Tedy Bruschi, Chad Ochocinco and the ESPN noise machine

Eric McErlain Sports Blogger
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Chances are that over the last few days you haven’t been able to escape discussion of Tedy Bruschi’s brutal takedown of New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (nee Johnson). But instead of this being the story of an old-school football player taking a layabout superstar to the woodshed, there’s a lot less here than meets the eye. Let me explain.

To recap, the morning after the Patriots dispatched the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football, Ochocinco, who by all reports has been a model citizen since arriving in New England this past offseason, shared a message with his Twitter followers expressing his admiration for the performance of the team’s offense. “I’ve never seen a machine operate like that n person,” tweeted Ochocinco. “[T]o see video game numbers put up n person was WOW.”

A couple of hours later, Bruschi unloaded with a tirade on Boston’s WEEI-FM that had me wondering whether or not he had neglected to take his meds. Be sure to listen to the original audio to get the full effect:

“Drop the awe factor, OK, Ocho, Chad, drop the awe factor … You’re not a fan, all right? You’re not someone who’s on another team or watching TV. You’re not an analyst. You’re a part of it. They want you to be a part of it. So get with the program because obviously you’re not getting it and you’re tweeting because you’re saying, ‘It’s amazing to see’? It’s amazing to see because you don’t understand it! You still don’t understand it and it’s amazing to you because you can’t get it.”

Well, thank you very much, Colonel Jessup.

Just how seriously should we be taking Bruschi? While I’m sure the New England faithful will be happy to take their hero at face value, there’s clearly something else behind his over-the-top tirade. On his syndicated radio show on Wednesday morning, ex-SportsCenter anchor Dan Patrick shed some additional light on this when he revealed that he’d been contacted by an unnamed analyst who had recently been quietly let go by the network. His question for Patrick: Could he give him any insight into why he was fired? Patrick’s answer was simple. The analyst didn’t make the sort of headlines that helped him stand out among his peers.

When it comes to ESPN, it doesn’t matter much what you say, as long as you say it loud and don’t needlessly offend any of the network’s business partners at the NFL, NBA or NCAA. And judging by the media fallout over the past two days, it’s impossible to conclude that Bruschi was anything but successful, as news of his comments became fodder around the clock on virtually every ESPN network.

Granted, there was a time in the history of the network, long before the advent of the “Budweiser Hot Seat,” when legitimate news gathering was still a priority. Unfortunately, those days are long gone. Instead, we’re treated to a round-the-clock barrage of nonsense designed to keep the NFL at the top of our minds, and it doesn’t matter a whit whether or not what’s currently being discussed has any real merit or value.

So what’s the solution? How about keeping your television off until just before kickoff? Giving up NFL pregame coverage on Sundays has helped me reclaim hundreds of hours of my life at relatively little incremental cost. My guess is that it would work for you too.

REWIND: After initially neglecting to appeal his five-game suspension for “undermining the integrity” of the NFL draft (oh, please), Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor and his agent have decided to reverse course. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell heard Pryor’s appeal yesterday in New York … Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was none too pleased that the New York Mets went public with details over the 9/11 cap flap. The New York Post also reported that the Mets were reluctant to defy the commissioner given that the franchise is in hock to the league for $25 million, a loan that helped keep the team in the hands of the Wilpon family after the Bernie Madoff scam … Thanks to the moron who brought a stun gun to the Jets-Cowboys game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night, all fans attending games will now be subject to more extensive pat-downs. No word yet on whether NFL stadium security will be outsourced to the TSA. Meanwhile, Jets fans still ought to consider outsourcing their cheering to Baltimore.

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.