People love to complain about the size and ubiquity of the contemporary media complex, which is somewhat reasonable but also mildly insane considering I’ve read exactly one-third of one story about the New York Giants decision to bench Eli Manning and still managed to absorb all the information I need to grasp the essence of this prolific, un-newsworthy story. The mind-boggling number of recent articles, SportsCenter clips, and other bits of coverage dedicated to investigating this utterly benign development from every conceivable angle is what people hate about media today: obsessive coverage of trivial shit. But the ease with which any half-intelligent consumer of information can access vital facts about this story, and any other story for that matter, is what people should love about media today. All the clichés about media are true. Accessing information has never been easier and journalists are far too preoccupied with unremarkable developments in society. And there you have the current standing of the fourth estate!
In case you’re even lazier or more disinterested than I am in what the irrelevant New York Giants are doing with the quarterback position these days and why the franchise’s personnel decisions regarding who lines up under center have so many people in a tizzy, let me catch you up to speed. A horrendous 2-9 football team with no shot at making the playoffs (the Giants) has decided to bench their underperforming 36-year old quarterback (Manning) for the remainder of the season.
If you need a moment to catch your breath after reading that sentence, I understand. I mean this is truly groundbreaking stuff, right? Imagine the agony the Giants coaching staff and management must have undergone before reaching the conclusion that giving their backup quarterbacks some reps—in the interest of determining whether their backup quarterbacks are any good and therefore worth retaining in the future—was a more prudent move at this juncture in their dumpster fire of a season then continuing to put an underperforming and aging Manning behind a porous offensive line.
Actually no, that sounds like a completely logical decision when you consider the following:
At 36, Manning is well past is prime but not necessarily finished. He could foreseeably play several more seasons and, given the success his slightly famous older brother had in his late 30s, still be a player of consequence for a competitive team.
But there’s nothing—nothing—to be gained from continuing to play him this year. He’s played poorly all year long, the team has struggled, and he’s been sacked 26 times. There’s nothing to suggest any of that would change if the Giants continued to play Manning, and it’s never wise to place aging bodies in harm’s way for no good reason.
And yet, fans and members of the sports media, as well as Manning himself, are acting as if the Giants decision to give him an early vacation is the most odious move made in the history of organized competition
If you’re like me, then you probably find yourself scratching your head at this moment, wondering why a story about a (currently) bad quarterback and (currently) inconsequential team is receiving so much press. Some might argue that Manning’s benching is significant because it will end his streak 210 consecutive regular season starts, which is good for ninth all time on the all-time consecutive starts list, and therefore constitutes the symbolic end of his storybook run with the Giants. The problem with that 1) people only describe a situation as “symbolic” when they can’t defend it on rational grounds, and 2) there simply isn’t a critical mass of serious sports fans who care about the NFL’s all-time consecutive starts record. It’s an utterly meaningless record, and he’s ninth.
All of this is to say that this is a story that’s receiving an inordinate amount of coverage for no defensible reason. It’s a story about a franchise that’s decided to use the final five games of a season to try and learn something about two untested players rather than continue plodding down a path that’s so well worn you could see its outline from outer space. It’s a complete non-story.
Which is why it will probably continue to lead SportsCenter for the next nine weeks.