The Six Steps To Media Heaven

Doug Farrar looks at the national media's exclusion of the Seattle Seahawks, and poses a fan's solution.

OK…ESPN’s coverage of the 2004 NFL Draft finally did me in. I have HAD ENOUGH. Why is everyone ignoring our team?

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than our 10-6 Seahawks in 2003 getting slotted for ONE national game in 2004 (to put that in perspective, I believe the only teams that were shut out of the national mix entirely were the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals), just when it couldn’t get any worse than the constant assignment of Seahawk games to Fifth-Tier Announcing Teams (“Next, Montel Williams and The Fat Guy From ‘Survivor’ talk about the Seahawks’ newest additions…”)…well, it got worse.

Last year, I expected the ‘Hawks to get shut out of Draft Day coverage…after all, our drafts have been up-and-down affairs for quite a long time. But after pulling off what was arguably the finest draft of 2003, I naively thought we’d get at least a few props from Berman and Kiper. I knew Mort would have his phasers set to “Rams, Rams, Rams” (which he did), and I knew that there would be an inordinate amount of gooey (but entirely well-deserved) praise for the Patriots’ braintrust (which there was), but I thought there’d be the least little bit of speculation as to what the Seahawks would do for an encore.

Evidently, I’m an idiot.

In the almost fifteen minutes the Seahawks were on the clock in the first round, I counted less than one minute of actual Hawk Talk. For the record, this is NOT the usual practice. Of course, coverage of the lower first round was poleaxed by Steven Jackson’s unexpected plummet, but still…I swear, they spent 5 times more gab time on the Bengals in the Seahawks’ slot.

So. A week (and several profane utterances) later, I’m bounced back to the same two-headed question:

a. What do the Seahawks have to do to get some recognition on a national level?
b. What makes certain teams/players/coaches more “favored”?

Like any good wannabe analyst, I went to the videotape and broke it down. So here, for your consideration, are the Six Steps to Media Heaven:

1. Either develop a winning tradition, or milk the one you don’t have any more to death…
…and if any team has this down to a science, it would be Your Very Own San Francisco Forty-Niners (Ha!). Despite the fact that they’re starting to resemble a cap-strapped refugee camp, despite the fact that they pretty much lost every good player they had in the offseason, and despite the fact that they traded down about 15 times in this year’s draft, there’s still a fairly major cottage industry of robo-reporters who can’t help but push forward the proposition that the Niners still have “elements” of the dynasty they built from the early 80’s through the mid-90’s. Never mind that the only remnant of said dynasty who still has keys to the team’s Executive Washroom is the ubiquitous Bill Walsh (who probably had as much to do with the Niners’ draft this year as the 80-pound cat I saw on the cover of the Weekly World News yesterday)…this thing just won’t go away.

And trust me on this one…if the current St. Louis Rams team takes a nosedive in the next few years, there will be a horde of journalists who will absolutely and completely deny the existence of that fact.

See also: The Oakland Raiders last season (Next on “NFL Films Presents”: “Commitment to Excellence – The Story of the 4-12, 2003 Raiders!”), the Dallas Cowboys (between the Aikman/Emmitt/Irvin era and the arrival of Parcells…a glorious era for Cowboy haters, no?).

2. …Or, failing that, go with the “Lovable Losers” thing:
Nobody ever nailed this one like the 0-26 1976-1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and even that team (our expansion brethren!) pushed us aside. While the Seahawks were coalescing and learning to win under the radar, the Bucs of that era were involved in an NFL Films documentary that was recently shown on the “Lost Treasures” series. Yep…a team with Steve Spurrier as its starting QB couldn’t turn around without hitting a camera, and a team with rookies like Jim Zorn and Steve Largent was probably mistaken fairly frequently for a World Football League franchise on a national level. Huh???

What you seem to need to bag the “Lovable Loser” tag, and the attendant status thereof, is an unbelievably horrid team who seems to have absolutely no chance of winning anything (and possibly no right to even be in the league!). Unbridled mediocrity for a prolonged period of time will get you nowhere (which is one of the Seahawks’ problems…years of 7-9 and 8-8 records just don't sell ad space), and it helps to be a young team...something like the Cardinals’ 67-year playoff victory drought gets you nothing but pity or “why haven’t they been contracted?” thoughts. When the Cowboys went 1-15 in 1989, it may have been “news”, but it wasn’t “lovable”, except for the people who loved seeing them go, “splat”.

The upside here is that if you come into a lovable loser situation as a coach and turn it around (Marvin Lewis and John Fox are two recent examples), you will get mad props. However, you may have to overcome the following issue:

3. Put a player on the field who “defies all logic”:
This is where John Fox’ Panthers ran into trouble…and this is why that team probably got more press when the Rae Carruth situation was happening than when they completed their miraculous 2-year, “1-and-15-to-the-Super-Bowl” transition…they have no stars. They’re a solid team, strong on both sides of the ball, Stephen Davis is a great running back and their defensive line is the finest in professional football, but they apparently have no stars. Jake Delhomme came out of nowhere to lead that team through a harsh playoff ride, but they have no…

…Wait a minute. Didn’t Kurt Warner gain huge fame from that very same “Guy comes out of nowhere” scenario? Oh, sorry…Delhomme wasn’t a grocery store bagboy a few years ago. Plus, he didn’t marry his agent. No easy stories there. Oops!

