COLUMN: The Media Problem

It seems like the Panthers just can't get any respect out of the major media outlets. The immediate response is easy: Why should the Panthers get any respect? The team is coming off a 1-15 season and hasn't had a winning season since 1996. The press shouldn't fall all over itself to tell the world Carolina is great. That's not what I'm talking about.

What I'm talking about is when the media automatically presumes every move the Panthers make is a mistake, or still worse, ignores us all together. Let me give everybody a few examples. Immediately after the draft, the vast majority of media outlets classified Julius Peppers as talented but lazy, and it was their opinion his motor never ran. (I'll bet you if we took Joey Harrington and the Lions drafted Peppers, we'd be hearing how much of a stud Peppers is and how foolish the Panthers are for passing on him.) Likewise, DeShaun Foster was described as a either a chronic fumbler (The thing that kills me is that nobody bothered to mention he had a fractured bone in his hand during the Ohio State game where he fumbled four times) or even a wasted pick.

For what it's worth, a media bigwig who slammed the Panthers and Foster ate crow last week after actually seeing #20 in action. I won't name this guy, but he's not hard to locate at CNN/SI. Things like this really get me twisted up – They don't mind shooting off their mouths before looking at things! If any one of them had actually seen our preseason games, they'd know Peppers looks like a pretty high-motor lineman. Two sacks in three games? Running down plays from the opposite side of the field? I'll take that. And don't get me started on Foster. The fumble label has got to come off! I personally went to plenty of training camp practices and saw him fumble once. Once in weeks of practices and none in three games does not a fumbler make.

Slamming the Panthers for moves before they can be evaluated is bad enough, but ignoring the team altogether is worse. If you're a Panther fan, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The major culprit is ESPN. During their 2002 draft coverage, you just knew that commercial was coming up when the Panthers were set to pick. When they got back on the air, no mention of whom we picked. More recently, ESPN did a little preview of new coaches, and guess what? No Panthers, no John Fox. Are we invisible? Even more recently, this hack channel was previewing the week three preseason games. Our coverage consisted of: "The World Champion New England Patriots against that 1-15 team." Who have we pissed off at ESPN?

I'm not saying these outlets should praise the Panthers or project them to be a surprise team, but at least mention the club by name. Don't assume a player will be a bust simply because the Panthers took him. There's no question the media is biased for certain teams and against others – And I'm not just talking about the Panthers. I don't even want favorable coverage, but fair and even coverage would be great. Pipe dreams, people. We all gotta have ‘em.


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