Generally enjoy Dan Wetzel’s work over at Yahoo, if you haven’t seen his work on the Sandusky trial definitely give it a look. Today I was on his page, and I ran across his column on why he thinks anonymous player polls need to be stopped. What spurred the column was the latest “dirtiest player” polls that were released as well as some anonymous comments against Dominic Raiola and NY Jets coach Rex Ryan.
Wetzel argues that there’s no value in the polls that ask “negative” questions like “most overrated” player etc. And he says anonymous commentary should be reserved for situations in which the truth needs to be revealed without consequence — not for what Wetzel classifies as rip jobs.
[To read what I think of player polls and anonymous criticism click Read More]
To the first point, I think there absolutely IS value to the questions that are asked in the negative. By and large, the media tells the public what is going on in the locker rooms, how different players are viewed and that sort of thing. The anonymous polls give us insight into how the players perceive their peers independent of what the media tells the fans. I, for one, was shocked to read that players voted Sanchez as most overrated. I mean, who is over-praising Sanchez? Do players confuse overrated with “talked about too much.” If so, that makes sense that Tebow and Sanchez found themselves atop the list.
So while I’m in favor of the polls, I do wish they were more robust. However, I will admit, that utility is certainly not why the lists were created. They were created to get hits/clicks/reads.
Moving along, as Ryan pointed out, even though his name appeared as most overrated coach, his name would probably be atop the list of coaches players want to play for. If you remember in polls past, players have both lambasted Patriots Coach Belichick AND stated they’d want to play for him. So, in that sense, a negative isn’t even really a negative. And that particular result was pretty telling. I interpreted it as more often than not, players can stomach being led by someone they dislike as long as winning is involved.
In terms of the “dirtiest” player polls, I think they, too, are valuable. it lets us know what kind of behaviors players think is acceptable and where they are drawing the line these days. Many people have argued that Detroit Lions Ndamukong Suh (who has, again, topped the list of dirtiest players) isn’t dirty, rather behind the times in terms of how players currently conduct themselves on the field. But it’s clear the players find fault in his actions whether he’s behind the times or not. I think that’s interesting to know.
In terms of allowing folks to insult or criticize others in their industry anonymously, I don’t like it but I also realize it is common enough to be impossible to stop. Whenever members of the media want to prove a point in their own columns they often take anonymous sources who speak negatively about the person they’re profiling. Now Wetzel may argue that that is necessary in those circumstances for “the truth” to come out, but that would still nullify his point about the childishness of public figures having to respond to anonymous opinions.
Plus, saying that rip jobs based on opinion shouldn’t be done anonymously is essentially ripping the entire media’s practices and methodology. And maybe they need to be ripped… but it’s odd that this would be a final straw for anyone.
To Wetzel’s point about the victims of anonymous screeds having to defend themselves, I’d argue that they don’t. Coach Ryan or anyone else could say “that person, whoever they are, is entitled to their opinion” and keep it cracking. That would discourage outlets like Pro Football Weekly from going back and forth between two people and hyping up a war of words.
I’d personally love to hear players and coaches and GMs talk about each other more often but as has always been the case, stating an opinion that is remotely critical of someone else to the media can turn into something much bigger than what the person intended. When guys are honest, the media eats it up but still with a “tsk tsk” cause nobody likes “trash talk “and “classlessness” (yeah right). There really is no such thing as an innocent criticism, especially not with the media covering athletes 24 hours a day. That’s why anonymity can afford some of the best insight into the culture of the league.
I do, however, think that player polls should include more players. Sometimes I fear the polls are a little like the NFL’s top 100 list where you can’t find even one player who participated in the voting.
At any rate, if Wetzel has a problem with anonymous rip jobs, then he should definitely write something on how draft prospects are victims of character assassination just for the sake of manipulating their value. That’s a topic I feel strongly about and have addressed many times.
You can read Wetzel’s column here.
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