And what of the Patriots? Is NFL coverage more exempt from the “East Coast Bias” factor than many Seahawk fans would believe? Could be…there’s little else than can explain the following: Two Super Bowl wins in three years, and aside from reluctant (and premature) comparisons of Tom Brady to Joe Montana (perspective: had Warner won two Super Bowls, the media would be comparing Montana to him…), there really hasn’t been what you might consider “appropriate” coverage of the individual players who have accomplished the near-impossible in the era of free agency and the salary cap: the creation of a mini-dynasty. See, the Pats have the same “problem” as their 2003 Super Bowl opponent…they’re an astonishingly well-built team from top to bottom, but they apparently lack the individual “star power” that a Brett Favre, Michael Vick or Ray Lewis brings to a team. Therefore, the Pats’ front office gets the goldmine and the players get the shaft. They’re the San Antonio Spurs of professional football. All they do is win. How completely and utterly boring!

4. Develop and perfect the “renegade” approach:
Personified, of course, by the lovely and talented Al Davis, but this factor has developed some major currency of late. Ray Lewis? Randy Moss? Does their talent alone get them their current headlines? Doubtful, even in Lewis’ case. The “above the law” approach is always far better for the Top Story than the historic on-field performance.

Exhibit A? I give you Corey Dillon. When Dillon broke the rookie single-game rushing record, he was basically a small blip on the radar. Why? He was a Bengal! When he broke the overall single-game rushing record, same little blip. Why? Still a Bengal. Now…when Dillon started making enormous whining noises about wanting to leave said Bengals…well, the media rose up as one and said, “Hey! Who’s this Corey Dillon guy???” The media then went on to rip Dillon up and down, despite the fact that it is this sort of selective coverage that has to contribute just a little bit to the belief some athletes have that they should develop some sort of adversarial relationship with some sort of governing body (be it their own team, the NFL or their local law enforcement) to satisfy their egos. Pretty nice when you can have it both ways, huh? Create the climate, then bash people when they dress for the weather...

5. Open your damn mouth and say/do something stupid!
A long-time chestnut of many athletes, but in the NFL, the wide receivers have absolutely taken this one over. Between Terrell Owens, Randy Moss and Keyshawn Johnson alone, there’s enough hot air to blow up every single balloon used in next year’s Super Bowl. All three are or have been great players (although Keyshawn’s slide has been precipitous), but are these guys worth it? Survey says…only if they’re playing at their very highest level. Of those three, it can be said that only Moss is still there. Keyshawn hasn’t been there in years, and Owens is starting to develop a severe case of “shortarm” that may very well leave the Baltimore Ravens terribly relieved that they didn’t get their man in a short time.

But God knows they get the coverage, don’t they? From Owens’ garbage-time endzone celebrations, to Moss’ admission that he takes plays off (yeah, I know that most every player in the NFL takes plays off because the sport is so demanding…admitting it defiantly is quite another issue), the guys who stick their foot in it, embarrassing themselves, their teams and the league get the top story every time. “Meshawn” has become so intolerable that the Buccaneers cut him last year…in mid-season. Couldn’t get away from that story, could you?

And who has been the NFL’s greatest WR over the last few years? I submit that is has been the Colts’ Marvin Harrison. Now, don’t be ashamed if you don’t know that name as well as the others…Harrison has one incredible liability. He lets his performance do the talking. He doesn’t act like a Ritalin-deprived adolescent, he just puts up incredible numbers and helps his team win. Sorry, Marvin…come back when you’re Ready For Prime Time! Who was the NFL’s best WR last season? Probably the Rams’ Torry Holt. Same deal. Torry, the NFL Gameday guest shot was nice, but you’re still not getting it. Can’t you pull a cell phone out of your pants when you score your next touchdown?

6. Stay out of a division with other Media Darlings:
…and this is where the ‘Hawks have some major issues. Between the aforementioned Niners and Rams, it’s going to be very tough for the Seahawks to get the national attention they deserve. Nothing they can do about that…they’re building a solid, well-defined team with stars, but no apparent “transcendence”. They’re in the wrong division, and most likely the wrong city, for the major coverage they should be entitled to. The books, as they say, are closed

So, what do we do next year? Say the Seahawks go 11-5, win their division, possibly go to or win the Super Bowl, and the 2005 draft has the same announcers playing “What’s A Seahawk?” when we’re on the clock with the 32nd pick in the first round? I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to remember the things this team accomplished, as opposed to the recognition they will almost assuredly not receive. I hope that I’ll remember that there are some who will ignore the Seahawks because of the overall depth and team concept that our front office has painstakingly (some might say agonizingly) put together, while they follow the “Jackass Of The Month” around like groupies, hot for the fresh, controversial angle.

How does true team depth (and the true team concept) become the celebrated factor over the selfishness of the individual? Simple…we celebrate it every Sunday with our friends, in our homes, in the Stadiums of America. And if the majority of the media chooses the easier angle, we as fans have both the right and the obligation to turn our eyes to what the Seahawks will show us in 2004…that winning is INDEED the only thing.

Doug Farrar writes a column every Monday for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send your feedback to Top Stories