Opinion: Media Mangle

Imagine MNF Being Covered Like Iraq

Watching Monday Night Football the other night, it occurred to me that if one imagined the mainstream media covering that game the way they cover the war in Iraq (or the economy), the absurdity of their reporting would be plain for all to see.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts, seeking to silence critics who say they are overrated, fell short of that mark on Monday night by outscoring the Pittsburgh Steelers by a mere 3-point margin in the first quarter.

Despite the unspectacular first-quarter margin, Colts head coach Tony Dungy insisted that his team was winning the battle. “Hey, we’re up three,” said Dungy. “In my book that’s a lead.” But critics pointed out that the Colts gained their lead only as a result of a desperation 80-yard pass by quarterback Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison on their first play of the game.

“That score was based on subterfuge and was patently unfair,” said one critic, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation by league officials. “It amounted to abuse of opposing players to fool them like that.”

Despite scoring on their first snap of the game, and later scoring a field goal to go up 10-0, the Colts allowed Pittsburgh to score with only 1:18 left in the first quarter. Colt critics demanded that Dungy acknowledge that he had made coaching mistakes in the quarter, but he refused to do so.

The Colts have become a target of critics since going undefeated so far this year. That so many Colt players have openly expressed a desire to go undefeated the whole season is seen as arrogance and a sense of exceptionalism by many, causing many former friends to turn against them.

The staunch Pittsburgh defense, though out-manned and out-gunned, managed to battle the Colts to a standstill in the second quarter, allowing them only six points. Those familiar with the Colts say this second-quarter swoon reveals a lack of depth on offense due to unmet recruitment goals during the off-season.

The insurgent Steelers, striking sporadically with lesser equipment against the hegemonic Colts, inflicted serious damage with several tackles, a sack and some pass breakups, holding Indianapolis to only two field goals in the 15-minute span. Observers said it looked as if the tide were turning in favor of the insurgent Steelers.

In the third period, the Steelers again held the Colts to a single touchdown, damaging the Colts’ aura of invincibility and giving hope to the insurgents that their time would come. Some critics pointed to the stands as some Colt fans began filing out, saying that this showed the Colts losing support at home.

The Steelers were even stronger in the final period, holding the Colt juggernaut to a mere three points. “I think Indianapolis was just in the wrong game, at the wrong place at the wrong time,” one Colt critic was heard to say.

The final score, by the way, was Colts 26, Steelers 7.

Jon Ham is vice president of the John Locke Foundation and publisher of its newspaper, Carolina Journal.