It’s times like these you wish Santonio Holmes was a little more well-spoken, a little more careful with his language.
There was an important message he was trying to convey on that now-infamous NFL Podcast, and the delivery was completely wrong. But that doesn't mean that it is our job to forego common sense. With his words are taken at face value, Holmes is being made to look like he's asking the media to lie for the sake of the team. That's a lame stance.
I believe in the spirit of a man's words, especially when the verbiage isn't precise. Maybe that's because English wasn't my first language, and I had to work a little harder to communicate with people whose English was limited. It's a little contradictory given my journalism work, but I don't believe the locker room is a court of law. I believe in conversation and discussion and understanding, because those are the foundations of trust.
This is not an effort to be a Holmes apologist. Grown men must be held accountable for their actions and convictions. But I also understand the fickle nature of New York media, how business and editorial have to coexist.
But that does not excuse the lazy interpretations of Holmes's remarks while reporters play coy and do their passive-aggressive "this is my job!" routine. There is absolutely no logic in pretending to believe that Holmes -- a seven-year pro, who's played in a Super Bowl, endured his own controversies, and been a prominent athlete at elite levels for most of his life -- doesn't understand the role and function of a reporter. That's a condescending evaluation.
Beyond his poor choice of words is a hope that the reporters who are in the Jets locker room regularly, during practices and after game days, stop trying to manufacture controversy -- especially in the offseason when players are balancing their workouts with relaxation. Was that really not clear? No one's asking reporters to lie. Fans and athletes are just begging for the stupidity to stop.
When I mention manufactured controversies, I think of how quotes are often held when they're fresh, only to get injected into the news cycle later. Perspectives are sometimes staggered for weeks until they're published without all the context. That's standard practice, but it's not always disclosed in the story. This gives the illusion that turmoil is still lingering based on a quote first shared while the dilemma was current.
(Think: When the season ends, the first published quotes are from Mark Sanchez or Bart Scott, the stars and leaders, and then the news cycle eventually gets to what Matt Slauson thought about it all. It can't all be published in a day, because players are starting their offseasons and quotes are harder to get.)
The Darrelle Revis situation is also relevant. Revis has been noncommittal about any training camp plans, but the seeds of fear threatening the probability of another holdout were first planted in early spring. And then these journalistic preconceptions masquerading as objectivity manifest onto the page.
And what happens if Revis does hold out? They can proclaim how RIGHT they were, and there's no greater aphrodisiac than being right. And if Revis doesn’t hold out? Well, that warrants a grandiose profile piece about how he’s evolved into a team player and a leader, and his newly established championship-like focus to make the Jets better.
I'm fairly certain that Holmes didn't intend for "support the team" to mean that the media should make excuses. But when you’ve got 20 microphones and cameras in your face with five questions phrased slightly differently, and a few poison pens trying to trap you because this is New Yawk and this media hits HARD and we drink CAWFEE, then yes, hoping for less cynicism and gloom and doom is a little understandable. The hope is that people you see every day place a more accurate and detailed scope on their truth and observations.
Jenny Vrentas writes some damn good stories about the Jets, all around the depth chart, without taking cheap shots. She reports her observations and supports them with quotes. She proves, almost daily, that it is possible to do this job without coming off like a locker room gossip monger.
About a year ago, I spoke with a player about the relationship between the media and athletes, and he broke it down fairly simply: Beat reporters are essentially co-workers.
The NFL has policies in place mandating access to reporters from reputable outlets, so maybe that co-worker dynamic is what the league hoped to achieve between players and the media. But like Rich Cimini and Bart Hubbuch said, in their ways, they're not in the Jets' employ. And that's the right stance.
Unfortunately, that forced relationship also reduces respect and breeds entitlement, especially when the general feeling is that players are OBLIGATED to chat them up.
There is so little respect for some of these athletes, and it's often obvious in the ways that they're covered. There's a cultural divide between reporters and athletes, with no adequate understanding of where players come from. And while some reporters play GOTCHA!, players are left without a voice to quell issues that propel out of control. Once the media is challenged, these articulate writers become condescending while exhibiting various shades of Florio because they have the platform to do it.
And then fans wonder why they're often treated to vanilla quotes and analysis. Variations of “they wanted it more” and “we just didn’t have enough today” litter reports because players are conditioned to speak that way. Because once a guy like Holmes offers a little bit more, the backlash starts with a Twitter rant and evolves into an accusation. (Hubbuch started his rant after retweeting a Vrentas story that didn't batter Holmes for his opinion, or even lead with it.)
One of the things I discussed with that player involved what pro athletes fear in their dealings with the media. He shared the locker room concern over negative articles and their influence to impact players' personal lives. He gave me an example.
A pro athlete could be embroiled in a bitter divorce and custody battle, and a negative piece following a bad game has the potential to impact his case. What happens if a judge holds a “locker room cancer” allegation against an athlete hoping to raise his kids?
That's more important than football, every time.