As you may have heard, a faux-grizzled Mississippi boy named Brett Favre has brought his quarterbacking services to the New York Jets, the sad and mopey second-tier football team in a second-tier football town. This is quite big news, since Favre is a revered football icon, an unpredictable head case, and could easily win a Super Bowl or have one of the worst seasons in professional football history. Favre's arrival has created a frenzy amongst the bloodthirsty NYC sports media. Which has itself created a separate frenzy of analysis about why this particular segment of the media is such a schizophrenic mob. All of which has circled back into a scrum of grown men fighting over this simple question: Is New York City the pinnacle of sports media; or the most hellacious sports reporting town in America? New York City boasts a tabloid-led sports media machine that is unrivaled anywhere in America. But to outside observers, this can seem like the worst possible setup. Here's what Gregg Doyle, a columnist for CBS Sportsline, had to say on Howard Kurtz's CNN show yesterday:
The New York media market is kind of like my nightmare. I literally wake up in the middle of the night sometimes in a nightmare that I'm covering the Mets for "The New York Post." I can't imagine working in that environment, and I can't — but I can imagine Brett Favre in that environment. And what I imagine is a goldfish being dropped into the Amazon and having piranhas come and devour him. That's what I think is going to happen.
You're absolutely right, Gregg! The bulk of the New York sports media lacks any consistency past a one-day shower of applause for on-field success, or a week-long scolding to anyone who underperforms. It operates in either "hero worship" or "destroy him" mode. This is partly a defensive response by abused reporters wishing to express their inner pain. The tabloid sports coverage is like the tabloid news coverage; but while there's a ton of competing print news to balance out the tabs' more rabid tendencies, sports reporting remains a gladiator's arena. And NYC media love is capricious. Eli Manning just won the Super Bowl as quarterback of the Giants. Now he's complaining to Men's Vogue (not, you'll notice, to the tabloids directly) about being underappreciated:
"After a bad game, I don't hit the streets too much," Manning confessed. He generally turns off the local sports reports when talk turns to the Giants. "It's just the way New York is," he said. "You can play great for six games in a row and have a bad game, and they'll make it seem like it's the end of the world."
And why doesn't the media like him? Because his personality sucks. It has nothing to do with his on-field performance. This is the ultimate truth of New York: it's a city that celebrates celebrity over all. That's nice if you're interested in coverage of celebrities. If you're really interested in sports, move to a nice little town like Green Bay, where the athletes can be worshiped in peace. [The city's only hope for sports civility: Will Leitch.]