Media's Mistake Way Bigger Than Donovan McNabb's

Jason WhitlockCorrespondent INovember 20, 2008

I'll begin by quoting a diverse cross section of my respected friends and peers in the media:
Warren Sapp: "When I heard him say it, I almost passed out. I thought, 'This will follow you for the rest of your career.' Your legacy in the league, Donovan, will be throwing up in the Super Bowl, Rush Limbaugh and now 'I didn't know there were ties in the NFL.' ''

John Smallwood: "One of the most embarrassing gaffes in recent sports history."

Ashley Fox: "And then there was the gaffe to beat all gaffes on Sunday. Every time I hear the clip, it sounds more absurd that McNabb didn't know that regular-season games that are still tied after 15 minutes of overtime end in a tie."

And Bob Ford wrote a column titled: "Testing McNabb's NFL IQ"

I don't get it. I don't understand all the fake outrage from my media colleagues over Donovan McNabb's harmless ignorance of the rulebook. The phony, manufactured controversy says far more about us (the media) than it does Donovan McNabb.

Trust me, McNabb forgot more about football last night than most of his critics have learned in a lifetime of pretending to cover the game.

And I'm not saying that to insinuate that I know more about football than Sapp, Smallwood, Fox or Ford (all of whom I genuinely like and respect). Although, if they really believe McNabb's rulebook blindspot in some way impacts his ability to be an effective NFL quarterback, then I'm quite sure my knowledge of the game surpasses their combined information by several football fields.

Had McNabb failed to launch a last-gasp Hail Mary pass against the Bengals, I would then understand all the fuss and bluster.

And we damn sure know had McNabb's Hail Mary fallen safely into a Philadelphia hand and secured victory, no one would care that McNabb was unaware NFL games could end in a tie.

Before I go further, let me put all my cards on the table. I'm a homer for Donovan McNabb. He and LaDainian Tomlinson are my two favorite active players. I love the way they carry themselves on and off the field.

In this era that has been hijacked by hey-look-at-me-bojangle athletes, I delight in watching Donovan and LT excel at the highest level while representing themselves, their families and their organizations in a positive fashion.

I want McNabb to win a Super Bowl. I've long since reached the conclusion that it's not going to happen in Philly, where the fan base takes pleasure in torturing the city's biggest stars and the media refuse to adequately chastise owner Jeffrey Lurie and head coach Andy Reid for failing to support McNabb with complementary offensive playmakers.

Is McNabb blameless for the club's post-Terrell Owens slide to mediocrity? No. McNabb, from my view, is a weak fourth-quarter quarterback. I lost a bit of faith in McNabb in Week 2 when he double-pumped a fourth-quarter handoff, fumbled and cost Philly the chance to put Dallas away by two scores. He topped it off with a two-minute flameout at the end of the game.

It's fair to question McNabb's nerves and ability to perform in the clutch. Owens did that when he talked about McNabb throwing up in the Super Bowl. T.O. basically said McNabb didn't have the necessary tummy for the situation.

But this focus on McNabb's football intelligence is absolutely ridiculous. If McNabb is anything, he's bright. His understanding of the game and the position he plays is exceptionally high.

That's why he toned down his running game and accentuated his ability to play from the pocket. Rather than listen to the misguided idiots who wanted him to "revolutionize" the position by being a playground quarterback, McNabb chose the path that made Joe Montana, Tom Brady and Terry Bradshaw multiple Super Bowl winners.

NFL players do dumb (spit) on a weekly basis. They take penalties for excessive or orchestrated celebrations. They blow assignments. They lose their cool and hit opponents after the play.

I'm supposed to believe not knowing the NFL's overtime rule is the "gaffe to beat all gaffes" or "one of the most embarrassing gaffes in recent sports history?"

We better define "recent" because it wasn't that long ago that Ron Artest ran into the stands to clock a beer-throwing customer.

McNabb's mistake was being too forthright. His alleged "mistake" had zero impact on the game.

I find the fraudulent indignation about the "mistake" embarrassing. My industry is so lacking in original thought and imagination that we think it's a big deal when we discover we know some insignificant detail about the game that a millionaire player doesn't.

That's what's driving all of this. We're so lost in the sports media world, so overexposed and overextended writing and talking on TV and radio that beating up McNabb over an innocent error passes as hard-hitting originality.

And we wonder why it gets easier every day for the public to ignore us.

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