As everyone knows, the NFL’s free agency period kicked off with a bang last week. Teams like the Washington Redskins, New York Giants and New York Jets were active from the first minute and all made significant acquisitions almost immediately.
Because the Redskins are routinely one of the lead dogs in the free agency hunt, they always provide journalists and columnists an easy target, which is fine. The actions of Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato open them up to criticism, so feel free to fire away. But if you made the joke “looks like the stimulus package is working for the Redskins” during your free agency article, just know that you’re a shitty writer.
If you wrote the story blasting the team’s free agent spending spree and brought up the 30 or so former employees who were laid off during the offseason, you’re a shitty writer with an axe to grind. If you wrote the story, mentioned the layoffs and included the names “Jeff George,” “Bruce Smith” and/or “Deion Sanders,” you’re a shitty writer with an axe to grind who is also lazy. It’s been more than a decade. Get over it.
I kick the Redskins front office as often as the next person, but there has to be a point where you come up with new material. Recycling the same column year after year and just updating the names isn’t going to win you a Pulitzer, so get off your oversized ass and come up with something new. But then again, Jay Leno has been telling the same tired jokes since he got a late-night show and morons still tune in, so what do I know?
As soon as the initial reports came through that former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth had signed a seven-year, $100 million contract with the Redskins in the opening hours of free agency you knew how the talking heads and lazy columnists would respond. And even though Peter King of Sports Illustrated broke down the deal and reported that in all actuality it was actually a four-year, $48 million deal, some journalists continued to stick with the $100 million angle. Never mind that there’s zero chance Haynesworth actually gets past year four without re-working the contract. It’s easier to condemn the team when the number looks so ridiculously large. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story, right?
Here’s the thing, signing the most dominant defensive tackle in football to a four-year deal for $48 million is a bargain. To put the signing in the proper perspective, let’s compare it to another move from the same city. This past offseason, the Washington Wizards signed forward Antawn Jamison to a four-year, $50 million contract. Haynesworth is 27. Jamison is 32. Haynesworth is a bona-fide game changer. Jamison is a good role model for younger players, but should never be considered more than a second or third option. A team can build an entire defense around Haynesworth. Jamison hasn’t played defense since he came to Washington. Haynesworth requires double and triple coverage from opponents, which frees up teammates to also make plays. Other teams are content to let Jamison shoot 18-foot jump shots all game long because his team is still going to lose by 20.
So if that’s the case, then why did all the talking heads and hack writers have a conniption fit when the Redskins signed Haynesworth, but not a single negative comment came when the Wiz extended Jamison? It’s because the media has a hard-on for The Danny. Whether he’s acquiring Six Flags, Johnny Rockets or a free agent like Haynesworth, the media can’t help but find a way to portray the man as a spoiled-rich buffoon.
If you want a $100-million deal to lose your lunch over, why not focus on the Wiz signing Gilbert Arenas to a six-year, $111-million extension this past offseason, even though Agent Zero is basically a one-legged, me-first point guard that hasn’t played a meaningful game in two years.
In case you forgot, NBA contracts are guaranteed. If Gil doesn’t play another game, he’s still taking home all that money to buy new suits, another oxygen chamber or whatever. If Haynesworth doesn’t work out, the ‘Skins can cut him in a year or two, take a cap hit and move on. But because Wiz owner Abe Pollin is well liked, he gets a free pass. Because Snyder isn’t, he gets kicked every time an opportunity presents itself.
I’m not here to defend the man and I’m not saying anyone should feel sorry for the billionaire. I’m just here to say you’re better than that. Take yourself out of the story. If you want to keep any credibility in the eyes of your readers or viewers, remove your personal feelings and present the facts in a fair and unbiased way. If you’re a columnist you’ve got much more creative freedom, but that doesn’t mean you should have an agenda. Try looking at the bigger picture and, at a minimum, present both sides of the story.
Just because you think the guy is an asshole doesn’t mean every move he makes is a failure. And just because Pollin is a nice guy doesn’t mean every move he makes should get a free pass. It might sounds like crazy talk, but maybe – just maybe – your audience deserves to be presented with all the facts and then they can decide for themselves how to react.
Brian Murphy is an award-winning sportswriter who also goes by the name Homer McFanboy. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.