The reality of sports media is that the live games is really 90% of what people really care about. Unfortunately though in this 24 hour news cycle era, where ratings need to be manufactured, inflated, and nurtured outside of highlights and a few other programs of actual substance, the rest of what you see if all a beautifully orchestrated fluff.
ESPN and others can pump just about any story they want, but when they find something that is sexy and grips them to follow relentlessly, they've developed a nice playbook on how to take a big story and make it huge. From Barry Bonds and Balco to Tebowmania, Linsanity and beyond.
Below we run through the magic recipe to a mega story.
Step 1: Give It A Name
We can't just talk about Jeremy Lin, LeBron James, Tim Tebow, or Peyton Manning as that is too broad to bring up in passing. Instead, use that name as a clever hashtag, and tease what's coming up next on SportsCenter. We need "Linsanity", "The Decision", "Tebowmania, and "Manning Watch". Once a hyperbolic name has been thought up and has traction with viewers, then it's time to start pounding that story into the ground.
Step 2: Develop Shiny Graphics And Visuals
Because I really need a map of where these NFL teams are and what Manning would look like in different uniforms.
Step 3: Footage Of Attraction Coming And Going In A CAR
Nothing screams MAJOR story than brief footage of stars fleeing from reporters. I am going out on a limb that no major sports story has been broken with someone in the passenger seat with the window rolled down though.
Step 4: Footage Of Stars Getting On and Off Planes
Private planes and suits = IMPORTANT STUFF. By reinforcing this is INSANELY important and that sweet jets are being chartered and $1000 suits are being worn (unless you're Brett Favre), viewers can get a nice fix of "news" that serves as an appetizer while the story develops.
Step 5: Aerial Footage Of Absolutely Nothing
This story is SO big, we're burning through expensive fuel, paying a cameraman, a pilot, and a reporter to do play by play of........ absolutely nothing. I really wonder if this ever would have become a big thing if not for OJ.
Step 6: To Recap All Of The RIVETING Developments Utilize A Timeline
I need a pen and pad of paper to take notes!
Step 7: Promoting The Conclusion
All good things must come to an end. Whether it is a big game, a press conference, or an exclusive interview, you pound the drum with as much intensity as you've put into all the other steps hoping to build a ratings climax for the ages.
All Kidding Aside:
We all eat this shit up. If we didn't, then ESPN and others wouldn't do this whole song and dance. This has been a bit of an extended patch of HUGE stories with Tebow followed by Lin followed by Manning, so it seems more extreme. In the big picture though, Manning Watch has been a story for the ages for the media. The pace has been quick, the private jets have been gaudy, the footage of Manning walking with NFL personnel from hundreds yards of way has been riveting, and I now have a good idea of what type of automobile and business casual outfits are preferred by Manning and other NFL types.
Stories like this only come around 1-2 times a year,so why not milk it for all it's worth.