I want to spend today considering “media overreaction”. There seems to be an inability to take an event and look at it analytically/dispassionately and then report on its meaning and its place in the gestalt of the moment. Rather than treating many events in that manner, the more likely path for the story to follow is to report it; blow it out of proportion and then move on to the next “breaking news”.
Here in Curmudgeon Central, we deal with sports; therefore, I will refrain today from any remarks about all the “breaking news” that comes to us on those cable channels that try to represent themselves as “news outlets” when, in fact, they spend most of their time creating and pushing a narrative of their own and then reporting on events in a way to fit their chosen narrative. Today I just want to focus on a singular instance of a sports event and its overblown coverage.
The event took place just after the Washington WTFs beat the Eagles in Week 17 of the NFL season and Chase Young “pranced” off the field shouting that he wanted Tom Brady and that he was coming for Tom Brady – – referring to the playoff game that was to take place the following week. Far too many sports outlets took that event and ran with it – – in a variety of directions.
- Direction #1: This is a brash young man who does not know what he is getting himself into by calling out “The GOAT”. Be careful what you wish for, young man…
- Direction #2: This is a demonstration of his leadership qualities; it is why he was named as a team captain in his first year; we should lump him in with historical figures such as General Patton in terms of leadership qualities…
- Direction #3: This is what you expect from a great player – – parentheses Chase Young is a great player – – and he is following in the footsteps of great defensive players in the past on his way to glory…
Just maybe, the more accurate “direction” for this story to have taken would have been that this is a 21-year-old young man who is exuberant and who realized in that moment that he and his team had made the playoffs and he knew that he would face the Bucs and Tom Brady the next week. And what he did on his way to the locker room was not a momentous event; it was the venting of his exuberance – be it rational or irrational exuberance. (Hat Tip to Alan Greenspan)
Frankly, I think all three of those storyline vectors above are flawed in some way but #3 is either wishful thinking on the part of the commentators or idolatry on their part. Having seen Chase Young play in most of his NFL games, let me offer a dispassionate assessment of his position in the hierarchy of great NFL defensive players past and present:
- First, it is too early to know if he belongs in the pantheon of great defensive players. Having said that, he is awfully good, and he gives great effort on every play. I doubt that there is any team in the league that would not be happy to have him on its roster for 2021 and subsequent years.
- Now, I have heard his name put in the same context and even in the same sentence with Ray Lewis and Reggie White. And that is where I get off this train. Perhaps about a decade into the future, Chase Young will have earned his place in that sort of conversation, but to put him there now is premature idolatry on the part of the person(s) making the comparison.
Let us take a quick peek at the stats…
- As a 21-year-old rookie, Chase Young played in 15 regular season games. He had 7.5 sacks, 32 solo tackles, 12 assisted tackles and 12 QB Hits.
- He also played in that one playoff game he was so exuberant about. In that game he was much closer to a “non-factor” than he was to an NFL legend; he had 1 solo tackle and 2 assisted tackles and was on the field for 65 defensive plays.
- That’s all there is…
So far, Chase Young is not remotely in the class of the best of the elite defensive players in NFL history such as Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, Mean Joe Greene and/or Deacon Jones. Any continuation of this sort of idolatry runs the risk of labeling Young as a “guy who never reached his potential” which would be unfortunate because he did show enough to indicate that he will be a very good NFL defensive player at the very least.
The same thing goes for great leadership skills. Skipping off the field one time and “calling out Tom Brady” one time does not put him in the same class with Ray Lewis, Sam Mills, London Fletcher or Brian Urlacher. Give this guy some time and some room to do something that exhibits REAL leadership before anointing him as a great leader.
A former colleague of mine often made this distinction between management and leadership; he said:
“Managers do things right; leaders do the right things.”
I do not think that is a perfect distinction/delineation, but it is part of the essence of leadership along with a dose of an ability to inspire others to perform at maximum level. Chase Young played well in 2021; as I said, he would be welcome on all 32 NFL rosters. But other than a lot of hopping around and rah-rah demonstrations and photobombing others, I did not see anything that suggested – – “Ray Lewis”.
Finally, Albert Einstein – someone who was and still is idolized to some degree by a segment of the population – had this to say about idolatry:
“Everyone should be respected as an individual, but no one idolized.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………