Yeah, I Said It: Current Most Over-Covered Sports Stars
Sports superstars receive an abundance of media coverage from multiple outlets. Those personalities generate clicks and discussions among both experts and casual fans. Stars, not competitions, often sell sports leagues to the public.
With that said, some athletes are given too much coverage these days.
Conor McGregor is one of the most entertaining individuals in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and he's undeniably one of the top competitors in the promotion. With that said, it's possible, as of the posting of this piece, McGregor won't fight again before the summer, so we could all use a break from reading and hearing about the outspoken Irishman.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook may be good for a triple-double each time he takes the court, but he's playing for a team that won't win a title in 2017. New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is a hero in nickname only these days. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is a media sensation even though he's never played in a conference championship game.
It's worth noting over-covered athletes are not necessarily overrated. There's only so much pockets of fans can take as it pertains to sports stories. Who, among the 10 athletes featured here, are you sick of hearing and reading about this winter?
It's easy to understand why UFC strawweight Paige VanZant received so much attention in 2016. The 22-year-old looks more like a cover model than a fighter. Her bubbly "girl next door" personality that is displayed during media appearances and commercials plays well for casual viewers.
Television executives obviously realized VanZant had the goods to be a star when they signed her to compete in last spring's Dancing with the Stars competition. The mixed martial artist became a hit with viewers of the program, and she finished second overall.
Unfortunately for VanZant, she achieved more success on the dance floor than in the cage over the past 15 months. She's lost two of her last three bouts, and Michelle Waterson beat her via a first-round submission this past December.
Per Lance Pugmire of the Los Angeles Times, VanZant admitted last December winning a title in the UFC "isn’t the be-all, end-all" for her. One can't help but wonder if she'll pursue other opportunities away from fighting if she suffers a defeat in 2017.
Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid is one of the most fun NBA players to follow these days. The 22-year-old has openly embraced his role as the face of the club's seemingly endless rebuilding process. Embiid is on his way to winning Rookie of the Year for the 2016-17 season. As Joe Rivera of the Sporting News wrote, Embiid is also known for making noise and generating laughs via social media.
Will Embiid ever become the cornerstone of a championship roster worthy of the media attention he's received since last October? Only time will tell. The 76ers are currently near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, and the club would have to go on quite an impressive winning streak to qualify for the playoffs this coming spring.
Passionate Philadelphia basketball fans waited for years to have something to cheer for during games, and Embiid has repeatedly delivered during his rookie campaign. The worry here is that he'll become a media superstar before he is a bona fide superstar, not to mention an All-Star, on the court.
Truth be told, we still don't know if Embiid can survive an entire NBA season without suffering an injury.
Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt is a walking advertisement for pro football. Watt is a mountain of a man who looks like he's cut from granite. He's one of the top defensive players of his generation, and the 27-year-old already has three Defensive Player of the Year awards on his resume. Watt has earned headlines for his stellar play and also for his workout regimen detailed by Matthew Jussim of Men's Fitness.
Watt somewhat dropped off the radar last fall when his season ended after only three games. He underwent back surgery, and he admitted in November retirement had entered his mind because of his injury history, per Will Brinson of CBS Sports.
Watt may be built like a tank, but he's still a man vulnerable to suffering physical setbacks. He's also a man on a contract that could be worth over $100 million by the end of 2021, per Spotrac. The Texans may find themselves reviewing this deal as soon as next winter if Watt fails to return to form later this year.
When former player and current pundit Gary Lineker publicly asked if Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba was the most overrated player in the world, as Callum Davis of the Telegraph explained, it was a sign Pogba was about to become arguably the most over-covered player in the Premier League.
The 23-year-old who left United to join Italian giants Juventus in the summer of 2012 made his name and earned fame for his play with the Serie A outfit. He hoisted the league trophy every year he spent with the club, he played in a Champions League final and he became a member of the France national team. Pogba then made history last summer, per the Telegraph, when he rejoined United for a record transfer fee.
Along with being featured in advertisements, Pogba became the face of the storied club looking to climb back to the top of the Premier League table. United are currently sixth in the league, and Pogba has largely failed to live up to expectations. Pete South of the Daily Mail recently hit out at Pogba's "naivety and tactical indiscipline."
Pogba alone isn't the reason United wouldn't qualify for the Champions League if the season ended today, but his massive price tag brings with it such criticisms and media attention. He'd better get used to this type of attention because the English press won't stop hounding him anytime soon.
Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews was destined to become a superstar even before he ever placed a skate on NHL ice. Matthews was the first overall pick of the 2016 draft, and he was selected by a storied franchise in the middle of a title drought that's lasted 50 years. The 19-year-old is already the face of the Maple Leafs, and he isn't yet finished playing his first season with the club.
