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Lies, Lies, NFL Reporting, Lies: Baker Mayfield
Seaside Joe 1205: More unverifiable Seahawks rumors that lead to NFL fan fiction because people are afraid to hold these reporters accountable for their words
Lately I’ve been obsessing over these YouTube videos, I’m sure we’ve all seen them, where experts review scenes in movies and explain how realistic they are. Like most people, I love the two things being married in these videos, movies and facts, and while those two things are not totally incongruent, I accept that movies are not meant to be held accountable as factual.
They should only be held accountable for their entertainment value.
You should never watch a movie about humans breeding dinosaurs and then get angry that the dilophosaurus that spits poison is essentially a work of fiction.
You should never watch a Steven Spielberg movie to pass a history exam on Abraham Lincoln. Read a book.
Even documentaries, especially in today’s streaming era where quantity and affordability can often trump accuracy, virtually anything interesting that you learned must be cross-referenced with external sources to verify. Netflix is never going to boast that they have “the most accuracy.” They only care when they are the most-viewed.
It is absurd to get mad at movies like Braveheart, Gladiator, and Gravity for being works of fiction… because they are works of fiction. Every movie is also like a small company and the intention is to turn a profit. Interstellar bases itself in some science fact and that elevates the movie, it gives Christopher Nolan something to build a story off of, but it made $700 million at the box office because it is science fiction.
This does not mean that movies don’t often suck when they take too many liberties with reality. Successful movies blur that line between fact and fiction; they setup a world we can all agree on based in our shared reality and then introduce the fantastical parts seamlessly enough to make us question that reality.
If you teach Roman history, then yeah, maybe Gladiator is not for you. It’s rarely enjoyable to watch a movie knowing that X, Y, and Z could never happen. I only saw Draft Day once and despite the NFL Draft being my favorite time of year, the movie is so unrealistic that I’ve never had the urge to watch it again.
But it is also probable that there are thousands of people out there who now know a lot about Roman history because they were inspired by Gladiator and did read books. That even if Jurassic Park changes every dinosaur in every movie to make them more entertaining, the entire field of paleontology is better off since 1993 because of the massive success* of the franchise. That no matter how absurd the opening disaster scene in Gravity is, most audiences were frozen in fear at the possibility of being attacked in space by satellites because the majority of us have no frame of reference to deny the realism.
*success being defined as profit, certainly not by the consistently deteriorating quality of filmmaking and storytelling in the Jurassic franchise
When it comes to getting facts from movies, my standards are very low, because I know that the endgame for the studios is financial success. Studios often screw this up and don’t turn a profit on most films, but they are never going to be in the business of accurately telling you the stories of William Wallace or Marcus Aurelius.
Instead, the responsibility of working within the frameworks of reality should fall on the shoulders of teachers, schools, non-fiction books, trusted people in our lives, journalists… Yes, journalists. I said journalists. Hello, journalists? Journalists… Journalists… JOURNALISTS!!!!
Oh no, oh no, oh dear God no… we’ve lost the journalists.
There are a number of factors currently destroying good journalism and this directly impacts modern NFL reporters, otherwise I wouldn’t even be writing this right now:
Twitter is an open marketplace that inhabits thousands of people who would love to go viral for breaking NFL news, and within that are hundreds of journalists who are actually being paid to do so and the competition between them is intense and relentless. (Consider the success story of Ari Meirov aka @MySportsUpdate, an everyday fan who built a following of over 500,000 mostly by just being the quickest to repeat some other person’s report)
This competition between journalists breeds a desire that is counterintuitive to good journalism: For many the main goal is not to report the news. Their main motivation is to go viral. (Consider Dov Kleiman, an obsessive Twitter user who has built a following of over 70,000 in large thanks to seeing a video on the website and then sharing it as if it was his own so that he can get the retweets.)
Social media has no honesty meter; there are no rewards for being completely truthful and there are no punishments for spreading disinformation or misinformation, especially under the guise of “rumors” and “reports” and “sources”. Oftentimes, the truth is directly oppositional to the motivation to “go viral” and that is for the same reasons that movies do not have a standard of 100-percent accuracy. (Consider the case of Jordan Schultz, the son of the man who moved the Supersonics to Oklahoma City, who has used his inherited wealth and status as a jumpstart to create a following of over 100,000 with reports along the lines of “sources tell me”. That included many reports about Russell Wilson over the past two years that did not come true.)
