Brandon Marshall’s mock “interview” yesterday inspired a broad response on MHR: (See http://www.milehighreport.com/2009/9/17/1035131/brandon-marshall-meets-with-the or http://www.milehighreport.com/2009/9/17/1035678/think-about-brandon-for-a-second)
Some saw it as more childish antics from Marshall, while others saw it as an appropriate response to the untrustworthy and manipulative media. Some pointed out that Marshall must have just been doing what he was told by McDaniels and the Broncos’ PR department – an approach to the media apparently adopted directly from Mr. Personality himself, Bill Belichick.Well, the ensuing discussion got me thinking about the relationship of a team to its fans, and the role of the media as a liaison for that relationship. How many of us are content to simply watch the games to get our Broncos fill? Is that all we have a right to expect from the Broncos organization?
Of course not. We give the team more than just our money and time. The Broncos for us are not merely a business transaction. We invest something of ourselves – our hearts, minds, and for many of us, a part of our identity. At the very least, we clearly all visit MHR on a daily or near daily basis, to whet our appetite for news, opinion, and analysis. And although our ultimate aim is to understand what happens on the field and why, our discussions are not limited to what happens on the field. We do not only discuss the players as players, we discuss the players as people. We need to, in order to understand them. In other words, the games are not enough – we want to see and understand the players in more complexity than simply the sum of the plays they make.
And yet a vast majority of us are so removed, so distant from the game and its players. The bottom line is that we need the media to bridge that gap, as sources of additional information about the players. We can’t all have a firsthand experience of NFL culture. If we’re lucky, we can go to training camp, maybe get an autograph, maybe we get one chance a year to talk to a player from the stands at Mile High. Maybe we have a friend who has a friend who knows a player, or knows somebody who works for the Broncos. But that’s not enough to satiate our appetite for glimpsing the hidden reality of NFL life. What do we want from the Broncos? We want to understand them. We want a report of the unfiltered truth of their experience.
Despite all of the poor journalism out there in the sports world, there are some good writers. For me, the writers I look forward to reading are Peter King, Adam Schefter, Bill Simmons, and to some degree, Vic Lombardi. They give me what I hunger for; they provide behind-the-scenes insight into the game and the players. They help break down the mystique of life in the NFL, and place it context to my own life.
Which brings me back to the Brandon Marshall interview. If, as some suggest, this interview represents the Broncos’ philosophy of handling the media, then what are we really getting from them? I’ll tell you what: nothing! Nothing that is meaningful or worthwhile. I’ve read the interviews with Josh McDaniel, Kyle Orton, and many of the other Broncos players, and frankly, they suck. Orton was on the Dan Patrick radio show this past week, and normally I’d post a link to that sort of thing, but to be honest, it’s a little embarrassing. Orton appears to have no personality, and he’s boring to the point that I doubt he’ll be asked on the show again. What are they trying to give fans through those types of interviews? All we get are prepackaged, meaningless clichés. The only thing they tell us in those interviews is that they have nothing original to say. They want to share nothing meaningful, nothing worthwhile – they are only there to go through the motions. Like Marshall, they are only there because they have to be there.
So then, who is the real recipient of this dismissive attitude? If the Broncos do not feel that an interview exchange is worth their sincerity, then who are they really dissing? The media or us fans?
Even if you answer “the media,” we still get screwed. If they hate the media (which would be understandable), then through what other means do they suggest we understand them? Insofar as we the fans must depend on the media, the Broncos speak to us through them. And if they reject the system, then how are they going to fix it and offer information through some other channel?
All in all, the Belichick/McDaniels method of dealing with the media is really a slap in the face of fans. It’s no surprise that Marshall’s treatment of the reporters yesterday solicits such a wide array of responses. We can understand the mistrust toward writers who seem to blatantly misinterpret and judge players like Marshall. In that way, we can sympathize with Brandon. But on the other hand, the Broncos neglect us fans by disregarding the role that the media plays for us. Although he shaped his responses toward the reporters, I feel as though Marshall was talking to me. And his message was loud and clear: you’re not worth talking to.(Disclaimer: I generally support McDaniels. I like his approach to coaching, and I think he’s going to be successful. But I also don’t think he’s above criticism).