spending spree, snapping up high-priced free agents, creating a “dream team” centered around Mike Vick, who, despite evidence to the contrary, was going to lead Philly to a dominating season. The result: a very poor start, led by Vick’s inconsistency. They played a great game against the Cowboys on Sunday but are mired in a 3-4 record, dead last in the NFC East. That dreamy flavor soured pretty quickly.

After only one game, the flavor changed: Now we have Cam Newton, a phenomenally talented rookie QB under center for the Panthers. Despite a losing effort in week one, he smashed all sorts of rookie passing records, prompting comparisons with everyone from Dan Marino to Tom Brady. After week two (in which the Panthers lost to Green Bay, despite more aerial heroics by Newton), the media was ready to anoint him as the second coming of Dan Fouts. But here we after eight weeks of play and Newton has all kinds of gaudy stats except for the one that really counts: wins. The Panthers sit at 2-6 and Newton, while certainly a forced to be reckoned with in the future, is suddenly not that appealing! Or at least not appealing enough.

To a much smaller extent, Christian Ponder got his moment in the sun in his first start, but could not parley two scoring drives to open the week seven tilt against the Packers into a win or even into a good day statistically. The media was ready to jump all over that bandwagon, given the slightest sign of life. Unhappily for Ponder and his fans, he plays for the Minnesota Vikings, the poster children for dysfunctional NFL franchises.

But the best hype of all was reserved for Tim Tebow. The Broncos, facing a losing season and huge amounts of pressure from fans and media alike to start the rookie human hype machine, threw Tebow into the game a week ago and he came up with a stunning come-from-behind victory. Good for him! He didn’t look particularly good in the win, but he offered a spark that his team responded to. So, as you would expect with a new, ripple-twist-choco-raspberry delight to behold, the NFL media went ga-ga over him, proclaiming him to be a player who “just wins”, despite having only one NFL start and win. Well, as you would expect, the flavor suddenly tasted like sawdust and the “Tebowing” craze (consisting of kneeling down, as if in prayer) devolved into a “face palm” craze (consisting of slapping your own face whenever Tebow played like a first-year rookie) in the Lions demolition of the Broncos on Sunday.

I’m not saying these players won’t have stellar seasons and huge impacts in the NFL. My point is that in the desperate search for “news” FOX, SI, CBS, NBC, ESPN and NFLN have spent thousands of words and hundreds of TV hours, telling us how great these players are, despite lack of any real evidence to back up those claims. So it’s all well and good to try that new flavor but you really need to realize that sometimes the hype of the flavor-of-the-month does not live up to reality.

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