SBD/November 2, 2011/Media

Are Former Players Turned Broadcasters Under Pressure To Be Critical?

Darren Woodson (l) and Bruschi among former NFLers critical of current players
Former players turned broadcasters in the past “usually stayed above the fray,” but recent hires have “plunged headfirst into the deep end of confrontational analysis,” according to Mike Tanier of the N.Y. TIMES. NFL Giants DE Justin Tuck and RB Brandon Jacobs miss games because of injury, and their former teammate and current ESPN analyst Antonio Pierce "diagnoses them from a radio studio, accusing them of ‘taking it easy.’” Patriots WR Chad Ochocinco complimented QB Tom Brady on Twitter, and ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, a former Patriots LB, said Ochocinco must “drop the awe factor” and “get with the program.” NFL Network Producer Michael Rosenstein said that nets “wanted former players to be opinionated, but not to be inflammatory for its own sake.” Rosenstein: “The best opinions are the ones based on fact.” Tanier writes in “many cases, though, the context does not soften the criticism.” ESPN analyst and former NFLer Trent Dilfer “changed the subject so he could take a broadside” shot at Eagles QB Michael Vick. Bruschi “questioned Ochocinco’s work ethic and knowledge of the playbook based solely on a benign bit of cyberspace flotsam.” It is “easy to perceive self-interest when an ex-player becomes hypercritical.” Commentators can “earn endorsement deals and improve their public profile by standing out from the crowd.” With dozens of retired players “looking for broadcasting jobs each year, someone unwilling to take a bold position can be easily replaced by someone who will.” The increasing demand for former athletes to “fill the panels of an ever-growing roster of commentary and analysis programs ensures that more players will take to broadcasting and with a strong market incentive to be as controversial as possible” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2).

WALKING A FINE LINE: In Newark, Conor Orr writes this new generation of analysts has “arrived in what seems like the most contentious media environment ever between former players-turned-analysts and current NFL players.” A “subtle line in the sand becomes more finite with each appearance as players-turned-analysts embrace a new opportunity as a non-biased entity while still being mindful of the football life they left behind.” ESPN analyst and former Jets OT Damien Woody said, “There’s definitely a fine line you’re walking. You try not to throw people under the bus because you don’t want to burn bridges, but at the same time, you want to be critical because that’s what the people want to hear” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 11/2).
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