Matthews may have hit the so-called rookie wall this winter. Before he found the back of the net in Toronto's loss to the New York Islanders on February 6, he had managed to score a single goal in eight games, per Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun.
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid may be the new face of the NHL, as he currently leads the league in total points. Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby is probably still the league's most valuable player as it pertains to overall talent. Matthews may ascend to that level in time, but all would do well to allow him to do so gradually and at his own pace.
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook may be the most entertaining player in the NBA this winter. As of the afternoon of February 7, the 28-year-old has a 61 percent chance of averaging a triple-double for the season, per ESPN's Kevin Pelton. Oscar Robertson remains the only player to ever achieve that feat, and he did so during the 1961-62 campaign.
Westbrook's numbers are undeniably impressive, but those who already have him as their unnamed NBA MVP for the current season need to pump the breaks.
As Matt Moore of CBS Sports pointed out in December, Westbrook actively chases assists and rebounds during contests to bolster his stats en route to earning triple-doubles. One could easily argue his overall value to the Thunder is overrated. After all, Oklahoma City currently sits seventh in the Western Conference standings. Odds are it'd lose to the San Antonio Spurs in a playoff series if the postseason began today.
Remember, also, that Westbrook was on a team that blew a 3-1 series lead to the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 conference finals. There's currently zero evidence Westbrook can lead a roster to the NBA Finals let alone to a title.
The hype that hovers over Westbrook should cool until he silences such criticisms.
It was back in the spring of 2013 when Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated referred to New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey as "The Dark Knight." The nickname became attached to the right-hander from then on, as New York fans began wearing Batman apparel to Citi Field for "Harvey Days" that featured the starter taking the mound. Those fans hoped Harvey would prove to be the top performer for a rotation capable of guiding the Mets to a World Series title.
Harvey has largely failed to live up to the hype. He missed the entire 2014 campaign after having Tommy John surgery, and he's made only 46 starts over the past two years, per Baseball-Reference.com. The 27-year-old had a 4-10 record last July when his season ended after he underwent shoulder surgery.
Harvey will continue to be a big name who makes headlines, in part, because he plays in the largest sports market in the country, but there will soon come a time when the Mets will need to decide if he'll ever be the ace they hoped he'd be several years ago. The Dark Knight needs to return in more ways than one in 2017 to be worth the coverage he'll get this year.
We want Tiger Woods to be the player of old. The PGA wants it, and casual fans who otherwise ignore golf yearn to see Woods climb to the top of a leaderboard during an event. As Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News wrote last month, Woods remains a ratings draw heading into the spring months.
The problem is that Woods clearly isn't the player he was a decade ago. Woods, who has dealt with a variety of physical setbacks over the years, missed the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January, and the 41-year-old then withdrew from the Dubai Desert Classic after shooting an opening-round 77.
It's understandable Woods attracts a large amount of media coverage before he steps foot on a course for a competitive event. He remains the sport's most recognized personality for all he achieved during his prime. His prime is now a distant memory, however, and the game's younger and more talented stars deserve recognition this winter.
Odell Beckham Jr.
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is a victim of his own success in some ways. Beckham made that famous one-handed catch during his rookie season, and he set multiple records over the past several years as Michael Eisen of the Giants website pointed out. The 24-year-old also became famous for his touchdown celebrations.
Beckham's on-the-field accomplishments and antics made him a celebrity, and he paid a price for that fame earlier this year when he spent some time on a boat in Miami before the Giants played the Green Bay Packers in the opening round of the NFL playoffs. While Beckham wasn't the only New York player on that boat, he received the brunt of criticism after he and the Giants suffered a blowout loss at Lambeau Field.
Beckham expressed regret for taking that trip before Super Bowl LI as Neil Best of Newsday wrote.
Beckham and his teammates aren't the only NFL players to ever take a trip to Florida after a football game, but the veteran of three seasons needs to realize he is no ordinary player. Keeping a low profile over the next few months would probably behoove Beckham.
Conor McGregor deserves a lot of credit for building his status as a superstar over the past few years. McGregor is a pay-per-view draw who attracts casual fans to UFC events, and he made history in November when he won the lightweight title and became the first simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history.
The 28-year-old now needs to realize we can't miss him unless he actually goes away for a period of time.
As Josh Gross of the Guardian explained in December, we can't stop talking about McGregor even though he is taking a break away from the UFC. There is currently no set date for McGregor's next fight, and yet he continues to make headlines for a variety of reasons. A supposed bout between McGregor and retired boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. is mentioned by some news outlet practically every month, and the lightweight champion recently created headlines when he discussed the fall of Ronda Rousey as Damon Martin of Fox Sports wrote.
McGregor is a unique and entertaining figure who serves as the public face of the UFC as of February 2017, but he isn't fighting anytime soon. Less is more, in some instances, and it'd be nice if both McGregor and the media realized that.