Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 18: NFL Narratives

The number 18 is appropriate, because here is where I talk about specific National Football League storylines that have been pushed year in and year out. After much thought, I realized that this post should deal specifically with NFL narratives. I have to get into topic this before I revisit sports reporting in general because it has pissed me off for so long.

How NFL Narratives Differ from Those in Other Sports

When you look at the issue of sports narratives, you may be able to see a few in the NHL, the MLB, the NBA, the PGA, or just about any sports league. In all of these sports, there will be a few narratives that persist.

In the NBA

Up-and-coming athletes will be incessantly compared to the greats. Every now and then, certain players, like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, are constantly compared to Michael Jordan. This isn’t fair in that Michael Jordan is considered the greatest athlete of all time across all sports. Kobe’s case is funny, in particular, since MJ would attest that Bryant took many of MJ’s moves.


The NHL has a similar problem with promising players being compared to Wayne Gretsky. The same goes for promising young PGA golfers being compared to Tiger Woods.

In the MLB

I will still hear about the Steve Bartman incident. He’s blamed by Cubs fans and former Cubs players still, although unfair. Just remember this is the same team and fanbase that blamed an actual goat for losing the World Series.

Beyond That …

Most narratives tend to have shorter lives than the ones you will find in the NFL. In these other sports, teams or just the hottest athletes and coaches will be celebrated in a given time period. I’m not particularly bothered by this as it would make sense to promote the people or groups who are currently performing the best in their given sport. When teams or individual athletes who are currently struggling eventually turn it around, they will get their due, as well.

It just so happens that the NFL has far more persistent narratives. This might be due to how short the NFL season is compared to the others. In any case, the quarterbacks are focused on more and this is where more of the narratives will be created.

In particular, there have two persistent narrative surrounding two quarterbacks in particular: Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

The Elite Quarterback

Before I can get to those two quarterbacks I mentioned above, I must discuss the annoying narrative of the “Elite Quarterback.” This element quickly gained ground when, oddly enough, Peyton’s younger brother, Eli, was asked if he thought he was elite in 2011. The focus on the Elite QB reached fever pitch in 2012 but is still discussed today.

And boy, do people obsess over this. All teams are told they NEED the best quarterback in the league in order to have a chance at a championship. As a result, any promising college prospect is fawned over and lavished with attention and hype. This was certainly the case for Andrew Luck when he was a senior at Stanford and it continued for 3 seasons.

Nowadays, just about every quarterback who does not meet some measure of accomplishment could be negatively compared to Manning, Brady, or Aaron Rodgers. This is of course fueled by television programs.

  • I will give a short mention to TMZ, which mocked Eli Manning and his then-fiancé (now wife) prior to Super Bowl XLII. Both were compared negatively to Brady and his wife, Giselle Bünchen, respectively.
  • Russell Wilson was all but ignored in Super Bowl XLVIII — played against Peyton Manning’s Broncos — but we all know how that turned out (a 43-8 victory for the Seahawks).
  • This past February, Manning got another ring, but mainly due to his defense. (He was also carried to his first SB by the Colts’ defense and despite throwing 3 TD and 7 INT that entire postseason.) Anyway, many people took the opportunity to lambaste Cam Newton the whole time.

‘The Sheriff’

Peyton Manning has been praised since he was born, really. His father, Archie Manning, was a beloved figure in New Orleans and Mississippi (as an Ole Miss alum), despite never having a winning record in the NFL. The Manning brothers’ childhoods were regularly documented and Peyton Manning’s decision to attend the University of Tennessee garnered a press conference.

Of course, Manning’s time at Tennessee and subsequent entrance into the NFL (as the #1 overall draft pick in 1998) was met with great fanfare, as well. He would go on to set a few rookie records — although the passing yardage record would be broken by Cam Newton in 2011 and then again by Andrew Luck the following season.

Why Peyton Praise Is Annoying

In short, Peyton Manning has lived a charmed life and various members of the press would easily heap praise upon him. And they’ve done this to the point that they would overlook any of his transgressions — and stat-grubbing tendencies. When he lost, you would hear some people taunt him and say that he couldn’t win the big game, but others would make excuses for him and insist that his teammates were to blame and they owed him for having being carried by him.

It’s so bad that even some fans insist it would be “un-American” not to feel the same way about Peyton Manning as they do or at least root for him at all. Michael Smith actually stated this when speaking of Peyton Manning before Super Bowl XLVIII and that made me bristle. (Well, I guess every real Seahawk fan, or those of the other AFC teams who rooted for the Seahawks are un-American.)

Manning finally retired this week and even that garnered so much attention. Although I understand how hard it can be for many athletes to quit their respective sports cold turkey, Manning was in the league for 18 years, he got the rings, he broke all those records, and he just wasn’t the same quarterback as he was even two years prior.

It was like the time in 2012 when Manning was deciding on a team to join when Colts owner Jim Irsay cast him aside to draft Andrew Luck. After a while, all the coverage really pissed me off. “Just pick a team, man!”

In any event, the press could have done a better job besides shoving each Manning story down our throats, but that’s the state of journalism today.

The Best QB EVAR!!!!11111OneOneOne!

Brady is constantly compared to Joe Montana, particularly in terms of the greatest QB Ever argument. I’m admittedly biased here, but most would defer to the differences in era and some would even point out the Bill Belichick factor.

