This week, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was reinstated by the NFL after an indefinite suspension for a week-11 brawl with Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph. With just seconds remaining in that game, Garrett swung his helmet towards Rudolph’s head. The swipe missed Rudolph, who was relatively unharmed.
Garrett accused Rudolph of using a racial slur, but the NFL found no evidence of that. Despite discrediting Garrett’s excuse, the NFL reinstated him, effectively saying that a six-game suspension was enough for such an aggressive move. And now Rudolph is threatening to sue Garrett for libel because the accusations of using the slur were not confirmed.
Obviously, this story is interesting. It has all of the characteristics of a story that the sports media wants to cover: physical violence, a steady drip of new developments, racial animosity, and the stupidity of league executives. But that doesn’t mean it should be the focus of football coverage.
It’s really just a quarrel between the backup quarterback for a mediocre team and the defensive star for an even worse team. Should we really care?
Maybe it’s just a slow news week in the NFL. The season is over, but the intrigue of free agency and the draft haven’t begun (other than speculation about Tom Brady’s future). Maybe the problem is that there was nothing really controversial from the Super Bowl, which has mostly faded from our collective memories.
Of course, in baseball, there is a different suspension story getting even more coverage. The Houston Astros, one of the top teams in the MLB in recent years and the reigning American League pennant winner, have become embroiled in scandal.
Players and coaches in the Astros dugout watched live video taken from a camera in center-field in order to see the signal the catcher was giving to the pitcher. The Astros then indicated the pitch type to their batter.
The Astros’ manager, A.J. Hinch, and general manager, Jeff Luhnow, were both suspended for a whole season before being fired by the team. Also fired were Mets manager Carlos Beltran, who was part of the scandal when he was still a player, and Red Sox manager Alex Cora, who was previously the Astros Bench Coach and engaged in a similar sign-stealing scandal in Boston.
No players were suspended by the league, both to encourage them to cooperate with the investigation and because it would be quite difficult to suspend an entire team. But people around the league expressed anger that players weren’t penalized, and an ESPN survey found that fans are angry, too.
This is obviously much bigger than the Myles Garrett story. For one thing, this is cheating that actually could have an impact on games, not a fight during a game that had no impact on the score. But stories keep coming about the cheating scandal even weeks after all of the suspensions and firings.
And here I am, forgetting what team Mookie Betts is on.
The on-field stories should matter more than the off-field distractions. If the media had coverage of both the scandals and the on-field stories, I would not complain. But it feels like the focus this season has been obsessive about the off-field drama instead of the actual sports being played.