Many reporters today want to be the news more than they want to report the news. They desire wealth, fame, status (blue checkmarks, large followings) and think that there is a short road to get there because they share an account on the same platform as Ian Rapoport, Adam Schefter, and Mina Kimes and incorrectly believe that the only thing separating them from a career like theirs is a few scoops. I know how hard it is to do the jobs that they do and working those angles has never been my goal with writing about the NFL.
That is hardly the entire list of reasons why so many people have compromised their integrity in the quest for social media fame, money, and ironically, credibility.
Most people will never come to terms with the damage that marketing and advertising has done to creative content and the news. There is also an intense desire within many aspiring writers/content creators to become friends with the people they cover and that means that they have to be willfully ignorant of the conflict of interest that those relationships would create. You need look no further than “Mr. Editor” to find an example of it at the highest order. And it is becoming harder and harder to find reports that don’t manage to insert the journalist’s only personal beliefs into the news, as if that is something that should matter or isn’t compromising the integrity of a report that is meant to be without bias.
Seaside Joe may only be a newsletter about a football team, but I still think that the most important principle that I must adhere to with everything I write is: Be fucking honest.
I know that swearing is offensive to some of you, and I don’t mean to use those words lightly, but I don’t think that the necessity to use it here is entirely my own responsibility. At some point, the day-to-day, non-stop waterslide of bullshit coming out of Twitter’s excuse for “journalism” needs to step up and accept that they’re the reason that people like me are tired of having to constantly refute their lies, their misinformation, and their selfish reasons for spreading the many verifiably false reports that have completely compromised our shared version of reality.
Your job is not to entertain me. Your job is to inform me.
Most NFL journalists failed this job when it came to Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson trade rumors in 2021. When Wilson was finally traded this past March, not a single journalist could point to a pre-trade rumor or report that would have indicated that they had a shred of valuable inside information until after it happened. After Wilson was traded, I immediately refuted the notion that the Seahawks would draft a quarterback in 2022 because that was something set in reality.
But Tony Pauline’s version of reality was that he had sources inside Seattle’s front office that indicated the Seahawks were high on a number of quarterbacks and that fans should be prepared for the team to draft Trevor Penning at #9 before trading up to get Desmond Ridder at the end of the first round. Like every other Tony Pauline report about the Seahawks draft in the last ~6 years, these rumors turned out to be based in something other than reality.
I can’t possibly be the only NFL fan who is sick of people freewheeling their baseless reports on social media without having to take any responsibility for it.
I can’t possibly be the only NFL writer who is tired of having to refute those reports to the many fans who constantly pepper football writers for answers to baseless rumors.
“What do you think of the Seahawks signing Colin Kaepernick???” I think nothing of it.
“What do you think of the Seahawks trading for Matt Ryan or Deshaun Watson????” I think nothing of it.
“What do you think of the Seahawks drafting Malik Willis or targeting Desmond Ridder because they’re obsessed with him?????” Nothing.
Frankly, none of us should have to think anything of any of these topics because until they do become a reality, you’re just willfully basking in a koi pond of fantasies and daydreams. Scenarios like these are utter fan-fiction. Nothing more. I write about football because I love football.
The world of the NFL as it is should already be enough to keep you entertained. The competition between Geno Smith and Drew Lock, as underwhelming as the end result may be, should be enough to keep you entertained… just expect something more like The Room than Room. When an NFL reporter gives you anything other than reports about the reality THAT IS, your baseline reaction should always start with: “Who benefits from this report?”
Movies bend reality for a profit.
When reporters bend reality, I have to assume that there is a similar motivation. We don’t have to really question reporters during the season because there is a constant influx of real things happening almost everyday. Free agency has some lies, but also hundreds of legitimate reports of real things. There are way more lies told during draft season, but NFL media companies are not starved for the clicks that they need to keep advertisers happy because the NFL Draft is overloaded with content.
Now it is June and there is very little going on in football to tweet about if you have adopted this philosophy of trying to gain notoriety by delivering scoops.
I write this newsletter every single day because there’s always more that I can say about Charles Cross, Ken Walker, Drew Lock, Pete Carroll, John Schneider, Jody Allen, Austin Blythe, Jamal Adams, etc. I don’t feel starved for content and in fact, I must hold back and ignore many ideas because my motivation to write about football for you is that I share in your fascination for the league and the sport. The NFL that is.
That’s more than enough for me.
