Don’t let good frenzy stand in way of facts

  • By Scott M. Johnson / Herald writer
  • Thursday, September 28, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

You momentarily forgot about the Minnesota Twins’ miraculous turnaround because your head was buried in Chris Simms’s spleen.

You’ve been more concerned with drinking and driving than you have the can’t-miss pennant races in the AL Central and NL West.

You’ve spent so much time thinking about suicide that you didn’t even realize the Houston Astros were back from the dead.

And you didn’t even know that Randy Johnson was having back spasms because you were going spastic about Shaun Alexander’s foot.

For sports fans, this week had a lot of excitement. Some of it was on the baseball field. Most of it was coming from the tabloids of the NFL.

During one of the craziest between-game weeks in league history, the NFL looked more like a circus than a professional football league. The headlines came screaming at us as if we were standing in line at the supermarket.

Quarterback Loses Spleen!

More Trouble In Cincinnati!

Drug Bust Breaks Up Practice!

Suicide Plot Uncovered!

MVP Claims Miracle Recovery!

They all came at us, day by day, hour by hour, sometimes minute by minute – The Associated Press did 18 write-throughs in one day on the Terrell Owens fiasco – and there was nothing we could do to stop them.

The internet, talk radio and 24-hour television coverage have created a media cycle that forces news onto the information highway before it’s even … news.

Both the story of T.O.’s apparent suicide, and the news that Shaun Alexander might be available for Sunday’s game, came and went within a single day.

First, there was T.O. himself shooting down all the rumors at a press conference. Who the heck holds a press conference a few hours after being taken to the emergency room? Wasn’t he supposed to be in some mental hospital somewhere, fighting his straitjacket and frothing at the mouth?

Before that story even cooled down, the internet was blinking with “news” again. Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander was apparently fully healed from a broken foot, and he was expecting to play in Sunday’s game. The rumor sent fantasy football geeks into a will-he-or-won’t-he hamster cage that came to a halt within less than three hours.

The funny thing is, neither story needed to get so far gone so quickly. If the media could exercise a little bit of patience, these things wouldn’t get so crazy.

For example, the rumors of Alexander’s miracle recovery came out minutes before coach Mike Holmgren’s weekly press conference. Couldn’t we have waited an hour to get the real story before rushing rumors into cyberspace?

Not that we’re standing up on a soapbox here. This stuff is more addicting than salt-water taffy.

And it often leaves us with the same stomach ache.

For those of you with shortened memories, the week’s events unfolded like this:

On Sunday night, Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms went to a hospital because of internal pain stemming from the hits he took in a loss to Carolina. By Monday morning, his spleen had been removed.

While that was happening, Bengals linebacker Odell Thurman was being pulled over and cited for a DUI. Never mind that he already was serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy or that one of his passengers was another troubled Bengal, wide receiver Chris Henry, who was in the back seat barking liquid Houshmandzadehs out the window and along the street.

Just when that story started to gain legs, the Seahawks announced that Alexander would be out for “a few” weeks because of a cracked bone in his foot. (Cue the Madden Football Curse music here.)

Then came Tuesday afternoon, when a San Diego Chargers defensive back named Terrence Kiel was called off the practice field and taken into custody by local authorities as part of an investigation into a drug ring.

But the craziest stuff didn’t come out until late Tuesday night. That’s when reports started to circulate that Terrell Owens had been rushed to a Dallas emergency room. By the time most of us woke up the next morning, the incident was reported to be a suicide attempt.

Owens and his publicist/flygirl were live on television doing spin control when the news of Alexander’s miracle recovery started to circulate. Alexander’s brother, Durran, apparently told at least one blogger that the league MVP had credited his change in health to the power of prayer.

The only prayers that were answered were those of the voyeuristic sports-addict. We couldn’t get enough. Not even James Fry could make up stuff like this. Aaron Sorkin couldn’t come up with plotlines this thick.

It was quite a week in the NFL. The kind of week that makes pennant races look dull by comparison.

Scott M. Johnson is The Herald’s pro football writer.

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