COMMENTARY | Sometimes journalists will write something that purports to be straight reporting, when really the content is just a trolling boondoggle, based in only the smallest particle of reality.
You'd think that a Pulitzer Prize-winning news organization like the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel prints a headline "Aaron Rodgers' reputation as a leader took some hits this season," you would hope they had something more than some third-hand tweets and some pontificating from CBS's most outlandish talking head.
But they didn't.
That was it. Jermichael Finley's agent tweeting about Rodgers as a leader and Greg Jennings' sister tweeting about Rodgers being worse than Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Oh, and Shannon Sharpe's uncited reports about Rodgers not being good in the locker room.
In the interest of transparency and full disclosure, I used to work for the Journal and have nothing but respect for them and the company. It's probably the most underrated newspaper in the country.
That being said, Rob Reischel did zero new reporting in this story, choosing only to take excerpts from the Green Bay quarterback's weekly radio show and the low-hanging Twitter fruit.
At least when the New York media was reporting on Sanchez and Tebow, they had the decency to have unnamed players and quotes from anonymous sources.
Here, there was no pretense, no smoke and mirrors even, just flat out regurgitation of second and third-hand statements. The motivation is obvious.
You post a headline about someone criticizing Aaron Rodgers, it's going to get clicks.
I get it. It's the way of the business now. Hell, I get paid by the click. But that doesn't mean we can just eschew all standards of journalistic integrity.
In Wisconsin, where I was born and raised, there is an insulation. Reporters went easy on Ryan Bruan over the PEDs test and caught heat from around the country for it.
It's part and parcel of the Midwestern values that go along with the territory: loyalty, independence, and a little chip on their shoulder for not being part of the coastal mainstreams. You want to protect your guys. it's why the Brewers draw 3 million fans every summer and why the waiting list for tickets to a Packers game is a generation long.
That same mentality perpetuated the hero status Brett Favre held and the obvious flaws in his character that fans and media members overlooked. Reischel seemed to be warning against this mentality in his piece, even referencing the Favre fiasco as if we were in danger of jumping off the same cliff with Rodgers.
But it's concerning that with the sports media world heading into the opposite direction, where skepticism and cynicism is our gut reaction to just about everything - something that isn't all bad by the way - we can expect more and more to see these sort of tenuously-founded 'reports,' whether it's Aaron Rodgers' leadership or the degree of 'soft' a team is.
The staff over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel are as good as any newspaper in the country. Bob McGinn and Tom Silverstein are fixtures in sports media and Ty Dunne - who was a year behind me at Syracuse, so I have to support my fellow Orangemen - briefly left the Journal to go to USA Today, only to return. He's a rising star in the industry.
If for no other reason than it's the paper I grew up reading and the team I grew up cheering for, this latest slew of articles, which are unsupported and unfounded, created simply for inducing clicks, are so utterly disappointing.
It pains me to watch our journalistic structure break down in this way and it's a shame for the hundreds of talented, principled writers who don't engage in super market tabloid sensationalism, that provocateurs like Skip Bayless have spurred other media companies to go down that same road.
I've written enough words, at least for the 2012 season, on why Aaron Rodgers is a great player. I don't feel the need to defend him against the specious claims from tweets - pardon while I roll on the floor laughing - but it's something that comes with the territory for Rodgers who has ascended into superstar status.
Even before he finalized his rise into the realm of elite quarterbacks, Bayless was on the early anti-Rodgers bandwagon and hasn't come off. He even had the intestinal fortitude to say he'd rather have Tim Tebow in the last two minutes than Aaron Rodgers, without turning into a pillar of salt.
It was ESPN's coverage of Tim Tebow which ultimately lead to the growing anti-Tebow sentiment, but also Tebow's celebrity itself. ESPN built Tim Tebow and covered him incessantly in New York, far more than rightfully warranted for a third-string quarterback who couldn't find the field with a flashlight and a GPS.
There was no story, so the media manufactured one. It tends not to work when a team is irrelevant. Had Tebow gone to say the Lions or the Dolphins, maybe his story is forgotten. But because he was in the media capital of the world, the story burgeoned.
This is what expectations do for a player and a team. Green Bay went 15-1 and came up woefully short in 2011. Expectations had been tempered for 2012, but heading into the playoffs, the Packers appeared the have every reason to believe they ought to be Super Bowl bound.
A consecutive failure has sharpened the bullseye. It's as if the 2010 season never happened and Green Bay didn't win 4 straight games away from home to win a Super Bowl.
The Packers, thanks in large part to Aaron Rodgers' rise as a superstar player, have become one of the most scrutinized teams in sports. It's the price of relevancy and the result of our short attention spans. Ask the Patriots, who just watched the media spend three days deciding how big a deal it was that their coach hadn't given a sideline interview with CBS.
This is the reality now and there will be more tweet stories, more dubious and unsubstantiated claims made about Rodgers in particular. Rodgers, being a worldly man into philosophy and faith, will know the proverb about much being expected from those to whom much is given.
Perhaps a more relevant proverb is 'heavy lies the crown,' or in this case, the belt.
Peter Bukowski lives in New York and has been covering sports since 2007. He is an award-winning television and newspaper reporter. Follow him on Twitter @BukoTime