Cast your minds back to last season and Marion Barber's refusal to talk to the press after one of the Bear's games last year. It left me begging the question: 'so what?'. I have been following the league since the mid 1980s, but I was blissfully unaware of certain policies that require players and coaches make themselves available to the media. As someone living in the UK, I find the relationship between the media and the players to be a strange one. Read on to find out why.
Let's take a look at a quote from the 2011 NFL policy for players:
"Cooperation with the news media is essential to the continuing popularity and financial prosperity of our game and its players. This is an important part of your job, especially in these challenging times when everyone in the NFL must do more to promote our game. Violations of the policy may result in fines. Just as important, failure to adhere to the minimum requirements of the Media Relations Policy will cast you and your organization in a negative light"
What is clear from this statement is how much importance the league places on teams having relationships with the media. And that's not such a bad thing. It gives players and coaches a platform, and gives fans a chance to feel connected to their teams via newspapers and television.
I suppose what I have a problem with is the insistence that players make themselves available to the media. Whether they really want to or not, they have no choice in the matter. Players are told to:
"Be available to the media on a regular and consistent basis during scheduled media times: Four times during normal practice week (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday). And following the games in the locker room."
One of the big differences between the way the UK media covers sports and the way the US press does it is the existence of 'beat writers'. I realize that the UK is a much smaller country and a faction of beat writers would probably not work. A lot of people feel that beat writers are slowly becoming redundant, but the fact remains that they get good access to the teams and are responsible for breaking up to the minute stories.
The British sports media is frequently filled with scandals surrounding soccer players. Stories about a players activities off the field often find their way onto the front page. There is very much a 'them and us' type relationship, with journalists literally building someone up, only to crush them when things go wrong. I don't think this kind of thing really happens with the NFL and the press. Correct me if I'm wrong, but have some of the recent DUI stories involving Justin Blackmon and David Diehl made the front pages of any national papers? Because they would over here.
What I actually do find refreshing is the way players seem to make themselves available to fans as well as the press. There has been countless examples of NFL players tweeting with fans directly which I think is a good thing. English soccer stars seem to be unreachable by the everyday man on the street, as if they are in some way better than the people that ultimately pay their wages.
The league could not exist without the press and vice versa. And the NFL is constantly doing its best to maintain and strengthen its relationship with the media. However, I sometimes feel that this all becomes a bit too much of a love fest. I think we need more writers and broadcasters that aren't afraid to criticise a team, player or coach. yes, you get the odd person on radio that tries to be controversial, but for the most part it seems like no one wants to rock the boat. If there are journalists that aren't afraid to consistently speak their mind, please point me in their direction.
This is understandable to a degree. I suppose it would be hard to openly criticise a team and then be expected access to the players at the next team practice. But I think we need more outspoken members of the press who don't care who they offend.
He is to appear on air once a week during the regular season either on a Monday or a Tuesday. I'll tell you right now that I am not a huge fan of this. While I appreciate what he is trying to do, how will this work if he has to be on the radio the day after a humiliating loss and an awful personal performance? (of course, I hope this doesn't happen)
And it's not as if his ESPN 1000 hosts Waddle and Silvy are going to be giving him a hard time. I find it hard to keep my lunch down listening to those two doing everything not to offend Cutler and treat him like some kind of God. It's all too comfortable for my liking. And Isn't Cutler going to be a father by the time the season rolls around? How about spending that time with your new baby, Jay? I'm just saying.
I realize that I have proabably contradicted myself several times during this article. What is it I want? Do I want players to be more accessible and seem more human? Or should we just care how they perform on the field each week?
I don't like players being forced to speak to the media, but I equally don't like players indulging in media activities that only seem to serve themselves, under the guise of trying to connect with the fans.
Like I said, the relationship looks set to remain a curious one.