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However, if your motivation is to gain 10,000 more followers before next season or to get a job at the NFL Network or to just feel like a star for one damn day, then it is almost required to sensationalize the news. To exaggerate the news. Maybe even for some, to make up the news. Because Twitter has never once held a reporter accountable for rumors that lead nowhere… because people NEVER question reporters with the most important questions like “Who actually IS your source within the Seahawks (or some other team)”… and because we’ve seen people actually rewarded for spreading disinformation, all of these reports go completely unchecked.
“Oh that report that I spent 18 hours on Twitter ranting and arguing about never actually happened? Who cares??? I’m now ranting about the LATEST report that is never going to happen! Keep up, bud.”
Far too many fans have been willing to erase the line between reality and entertainment that writers who are consistently correct, but boring (like Seaside Joe saying from the day of the Wilson trade that the Seahawks were highly unlikely to make any notable changes at quarterback until 2023) get pushed to the bottom of a pile of reports that may tell you what you want to hear rather than what is actually happening in the real world.
If you would rather be lied to because you need a distraction from a mundane existence, then Seaside Joe may not be the place for you.
If you already find the Seahawks to be interesting enough as is—for Pete’s sake, SEATTLE TRADED RUSSELL WILSON THIS OFFSEASON AND THAT WAS NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU???—then trust me, we will not run out of shit to talk about between now and the start of the season.
There is no need to stir up Baker Mayfield rumors. Again.
But here go rumors and anonymous sources stirring up Baker Mayfield rumors again.
Nevermind that the reporters are also constantly contradicting themselves with said rumors.
Nevermind that the Seahawks reported position on Mayfield has never changed when it comes to those who actually have credibility in the Seattle media.
Nevermind that the Seahawks should have no more motivation to acquire Mayfield in June that they would have had in April, or that the Browns have no motivation to trade him before the season unless the acquiring team for no reason at all gives into whatever it is that Cleveland has been asking for this entire time.
I’ve said this many times before and I’ll keep saying it every time reports like this get circulated:
Don’t fall for the bait and jump into the comments section to debate the value of trading for Baker Mayfield.
That is what they want you to do, that is what they expect you to do, and that is probably what you will feel subconsciously motivated to do. I’m no exception, I can fall for the trap of arguing for or against the player, but the way to combat this is simply to be aware of the fact that those debates only do more to fuel their desire to keep feeding you the bait.
If you get distracted by the content, you will lose focus on the context which is this: You’re arguing over bullshit that was only created so that you would argue about the bullshit.
WE NEED TO HAVE MORE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO FEED US THE BULLSHIT AND WE NEED TO HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.
When Josina Anderson tweeted in late March, after the Browns had traded for Deshaun Watson, that Cleveland would not likely trade Baker Mayfield any time soon, she only got 109 retweets.
MySportsUpdate got 91.
When former Carolina receiver Steve Smith said during the draft that “the Panthers are gonna make a move for Baker Mayfield”, B/R’s tweet got over 900 retweets.
By early June, with no moves, Anderson again reiterated that the Browns would not cut Mayfield and were willing to wait it out, which barely got any traction at all.
But six days ago, she went back to the Carolina well, reporting that a “league source” told her that the Panthers were “still doing its due diligence in terms of looking into QB Baker Mayfield.”
What that even means and whether or not it is even a report is a matter of some debate but it was worth 10x as many retweets as saying that Baker Mayfield continued to be in a holding pattern.
Then with presumably enough time passing since the Panthers tweet had been passed around for a couple days, Anderson went back to focus on the Seahawks again, a wellspring of retweets that she had previously confirmed she could dip into when the NFL waters were calm again. She had squeezed 2,000 retweets out of spreading that rumor on March 17:
A day later, she almost got another 800 retweets by saying that Seattle would prefer to add an experienced veteran starting quarterback, something that has never happened because not even Geno Smith can be called an “experienced starting” quarterback in the year 2022.
Days before the draft, Anderson tweeted that actually the Seahawks were not “overly eager” to acquire Baker Mayfield. But now suddenly Seattle is even working on a potential contract extension with Mayfield, according to the same reporter? (“But maybe the extension is to lower his 2022 cap hit?” No, that is not how it works. It’s not. Nope, it’s not. I’ve been doing this a long time… That is not how it works in a situation like this.)
On day two of the NFL Draft, Anderson spread rumors that the Seahawks were working on a trade up, which of course didn’t happen. Was this something she was actually hearing or did she read a Tony Pauline report? We’ll never know because people never ask reporters why their sources seem to be wrong so often.
