Say you’re Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed. Ever since you came into the league in 2002, you’ve been just about as important to the legendary Baltimore defense as fellow future Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate Ray Lewis. In your heart of hearts, you probably know that there are fewer days ahead of you than there are behind when it comes to your professional football career.
In just four days, you and your teammates will be playing against the New England Patriots for a chance to go to the Super Bowl, the one prize that has eluded you. If your team is going to win, you’re probably going to have to come up with a big play — and more than likely that big play will come at the expense of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a man who is not known for making many mistakes.
For some reason, you’re scheduled to appear on a national sports radio program. Sports talk radio, like most types of media, thrives off of controversy, both legitimate and manufactured — and the folks who host these shows aren’t terribly concerned about having to resort to the latter in order to move the ratings.
Simply put, your job when you appear on one of these shows is to get on and get off without causing any damage to you or your teammates. Do that, and what you say will quickly disappear into the massive swirl of information that gets generated every single day. Say something even mildly controversial and get ready to pay the consequences.
So what did Reed do today when he appeared on Sirius XM NFL Radio? Like a certain PGA golfer I introduced you to yesterday, he went ahead and had the temerity to tell the truth. Unfortunately, that truth was about his team’s quarterback, Joe Flacco:
“I think Joe was kind of rattled a little bit by that defense,” Reed said. “They had a lot of guys in the box on him. And, I mean, they were getting to him. I think a couple times he needed to get rid of the ball. I don’t know how much of the play calling, he could have made audibles or anything like that, checks or whatnot, man, but it just didn’t look like he had a hold on the offense, you know, of times past. You know, it was just kind of like they was telling him to do, throw the ball or get it here, you know, get it to certain guys. And he can’t play like that.”
Anyone who watched the Ravens play the Houston Texans last Sunday would have a hard time quibbling with Reed’s analysis. Then again, there’s a time and a place for everything, and this conversation should have probably taken place privately between Reed and Flacco and not via a national satellite radio network.
What’s the lesson here? Over and over again we hear that fans — or at least the press pretending to know what the fans really want — want athletes to be more honest and authentic. Then again, when they provide that authenticity, the results, such as in this case, are often less than optimal.
Back in Baltimore, Flacco has already said that Reed’s comments are no big deal, but everyone knows that a team preparing for an important game likes to work in an atmosphere free of distractions. And if being boring is the price for providing it, it’s no wonder that some athletes are happy to take a pass at an open microphone.
Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.