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  • Writer's pictureWayne Gregoire

Shame on Sports Illustrated and Baker Mayfield

Shame on Sports Illustrated and Baker Mayfield

It's said that one of the reasons a US Treasury bond never misses an interest payment is because the government can't run out of money. If the bank account hits zero, they can simply print more money. There is no more gold standard, but there is plenty of ink at the mint and no limit to how much they can print.

The same could be said for the media, and sports media especially. The gold standard in "journalism" is to find the story, or make one up. I wouldn't suggest that sports media lies to its readers, but that they make mountains out of molehills in order to get more eyes on an overblown topic.

Shame on Sports Illustrated

If you Google the word sensationalism, the definition that comes up is; the use of exciting or shocking stories or language at the expense of accuracy, in order to provoke public interest or excitement. Sports news has become digital, and the digital space is infinite. Anyone with a keyboard can write about any topic with any headline. When this transition happened, and Sports Illustrated could no longer fill their coffers from the sales of the swimsuit issue, they took to sensationalism.

When Lions safety CJ Gardner-Johnson made a comment today about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receivers, Caleb Skinner of Sports Illustrated decided to make a headline out of the comment that doesn't necessarily line up with exactly what Gardner-Johnson said. His exact quote was, "This group is probably one of the better groups we done faced all year, besides that Tampa group. If you give that Tampa group a good quarterback, that's a great group. Evans, Godwin, (Russell) Gage, that's a great group. I played against them for real."

Caleb Skinner, Sports Illustrated

Skinner wrote about the comment with the headline CJ Gardner-Johnson takes shot at Buccaneers Baker Mayfield ahead of Detroit Lions matchup. The insinuation is that CJ was saying Tampa doesn't have a good quarterback, but if they did, their receivers would be good. Skinner doubles down later in the piece saying, "Stating that the Bucs are missing a quarterback is interesting,".

What really is interesting is that Gardner-Johnson didn't say that at all. He doesn't even hint at it in his comment, so Skinner is just putting words in someone's mouth. Could CJ have meant it that way? Of course, but he also could have meant it as a compliment and not an insult. It's possible that he was saying the receivers are good because they have a good quarterback.

Baker Mayfield's Overreaction

Chris Godwin had 83 catches for 1,024 yards in 2023 while his teammate Mike Evans had 79 catches for 1,255 yards, and tied for the most touchdowns in the NFL for a wide receiver with 13. The Eagles Devonta Smith and AJ Brown were the only other wide receiver teammates to catch 80 balls each this past season (Aman-Ra St Brown and Sam Laporta (TE) also accomplished this).

Since the Buccaneers' top two receivers were great this year, and Johnson-Gardner suggested they'd be great with a good quarterback, it's possible he was calling Baker Mayfield a good quarterback. Since he could have meant either thing and negativity sells more than positivity in the media, we get a crazy headline.

Baker Mayfield, CJ Gardner-Johnson

If negativity sells, then Baker Mayfield was buying. He had his credit card out and a wad of cash to purchase what the media was selling about this story. He couldn't wait to react, or in this case, overreact not to what Johnson-Gardner said, but what the media speculated he meant by what he said.

"I don't think he really watched film because he mentioned Russell Gage." Baker said. "We love Russell, but Russell hasn't played a snap for us all year."

Unlike some members of the media, I won't speculate what was said, but what was actually said, and that was an accusation that Gardner-Johnson does not watch game film of his opponents. Instead of taking CJ's comment as a compliment, Baker chose to read some hack's headline and react to that. And in doing so, was completely misinformed, and reacted poorly to the situation

Hypothetically, even if Johnson-Gardner meant what was insinuated, Baker is a professional athlete and should have been taught years ago to take the high road. Both locker rooms have bulletin boards, and you don't win by matching headline for headline. Just say CJ is a great player, and that you also think highly of your wide receivers.

Nice and classy, and the world goes on without the bonfire started by the media who had nothing more than a twig to get this fire going. We all deserve better as fans and readers, and veteran quarterbacks like Baker Mayfield should know better.


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