Just like Tony Pauline, I can’t actually find any instances of Josina Anderson breaking any news about the Seahawks. At least not this year. She has only reported moves like the Geno Smith signing and D.J. Reed leaving for the NY Jets after others had the scoop, which is clear by the fact that she has always had to qualify that when she’s not the first or only person to be aware of the news.
You know who else could do this? Me, you, and anyone with a Twitter account. Which is how you get Dov Kleiman, MySportsUpdate, and Jordan Schultz.
You could argue that Anderson’s source in this case is in no way related to the Seattle Seahawks—and frankly there is no argument that she does have a source in the organization. You could argue that Anderson’s source is Baker Mayfield’s agent, but that would compromise the integrity of the report. You could argue that Anderson’s source is Baker Mayfield himself, and again that would compromise the integrity of the report, as well as the reporter because as I said earlier that is a conflict of interest.
And besides, if there was any truth to the report that the Seahawks are actually in negotiations with Mayfield… how would it benefit Baker Mayfield to break his code of silence by sharing his biggest secret with any reporter, not just Josina Anderson? This fails to pass the logic test.
You could argue that Anderson’s source is within the Browns organization. This again fails to pass the logic test, because if the report was based in fact, Cleveland would do everything in its power to finish this process quietly until they’re officially free of Baker Mayfield.
Go back to the test that I mentioned earlier and ask yourself again: Who does this report benefit?
Does it benefit the Seahawks? No.
Does it benefit the Browns? No.
Does it benefit Baker Mayfield or his agent? Only if it is NOT TRUE.
Does it benefit Josina Anderson and CBS Sports?
And maybe that would be fine if it also benefitted fans, but I can’t see the logic in arguing that it does. I can’t see how any Seahawks fans who spent energy on believing that Colin Kaepernick, Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, and so on would become Seattle’s next quarterback are now better off because of it. There is an actual real Seahawks roster that actually really exists and while that may seem boring now because the NFL season is over 80 days away, doing make-believes to pass the time isn’t helping fans accept the actual real team that you will be following when football is back on TV.
If Baker Mayfield gets cut and the Seahawks sign him, will I be forced to eat my words? No. Because all the reports out of Bob Condotta and Gregg Bell have remained constant that Seattle would entertain Mayfield as a free agent. Why shouldn’t they explore that option, assuming that he most likely won’t have a lot of interest as an NFL starter if and when that happens? The Seahawks would be taking a flier on a quarterback with starting experience.
It would also directly refute Anderson’s reporting that Mayfield won’t be cut.
If the Seahawks actually trade for Mayfield, will I be forced to eat my words then? No. There have already been a ton of rumors surrounding the situation that have been proven to be false, including reports in March that the Browns were “OUT” on Deshaun Watson only days before they traded for Deshaun Watson. Anybody, including me, can tweet out all kinds of rumors and then claim credit if one of them happens to be true. Anderson is one of many Twitter users who have made multiple contradictory statements that make taking credit for the trade, if it happens, impossible.
If the Seahawks trade for Mayfield and also give him a contract extension, will I be forced to eat my words at that point? Sure. If the Seahawks do the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of, then I’ll eat my words.
But if in a few days Josina Anderson goes back to Twitter and ups the stakes again (just as she did by now adding in a contract extension out of nowhere) by reporting some new rumors that involve the Carolina Panthers again and says…idk…Sam Darnold is now getting traded in a three-team deal that also involves Seattle, hoping for another level of retweets beyond the last one… then I won’t have to eat my words ever.
Because it will be yet another example of the corruption taking place in modern journalism—the will to bend reality for bigger box office returns at the cost of being truthful to your audience—and not a case of Twitter being the go-to source for getting news before it breaks.
News is news.
Rumors are only rumors.
I will continue to cover real news at Seaside Joe… even if some people find reality to be too boring, being realistic has made it very easy to predict that the Seahawks would avoid the quarterback trade carousel after dealing Wilson in March, that they wouldn’t pick a quarterback in April, and that they would wait until the rich 2023 draft class to make a big move for a franchise player at the position.
I had foolishly believed that once day two of the draft was over, that we were past these types of nonsense reports on the Seahawks and the next quarterback. But in a league that has advertisers that demand something 365 days a year, in a world where so many people start everyday hoping to be “twitter’s star reporter of the hour”, we may never get past it again.
Not until we start using the past against these reports and calling them out for what they really are in the moment: Fan Fiction.