I know what you’re thinking: OH GOD NOT ANOTHER ROMO STORY.
But you see, that’s part of the problem. The majority of people that slap their palms to their temples and sigh at the mere mention of the Dallas quarterback are not Cowboy fans. Some may not even be football fans. The majority of people that are opposed to Romo coverage are simply sports fans. Sports fans who do not have any vested interest in Tony Romo. Those of us who are not fans of America’s team do not watch Tony Romo. Barring nationally televised games, the majority of football America experiences Tony Romo through negative social media, extremely overzealous media scrutiny, and highlight packages.
Which gives Tony Romo a fate worse than being disliked: We are tired of Tony Romo.
Though his gunslinger style is no doubt exhausting and his throws often produce both eye widening awe and grimacing repulsion, I still believe THIS to be true:
It is HOW we see Tony Romo play, rather than the play of Tony Romo itself that produces our fatigued public reaction.
Our sports media climate has an insatiable hunger for the perfect dish: Romo.
When Tony Romo throws a late interception, he is not just giving a gift to the opposing team. He is giving a gift to every sports fan media troll scouring the internet in search of flesh. Fire up the app that defines the new generation of sports fans, twitter, and you’ll be inundated with Tony-bashing the second he throws a pick.
Everyone loves to trash Tony Romo.
The Common Folk:
Former NFL Greats:
Former NFL… Less Than Greats:
The American football public loves to crap on Tony Romo. And twitter gives us a quick outlet to do it. You don’t even have to think! Just type out “Romo HAHAHAHAH” and you’re instantly a part of the masses. It’s the essence of social media. A mobile device mob forms the second that ball is caught by a defensive back and builds from there.
Laughing at Tony Romo’s late game collapses is no different than participating in #selfiesunday, #mancrushmonday, or #tbt. It’s the football equivalent of planking or taking pictures at a Drake concert. Romo-bashing is just part of being a modern football fan.
This doesn’t happen for anyone else.
Hours before Romo’s spectacular collapse, Matt Stafford threw a pick six to help destroy the Lions playoff hopes. Stafford, who has four (that’s right, 4!) victories over teams above .500, was horrific down the stretch. After a 6-3 start, Stafford and the Lions went 1-6 to lose their chance at the postseason.
In those last 7 games, Stafford threw 11 interceptions. He threw 4 in one game against the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers and posted QB ratings of 12.3, 22.8, and 27.5 in his last three starts.
So why doesn’t Stafford get crushed in the media in the way that Romo does? He’s been far worse this season, and gets more help from his defense (The Lions are currently the NFL’s 16th ranked defense, while Dallas is dead last).
Stafford skates by because professional sports coverage is market-driven. ESPN gears its coverage towards the large markets. Dallas is one of those large markets, Detroit is not. How much is ESPN large market geared? Certain cities have their own ESPN websites. There are ESPN-New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and of course, Dallas sites. Teams in these markets dominate SportsCenter, PTI, and the infamous Romo-hating morning zoo known as “First Take.”
Outside of football, it is no different. There is so much coverage of the Lakers, Nets, and Knicks, despite those teams all having sub-par seasons. ESPN would rather talk the atrocious play of Kevin Garnett and the injuries of Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant than the terrific play of Portland’s Damian Lillard or Detroit’s Andre Drummond, simply because of market size.
Sports coverage is also failure-oriented. How much LeBron coverage did we get after the Heat championships vs. the 2011 Finals loss or after “The Decision?” Tiger Woods got plenty of coverage back when he was dominating golf. However, that was nothing compared to how much Tiger was on SportsCenter after his wife took a 9 iron to the back of his car and all the ladies came out of hiding.
But sports media doesn’t like just any failure. The NFL Network isn’t always analyzing film of the Jacksonville Jaguars or Tennessee Titans. Sports media loves the fall from grace. We love to see failure on a stage, failure with expectations. Not just a fall, but a lengthy one.
And nobody falls off the stage more dramatically than Tony Romo. Romo’s stage is built on team, record, coverage, and national television.
Romo plays for the Dallas Cowboys, which I believe hurts him more than helps him. There is a high standard at quarterback for that franchise, and the legacy of Staubach and Aikman looms large over every snap. Those quarterbacks won championships for America’s team, and every year Romo cannot bring the boys back to championship glory the pressure mounts.
Part of why Romo gets so much criticism is that he has been a winning quarterback. In 136 career starts as the Cowboy quarterback, Romo’s record is a very solid 63-45. He has 19 career game winning drives and a career QB rating that exceeds 95. We’ve seen Romo win. That’s a significant part of the Romo stage. We all expect success from Romo because we’ve seen him thread touchdowns to Dez Bryant and fire late game seeds to Jason Witten.
Success is almost Romo’s curse. When Quincy Carter was stinking up the joint for Dallas, he didn’t get nearly the criticism Romo does. Why? Because we didn’t have any expectations for him. There was no stage for Lavanya Quintelle Carter. That’s right, his actual first name is Lavanya.
But I digress.
When I say we’ve watched Romo succeed and fail, I mean that literally. According to NFL.com, “the Cowboys consistently draw better than any team.” The Cowboys play as many nationally televised games as anyone, and are often the target of cut-aways from other games. America doesn’t just watch their own quarterbacks on Sundays, but Romo as well. Football is the most popular thing on American television these days. In 2011, 9 of the most watched events in all of TV were NFL programming. ESPN’s Monday Night Football was the number one show, NBC’s Sunday Night Football placed 3rd. I think it’s safe to say that more Americans are watching Tony Romo rise and fall than any quarterback in any era. Our expansive American love for couch-potato football Sundays increases the microscope that follows his every move.
Lastly, it’s Romo’s gunslinger style that makes him a prime candidate for media gluttony. Tony Romo throws a lot of touchdowns and a lot of interceptions. We are an instant-gratification highlight culture. Our entire Sundays are built around highlights. Hell, we have full channels dedicated to JUST TOUCHDOWNS. Hell, if I wanted to, I could spend my entire day watching touchdowns.
We watch everyone’s touchdowns, rendering touchdown highlights (save for the sweet grabs and “Dilfer dimes”) just another part of Sunday.
But interception highlights, those are juicy! Those are the ones we love.
Those late game picks (Tony Romo’s specialty) are spread across the country in a split second, and played over and over and over on the ESPN’s and Fox Sports 1 and NFL Network for the world to devour.
Romo, delicious Romo.
Ben Wong is a Staff Writer for Pro Sports Extra.