In a sports discussion that largely steered clear of basketball and Jeremy Lin, three of New York’s best-known football figures on Wednesday united on at least one issue: how the media has transformed their profession.
And not always for the better.
Former New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason and former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms – both now sports broadcasters – and Jets head coach Rex Ryan, said social media, Twitter and increased TV and radio has transformed sports.
During an 80-minute chat Wednesday at the Long Island Association’s annual meeting at the Crest Hollow County Club, the trio discussed how the media in New York pushes for instant gratification.
And they said how the same focus that helped create Linsanity as a national phenomenon also can create sudden, extreme storms of negative opinion as athletes such as Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez face calls for dismissal despite two playoff appearances.
“When I hear this about Mark Sanchez, I go, ‘It’s insane.’ It drives me crazy,” Simms said. “It’s shows on TV. It’s radio shows.”
He said the speeded-up news cycle, particularly in New York, leads to impatience and extreme opinions, putting pressures on players, coaches, teams and owners, as well as sweeping indictments that sometimes prove short-sighted.
Against a backdrop of euphoria over Lin’s recent performance for the New York Knicks and the Giants’ Superbowl win, Esiason pointed out how some other athletes also have had recent rises.
“In 2007, everybody forgets this, Eli Manning was termed ‘aww shucks’ by my radio partner,” Esiason said. “He almost got run out of town. They wanted to run Tom Coughlin out of town with him.”
Simms said certain great players might not have been able to perform in the fishbowl of today’s New York sporting scene. “Lawrence Taylor would have lasted three games,” Simms continued.
He added that an impatience with performance probably doesn’t benefit players or teams, which need to manage not only the game, but expectations.
“We’re in the media,” Simms said. “We should change some of those thoughts, because they’re wrong.”
But Esiason said the position of quarterback in major media markets today, even more than years ago, involves the ability to manage the media as well as throw a pass and dodge a defender.
“The quarterback position in the NFL is incredibly hard,” said Esiason, who co-hosts a drive-time morning radio show with Craig Carton on WFAN. “Not only do you have to do it on the field. You have to do it in the locker room every day, with the media every day.”
Ryan said his team developed a national presence through television shows as well as a bravado that attracted attention, leading to benefits as well as problems related to an open locker room.
“We are transparent. Everybody knows, you have some issues this year in our locker room. That’s true,” he said. “You’re going to know about us in the good times, in the rough times. I’ll never tell players what to say.”
While teams and coaches have different media policies (Bill Belichick is known for a tight-lipped approach), Ryan said his own media policy for players is to mention two teammates and one coach during each interview. “We’re not always in line,” he said. “That’s the negative part about what we do.”
When asked whether the Jets were interested Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Ryan said he isn’t allowed to discuss players on other teams. “I’ve paid enough fines this year,” he said. “I can’t comment on any player that’s under contact with another team, I cannot make any comments. Like I said, I’ve got to keep my money.”
Instead, he said Sanchez, who faced criticism at the end of the football season for his performance, is the team’s starter. “Mark is our starting quarterback. I think he’s got a bright future,” he said. “When you look at it, he’s had some successes. He’s only been here for three years.”