Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Daily Super Bowl Hype Meme: The Media Day Is The Message

There are a load of Super Bowl traditional clichés that we haven’t explored in our memes, because they don’t really apply this year. For example, we usually we get the annual Guy-Coming-Home-For-The-Super Bowl, a la Jerome Bettis in Detroit, except this year the marquee Arizonan is Jeff Feagles.

And usually the media can find some players on both teams to irritate/badger to the point of saying something stupid, but with the Pats’ roster properly lobotomized and Jeremy Shockey currently playing the back nine at Sawgrass, we’re starved for controversial figures. Even Randy Moss has been fairly docile.

But over the past few years, one meme has emerged as a guaranteed freebie column for every Super Bowl reporter—the disaster known as Media Day, and its rampant sucktitude. But do these stories make any sense? Let’s track the evolution of Media Day and its coverage:

1. Creation: Media Day is set up as an opportunity for presss to interview the teams. In the pre-ESPN days, this seems like a halfway decent idea, though nobody wanted to talk to punters in the 70’s either.

2. Devolution: Media Day goes from opportunity to zoo. As improved techonology makes it easier for reporters to travel to and report back from the game, Media Day goes from a couple of dozen local Warner Wolfs and the random George Michael to a few hundred beat reporters, and local TV and radio anchors from around the nation. Frankly, I blame Mike and the Mad Dog for this, as they’re the guys that started the whole Radio Row phenomenon. To the extent that folks in Boise needed to get the local paper's Central Idaho-specific slant on the Super Bowl, they can now do so.

3. Shark Jump-ation: Media Day goes from zoo to circus. The event expands well beyond domestic sports reporters to include media members from other countries and from incongruous publications like Us Weekly. An event leading up to a sporting event has clearly jumped the proverbial shark when half of the reporters there spent the prior month stalking Jennifer Garner and stealing pictures of Jessica Alba’s bump. Media Day questions become focused on moronic things like people asking Warren Sapp whether he wears boxers or briefs or 3 guys from Nashville trying to determine if Matt Hasselbeck is cool. (Answer: no.)

However, even as more random journalists start showing up, a hipster/Page 2/blog counter-take on Media Day develops, denouncing the whole show as passé and useless. This idea was original and true for about 1 year. However, like all things from hipster culture, the mass media caught on to the idea and co-opted it, leading to the next evolutionary stage of . . .

4. Ironization: Everyone rips on Media Day as passé and useless. A current google search for "Media Day" will turn up roughly 4000 articles written by smart alecks who pretend to be above the Media Day fray (when the truth is, of course, that they wouldn’t miss it for anything). No one dares ask a straight question at the Media Day interviews. In fact, roughly 60% of those attending are just there to take note of the dumb questions asked by the US Weekly crew.

The plus side of this approach is that underneath the whole silliness is an inherent truth: Media Day blows. However, we’ve now reached the point where the media has become consumed with ripping on the very existence of a day that (1) they created, and (2) they screwed up in the first place! Any problems with Media Day could be minimized just by having the mainstream media guys ask quasi-intelligent questions. Since that appears to be impossible, we get to read articles about Media Day that catalog only the dumb questions, and therefore have nothing to do with the game.

Of course, we realize that our anti-ironization stance will undoubtedly be seized on as the next big mainstream angle, leading to a chorus of articles mocking those who mock Media Day. That’s why we have blogs, after all.

So where does Media Day on the bullshit scale? Well, if a single story of note actually emerged from Media Day or an even notable quote, it would be something. Instead, we’re not even getting that. The Media Day story has morphed from a way to gather stories for the balance of the week into a scary hybrid of the media's self-regard and self-importance. By promoting a day as stupid, they’ve distracted us from the basic fact that they’re the ones that make it stupid. We give it a rock hard 9 on the meme scale.

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