Sure, Brady has already thrown for more yards and touchdowns than Montana and has won more postseason games than any other QB and some franchises. But Brady did it in an era where passers throw far more, defenses are handicapped by some of the rules, and his division (the AFC East) and conference haven’t been able to get their respective acts together. I would mention the level of cheating the Patriots have been accused of, but one egregious fact is that Brady will always get away with intentional grounding.

But I digress.

What Really Annoys Me About Brady Coverage

For those who have followed Tom Brady’s career — and partook of any on-air analysis of it — there have been the occasional douchebag comments made in his favor.

One in particular was a “neener, neener, neener” comment aimed at his sisters. When Brady was growing up, his older sisters were known for being successful at their chosen sports, so the little brother was in their shadow. After the Patriots won their first Super Bowl, with Tom Brady as their QB, some genius had to point out that this young man enjoyed an honor that none of his sisters could ever enjoy and how much more famous he became than they could ever dream of being.

What was the point of that? This guy could not just let one family be happy and celebrate the little brother who worked hard to get where he was. It wasn’t his sisters’ fault that they were born first, didn’t have penises, and grabbed a little attention growing up.

Another type of thoughtless comment I have comes in the form of people ridiculing teams for not drafting Brady sooner in the 2000 NFL Draft.

And Now, Here’s the Main Reason I Made This Post

I have seen “The Brady 6” documentary (2011), which was a joint venture between ESPN and NFL Films.

What It Was About

Apparently, six quarterbacks were drafted ahead of Mr. Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft; he was finally picked by the New England Patriots at No. 199 in the sixth round. The program goes back and forth between interviews with Brady, his father (Tom Brady Sr.), old coaches, and some of the other players in question.

The special relays how short and miserable the careers of Chad Pennington (18th overall to the Jets), Giovanni Carmazzi (65th — 49ers), Chris Redman (75th — Ravens), Tee Martin (163 — Steelers), Marc Bulger (168th — Saints), and Spergon Wynn (183 — Browns) were. For various reasons, all these quarterbacks had early retirements, and each — except for Carmazzi, who “has five goats” (LOL!!!) — were lined up to give interviews and commiserate over how the other thirty teams totally ruined their futures in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Additionally, Drew Henson — Brady’s teammate at Michigan and a quarterback who had to split starts with Brady one year there — was interviewed, as well. Henson had a short, unspectacular Major League Baseball career and a very brief stint in the NFL.

What I Think About It

To borrow an idea from “Family Matters,” I will describe the 46-minute program as slowly driving by to see someone picking up trash on the highway. That is what it is, basically. The whole tone of the special seems so vindictive to me. It was like the other players picked ahead of Brady and decision-makers on other teams were being paraded around and laughed at.

How dare you scrubs get ahead of Brady? Look at you now, losers.

Hey Spergon. You’re an energy trader with one son? Well, Brady has 3 SB rings and he gets to bang Giselle Bünchen.

Have fun with your goats, Carmazzi.

LOL Henson.

Tee Martin, if you can’t do, teach, right?

Oh, look at those other teams who passed on him. Don’t you wish you could have a do-over? Sucks to be you guys.

What is wrong with ESPN sometimes?

If you have seen the documentary, you might be thinking, “Girl, this documentary just showed how drafts can be gambles. It was not meant to poke fun at those other guys.”

Then I would remind you that the documentary was called THE BRADY 6, as in those six guys who went ahead of Brady in the 2000 NFL Draft. If there was no vindictiveness whatsoever in that special, why are we constantly reminded of this? There was no need to interview these guys at all with regards to Tom Brady. Are you telling me there was?

And I think Brady crying on camera was a slap in the face to those other men, anyone else who went undrafted, and anyone who was drafted/signed only to be cut shortly after. I wanted to tell Brady to STFU, seriously. He was fortunate.

The Truth Is …

Sure, Brady had to wait and fight for his spots, but waiting beats not being drafted at all. It beats not getting so much as a callback. Being carried by the team beats getting cut during or after preseason.

There was just no guarantee Brady would have the type of success he had with the Patriots if he went to any other team. The Patriots — with Bill Belichick — were perhaps the best situation for him.

Sure, the Niners had a pretty decent offense, an improving defense, and Mooch (at the time), but the front office was a mess with John York taking over for Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. The team was never the same since 1998.

The Jets might have been decent for a few years in the 2000s, but Brady would have to go up against Belichick’s defense twice a year.

And don’t get me started on the Browns. Some writer at had the nerve to say the team should have drafted Brady in 2000. Hindsight is 20/20 but Brady was not as fit then as he is now and there was no way the Browns would have given up on Tim Couch so soon. The team did draft Wynn that year, but only as an insurance policy.

Even then, Cleveland has not a great place for quarterbacks. Don’t give me this BS about how Brady is so boffo awesome he would have overcome everything. Please.

Anyway …

What the Documentary Should Have Been About

“The Brady 6” special would have been much better if it just focused On Brady’s development and path to success. Then the crying — although still whiny — would not have pissed me off so much.

ESPN can do better than this and it has. “The Book of Manning,” although a tad pretentious, was fairly decent. It was informative, touching, and no one had to be torn down to raise the Manning family up. The “30 for 30” specials I have seen have been very good since they have given new perspectives on different athletes (current and retired) and treated the subjects with more respect. That’s what I want to see from that type of documentary.

Next up, I will talk about a sports reporting and the commentary in general.