This is the 4th installment of the SB Nation football small market roundtable. Today's topic is media coverage. We are going to look at it from two different aspects: 1. The lack of media coverage that small market teams get from the national media, and 2. The way the local media covers the team.
National Media Coverage
If you have watched ESPN in this off-season you can only leave with one conclusion, the New England Patriots are going to win the Super Bowl. What is the point in even playing the 2007 season? Check out this screen shot that Brad over at Stampede Blue captured last week from ESPN.com. That's right, 3 NFL "spotlight" stories and all 3 are about the Patriots. Tom Brady is seen walking around in a Yankees hat and it is earth shattering news, meanwhile, you haven't heard a word from ESPN about the Titans moving their first round pick from safety to corner. If you don't live in Tennessee you probably haven't heard anything about that.
The lack of national media coverage can also hurt the players that play in a small market. The guys that are on SportsCenter every time you turn around are going to be the guys that get the big endorsement contracts. I do understand that the huge stars are going to get the deals wherever they go, but it is the really good players that aren't quite stars that are hurt. Take a guy like Keith Bulluck. He is a great player but you don't see him on any commercials.
The other disadvantage to players comes in Pro Bowl voting. Most fans aren't digging through the stats to determine who gets their Pro Bowl vote. They are going to vote for the guys they see on SportsCenter every Sunday night. I could go through all of the injustices to Titans players over the years, but I will spare everyone from my whining. I do have to highlight one though. In 2005 Kyle Vanden Bosch was 2nd in the AFC with 12.5 sacks, yet he was not elected to the Pro Bowl. It took an injury to get him there.
My favorite national media bias comes from the guru that is Merrill Hoge. If you have ever seen Hoge on his NFL Match Up show, you probably know how he feels about Vince Young. Here is a little video that will bring you up to speed on Hoge's feelings. Yes, I realize I am being a HUGE homer here, but if Vince was playing for the Patriots, Giants, or Jets ESPN would have forced Hoge to change his tune. (Now we can have fun watching Peter and Brad debate Vince's QB abilities in the comments.)
Local Media Coverage
I can't speak for all small market media, so I am going to approach this strictly from a Tennessee perspective. The media in Tennessee is not nearly as hard on the team as, say, the New York media would be on the Giants or Jets. When things are going bad here, most writers and talk show hosts still search hard for that silver lining. The only writers who don't are the ones who originally worked in a big media market. The fans are the same way. If someone calls in to a radio show when the team is 0-5 and rips them, the next 6 callers will talk about how that person needs to be a true fan nad support the team no matter what. Overall coverage is a lot more positive here than it would be in most markets.
It is also easier for teams to conceal things in a small market. If you remember last season, Vince Young's first start was the immortal head stomp game in week 4 against the Cowboys. Vince took all of the snaps with the first team that week in practices that writers attended. Jeff Fisher had basically told the local media if it was leaked that practices would be closed for the rest of the season. The story was not broken until Saturday night. There is absolutely no way that would have been kept under raps in New York or Chicago.
In conclusion, being a small market has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to media coverage. The disadvantages are the lack of exposure given to the team and the players on programs such as SportsCenter. This hurts the players from a recognition standpoint, which keeps them from getting endorsement contracts and Pro Bowl votes.
The advantage is the team has an easier time keeping information from getting out. In most cases that would help give the team an upper hand because their opponent wouldn't know what to gameplan for. Of course in the case of the Titans and Cowboys, all it lead to was a 31 point loss, one of the worst on field incidents in sports history, and some CB saying his team needs more thugs. I bet you can't guess how that was.
Update [2007-6-13 11:25:3 by Jimmy]:The Bulluck vs. Lewis tackles stat has been removed because it was wrong. Thanks for the head's up Will. I am a moron.