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By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
NEW YORK (WFAN) — Don’t hate the game, hate the playa.
The one thing that seems to drive Jets fans crazy, maybe even as much as their team losing and looking dysfunctional while doing so, is this idea of unnamed sources spilling the alleged inner discussions of the organization out into the open.
I’ve seen the angst and venom tweeted by fans more times than I care to remember.
When beat writers go this route, in an obvious attempt to one-up their competition, people go nuts. And more often than not they question the voracity of the reporter citing the sources, as has been the case repeatedly online with scribes who work for some daily newspapers. There have been numerous fiascoes with the Jets over the last two years, everything from unnamed teammate criticism of Mark Sanchez, to the anonymous blasting of Santonio Holmes, to, now, whether or not Tim Tebow asked out of the “wildcat” aspect of the offense this past Sunday against San Diego.
I’m one of those people who believe the media is just as much responsible for the chaos that permeates the Jets as front office executives, coaches and players are. I believe sources are an overused and abused practice in the media, especially among members of the sports media, a division of American journalism that seems to have a lot less accountability and is held to a much lower standard for getting things right, as opposed to news, which has its fair share of detractors for sure, but still seems to operate with much less tolerance for screwing up the truth.
I’m not naive enough to say some reporters don’t have agendas, but I’m not in the room with them when they come up with the ideas for the stories they write, nor have I any knowledge of the people they supposedly speak with to get their information. But it seems like these unattributed stories are popping up more and more in sports, often with serious damage done to the reputations of the players, coaches and executives in question, but with little to no admonishment for the writer creating the uproar, if he or she ends up being proven wrong.
That’s because the reporter doesn’t have to reveal a damn thing while operating in a cut-throat environment that preaches getting it first is best, we’ll work on the details later. Is that right? That’s not for me to say. But I do know the ease in which some writers get their information and the timeliness of when it is released to the world is tuned like a Swiss watch, like it has been handed to them precisely at the moment they need it.
It often seems like a coincidence to me, and a well orchestrated one at that.
But, again, what do I know? I can just tell you what I see.
The situation where you get into real trouble is when the sources are conflicting, as was the case in the aftermath of the Jets’ 27-17 loss to the Chargers. Some said Tebow asked out of the wildcat aspect of the offense, while others said that was hardly the case. And if you were looking for confirmation from Rex Ryan either way, well, you probably had a better chance of flying in a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer on Tuesday morning. Ryan didn’t give anyone up nor throw anyone under the bus, because that’s simply not his style. Ryan said Tebow would have done whatever was asked of him. It’s up to you to believe him or not.
The real problem I have manifested itself on Sunday night and Monday when word of Tebow suddenly becoming this big phony came to light. Out of nowhere, the guy who by all accounts was the complete team player became ostracized for abandoning the Jets in their time of need by asking out.
Again, I’m not saying he did, and I’m not saying he didn’t. But this belief by many fans that reporters who use unnamed sources are all garbage and disgraces to their profession now seems to matter little to those same fans because the subject of the sourced material is Tebow. Suddenly, the anonymous or unnamed variety is a more acceptable form of investigative reporting.
That’s about as hypocritical a stance as a fan can take.
And the reasons for this simply come down to the same things I have said time and again, things that people don’t like to hear but, I believe, certainly come with a modicum of truth.
Many people simply do not like Tebow, the man. The fact that he’s mostly a largely unproven talent with plenty of pitfalls in his game isn’t enough for many of the naysayers. Their dislike of him is on a more personal level that really has only a little bit to do with his abilities on the football field.
In some perverse way they feel threatened by him, as if an executive within the organization they root for may somehow be brainwashed by his good-guy image and make team decisions based on his popularity or perceived reputation. Maybe Tebow suddenly becomes more viable a player than he really is because of these factors, and maybe as a result the fans’ favorite player could get passed over by the machine and corporate entity that is Tebowmania.
Maybe they don’t like him because of his intense religious beliefs, badges of honor he wears proudly and publicly. Perhaps they think all of his charity work, while indisputable, is too much about constantly furthering his own agenda, to always keep him in the center of the mainstream’s consciousness.
This is America. People, as we know, hate for all kinds of misguided reasons and often debating the merits of one’s argument for or against something is a waste of time, because, as we see all the time in debates on politics and religion, there’s a clear dividing line. Regardless if one side makes sense with some of what they are preaching, the other side simply does not care, and shows a stubbornness that will never, ever be altered.
I think the Tebow saga fits into this category and is really a microcosm of that which divides us. Is he a star player? No. Can he help a team in some way? Yes. But right there I have asked two questions that on any given day will be clearly supported and clearly dismissed.
As is the case with this country, nobody really likes to meet in the middle and just give both sides a chance.
Personally, I don’t think there’s anything phony about Tebow. I think he’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and there are a lot of people out there angry because the Jets have suffered through a nightmare season and they need faces to pin it on. Mark Sanchez is the easy target because he was terrible, but that’s not enough for a lot of people. They want their pound of flesh and, to them, Tebow is the perfect target, because, either for the reasons I illustrated above or for reasons that run much deeper, they’ve been waiting for the right moment to pounce. And now, based on the same type of unnamed source article they blasted before when it involved “real” football players, they have no problem assuming it must be the truth this time around because it involves someone they simply don’t like.
The Jets’ front office did Tebow a disservice by bringing him here, as everyone now knows. I don’t know how many diehard Tebow fans I told on Twitter from the time the trade was made back in March up until the moment Sanchez was finally benched that Tebow would never start for the Jets. This coaching staff never believed in Tebow and I think there’s a lot of truth to the belief that the trade was engineered to satisfy a lot of things that really had very little to do with winning football games.
As for those out there who wouldn’t blame Tebow for asking out of last Sunday’s game, considering how the Jets have treated him, that can’t be acceptable either. If indeed Tebow did ask out he should be publicly scrutinized, because he fancies himself as this ultimate team guy and regardless of his personal issues with management or the fact the Jets’ season was basically over at the time of the alleged conversation he still has to hold himself to that same standard. Those who would say he’s only human and one man can only take so much disrespect need to think it through. Your integrity must stay intact, regardless of how bad your personal situation is, because that’s the image you have portrayed during your entire career as a professional.
But, again, this is all about “ifs.” Did he ask out? Is the whole thing a bunch of nonsense? Well, that’s for you to decide, but you have to do it without bias.
And with Tim Tebow there’s nothing but bias on both sides of the ledger.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
Do you think Tebow asked out? Or is this just another case of the media running amok? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …