Eagles must beware of the hype machine

Nnamdi Asomugha, Philadelphia Eagles
The other 31 teams won't be the only ones standing in the Eagles' way this year.
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Jen Floyd Engel

Jen Floyd Engel, selected as the top columnist in the 2012 Associated Press Sports Editors annual contest, started working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1997 and became a columnist in 2003 before joining Sports opinions? She's never short of them. And love her or hate her, she'll be just another one of the boys. Follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook.


Here’s the fine print to the Philadelphia Eagles “winning” the 2011 NFL Offseason Championship. What they won is dangerous.

Because it is not permanent, does not qualify as success on any scale, yet is intoxicating and addictive. It is the male equivalent of being cast on "The Hills," reward before achievement on a very slippery slope.

What Mike Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha and Andy Reid won is hype, and there is no greater enemy of excellence than this four-letter word.

It is helping ruin sports.

Self-hype, media hype, garden variety, it is pervasive and corrosive. It is an infection. We have become a society and increasingly a sports fandom transfixed by flashy mediocrity rather than subdued excellence and thereby have been inundated with a steady stream of inane characters famous for being obnoxious rather than for achievement in even the loosest definitions of the word.

Heidi and Spencer. Snooki. Go ahead and toss LeBron into this entourage.

A late arrival to this reality party, sports is now careening toward the teeming, putrid landfill of famous for being famous. In sports this translates into Chosen Ones who apparently were chosen to sell Nikes and accumulate giant piles of cash. No example is more recent or obvious than the Miami Heat with LeBron.

They also “won” their offseason. This was not merely Jim Gray’s unbiased professional sports journalist opinion, either. Miami gave notice with a pep rally and talk of the seven championships they were going to win. They had a nickname and acted as if they were champs already. They did everything except win the championship they were hyped to win in June.

Reid would be wise to show footage of the hot mess that is The Big Three now, more talented than anybody and drowning in hype of their own making. Because hype, the fickle mutha that she is, slapped them around for that failing. To the delight of many of the same people who hyped them.


See some of the best images at training camps around the league.

There is a lesson in there for the Eagles.

Winning the offseason guarantees only that you’ll be famous, and that has exactly zero to do with winning championships.

This is not to intimate the Eagles are the Heat, as if repeating that volume of hubris were even possible. Reid already has begun fighting this disease, and he has already done a couple of tours from when T.O. roamed in Philly.

The Heat brought every bit of scrutiny upon themselves. The Eagles had it dumped upon them. In Philly, there were no smoke machines, no “Decisions” with grammatically incorrect euphemisms spewed, no predictions save for an innocuous “dream team” reference by Vince Young that I am told, when taken in context, was actually just a kid who had been left for NFL dead trying to say how excited he was not to land in Oakland or Cincy. And I like this Eagles team, not simply because of the talent accumulated but how it handles it's business.

The lesson for them is “winning” must be handled carefully, lest they do so only in the Charlie Sheen sense of the word. As sports becomes more reality TV for dudes, look for more Heidi Montags and Spencer Pratts on "SportsCenter."

This famewhore duo fascinates me only because they somehow have become The American Dream, reality TV millionaires. It does not matter if you are stupid, or lacking in talent, as long as you are willing to pimp yourself and show your warts, you too can become rich and famous.

Only now do they realize what should have been obvious all along: Fake reality is not a self-sustaining career.

Not in entertainment, not in sports.

Our hype society has led an entire generation to lose the drive to do anything of substance. And who wants to work when there are countless cases of those who produce nothing but enjoy similar spoils as those who do?

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Building the cathedral isn't noticed nearly as much as those who stand in front of it wearing very little.

I have no problem with the guy who dances in the end zone or struts to admire a home run. At least he scored a TD or hit the ball over a fence. At least he did something.

Nowadays people want the same adulation just for coming to bat, for being on TV, for reporting on those who do, for signing in the offseason.

The Eagles will be judged not only by whether they win the Super Bowl but whether they live up to expectations created by that adulation. Champion or chokers is the choice, despite most of Philadelphia’s hype being generated by media. That makes it more dangerous.

Mark my words, y’all: The Eagles will lose an early season game and everybody will go crazy, dispatching reporters to figure out what is wrong with The Dream Team, a nickname at best from a backup QB and at worst a total invention. This is not even a prediction because it is too easy.

It is why the mythology of VY’s “dream team” is so important. It leads to Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan alluding to an unnamed all-hype team and threatening to beat its ass. And then Eagles QB Michael Vick barks back about him being all talk and Dallas having to deal with Philly. Toss in a glass of wine, and you have a "Reality Housewives of the NFC East" episode.

And so I feel a little sorry for Philly because, unlike those idiots in Miami, this is a team that recognizes it did not win anything that matters by winning this offseason. The Eagles are fighting off the infection, trying to win something besides hype, trying not to be the Snooki or LeBron of the NFL.

Godspeed, Mike Vick.

Hype is one hard mutha to overcome nowadays.

Tagged: Eagles, Michael Vick

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