I have written a number of columns on the NFL lockout. I have written that we’re watching the destruction of a monopoly. I have written that I think it’s a bit of a farce, designed to drown out other sports during the offseason. I have written that Roger Goodell has been bending reality when speaking with season ticket holders.
But I think I may be finished.
Why? Because the NFL lockout has reached the Palin Zone.
A long time ago ESPN legend Bill Simmons developed the Tyson Zone. If you’re unfamiliar, the Tyson Zone is a reference to Iron Mike and indicates that an athlete has reached such heights of insanity that no matter what headline he or she creates, you vaguely nod and remark, “Really... Yeah... I can see it.”
We could find out that Ron Artest keeps a thousand albino kittens in his bedroom and it wouldn’t necessarily surprise you. Terrell Owens could move to Siberia to paint psychedelic icebergs and it wouldn’t necessarily surprise you. Albert Haynesworth could show up to training camp weighing over a metric ton and demanding that he be paid two salaries considering his immense size...and it wouldn’t necessarily surprise you.
All these guys are in Simmons’ Tyson Zone.
But why the Sarah Palin reference?
Since losing the 2008 election, she has actually dropped further from politics despite a skyrocketing public presence. She became a consistent guest on Fox News, cranked out a few books and even embarked on some sort of bus tour that “is not about running for President.” This is a free country, and she’s completely entitled to do any of those things.
But the perplexing part is for all her stump speeches and weird controversies, media-contrived or not, she has stayed out of actual politics. Sure, she’s supported candidates and fired up Tea Party rallies, but she hasn’t done anything actually tangible. Her only political move in the last two years has been to quit the governorship of Alaska. Again, free country. She can do as she likes. But at this point, even some of her most ardent fans are starting to say, “Put up or shut up.”
In other words, exactly where we are with all these NFL stories. The lockout isn’t so much insane like Mike Tyson, but just a repeatedly drummed-up story like everything Sarah Palin does.
“NFL talks flare up again!” “Owners nix deal!” “Talks resume under new framework!” “Players nix deal!” “Roger Goodell demands shrimp cocktail at next negotiation!” “Players nix cocktail, demand pizza!” “Roger Goodell makes lunch at home!” “DeMaurice Smith demands to trade juice box for Goodell’s banana!” “Owners nix deal!”
It’s as if every volley in a tennis match were its own lead story, and the saturation blurs the only important angle: who wins the point.
Long ago we reached a numbing point with these lockout stories. It didn’t take much effort to realize this was billionaires against millionaires, so who really cares? But the headlines won’t go away. They continue to box out coverage of baseball, the NHL and NBA Finals and the NBA draft.
Before the response was, “Eh, the lockout doesn’t really concern me.”
Now that’s evolved to, “Honestly, shut the f—k up.”
Nothing that happens surprises us. And nothing that happens is actually important; the media just gets lazy and repackages the same stories as news. Hence, the Palin Zone.
I don’t know what you do when something reaches the Palin Zone.
Voicing your opinion—even if it’s to say, “Be quiet!”—doesn’t work. The more you show that you have some smidgen of interest, the more outlets are going to cover “the story” to maintain ratings.
It’s hard to say, “I’m going to watch less football! Hit ‘em in the wallet!” because then you feel like the loser. Football is awesome. If the solution is for me to miss my favorite game...I dunno. That feels like somehow I got the raw deal during these negotiations.
Buying less merchandise is a reasonable reaction, but that solution does reek a tad of lameness. It kind of feels like having your neighbor unapologetically run over your dog and then saying, “Fine, you jerk! I’m not coming to your barbeque next week!” The crime doesn’t fit the punishment.
As lame as it feels, ignoring is still the only solution. Don’t click on the headline; change the channel when the story comes up. Don’t engage it.
I once wrote how media has expanded to allow for an endless sea of hype for players. That same model has carried over to the lockout. We’ve moved to a 24-hour sports news mentality...the problem is that there is rarely more than an hour or two of actual news. Remove box scores and highlights and that number dwindles dramatically close to zero. So producers have to fill time, and we get sensational headlines...that are actually extremely lame.
The only comfort in any of this is that if you do click away from lockout stories or change the channel, those producers will know. Previously, media had sent their stories into the public abyss and then gauged the response down the road. With today’s analytical tools for cable TV and the Internet, those same producers can “see” you lose interest. The key, though, is not to say it (“I hate this crap!”) but to actually take action (“Ahhh, here we go, Jersey Shore...”).
For something in the Palin Zone, we have to actively voice that we’re “Done, lockout! Done!”