When you think of Cortland Finnegan, what is the first thing that comes to mind? If you say the dirty player who got into a fist fight with Andre Johnson on TV you're likely to be in the majority.
Unless you watch ESPN:60 every time it airs, you probably had no idea.
The Cortland Finnegan paradox is a representation of exactly what is wrong with the relationship between NFL athletes, the media and the consumers. Finnegan's deeds off the field should be praised and exalted, but instead he is one of the league's bigger villains due to the coverage we've seen of him.
Too often, we see report after report of players getting arrested, starting fights, talking smack and generally just being troublesome.
Granted, the players don't make it easy. There are a good number of them who do just go around making problems, and it would be a lie to say these dramatic stories don't make good television or a darn good read.
Therein lies one of the major problems faced by media coverage in the NFL. The media can make a story out of just about anything a player does, regardless of the good or bad. That's just good journalism. It is the consumer who makes the domination of negative coverage possible.
As sports fans, we need to see that these players are human. We need to see them making mistakes. Fans eat this stuff up. It's only a human behavior to love some little drama.
We all have that little bit of schadenfreude in us that makes us want to see James Harrison bash Roger Goodell on national television or watch Terrell Owens pretend to cry about Tony Romo during a press conference. It's all quite fun, but is it what's best for us, the sport or the players?
Do we see a balance of good and bad in player media coverage?
It is true that bad news is usually more entertaining than good news, as long as everyone comes out of the story alive, but an objective and slightly more boring type of coverage is better than skewed coverage of only one side of the situation.
As entertained as we are by the bumbles and blunders of athletes, coverage of this kind tends to cast the entirety of the NFL player pool in a negative light, when a great number of them are productive and positive citizens.
Does anybody remember Warrick Dunn? He was one of the most charitable NFL players of this generation, and he wasn't even THAT rich. Still, I bet you'll find more people who know that Dez Bryant wore his pants too low in a mall than people who know that Dunn buys homes for single parents and their children.
The idea is that professional athletes are supposed to be role models for young kids, so why continuously show the things they do wrong? Sure, it's a nice lesson, but after a while the media will turn pro athletes from role models into cautionary tales. You cannot consistently call a group of people "role models" when the only things we hear about them are the bad things they do and say on and off the field.