Let’s start with this: I have no issue with the NFL selling broadcast rights to anyone who can write a big enough check. So, yeah, I am OK with Amazon doing Thursday Night Football.
Here’s what I’m not OK with: Amazon putting together a team for its halftime show that didn’t know what to do when the biggest story of the NFL season unfolded in front of them.
If you missed it, Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa was violently spun to the ground in the second quarter, hitting his head on the turf in Cincinnati. Cameras zoomed in on Tagovailoa as his body seized up, his fingers twisted in a clearly unnatural position known as posturing — a result we’ve seen before when football players suffer traumatic brain injuries.
The awful injury immediately called into question why Tagovailoa was playing — FOUR DAYS after a similar injury. In that game, Tagovailoa also hit the back of his head as he was shoved to the ground. He eventually got up looking like a boxer whose night was over. Somehow, Tagovailoa missed one series of downs, allegedly cleared all concussion protocols and returned to that game against Buffalo. The Dolphins explained away the awful decision by saying Tua’s back had seized up, prompting NFL players and doctors far and wide to laugh at the excuse. Earlier this week, the NFL Players Association launched an investigation into how and why he could return to that game.
So that’s how we got to halftime Thursday night when Amazon’s team brought exactly nothing to the table in a collection of blissfully unaware or intentionally ignorant “analysis.”
Most of the insight spun by Charissa Thompson and three former NFL players — Tony Gonzalez, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Richard Sherman — focused on things that could have been said any time about any injury.
It was empty, hollow and insulting.
Instead of confronting head-on the issues everyone watching the game was craving, they rolled out versions of the usual cliches: “We have to remember football is a violent game,” “Prayers up! You hate to see injuries.” and “These guys have families, too.”
In normal times, this is terrible analysis. Thursday night, it was malpractice.
Amazon could have avoided this embarrassing display simply by making room for a journalist on the panel. Hell, Amazon, you can even put a journalist at the kiddie table next to the TV stars. We’re used to that treatment.
A journalist would have pointed out and pressed on the following:
- Tagovailoa had left a game four days earlier with what most informed people saw as a concussion.
- The NFL Players Association was investigating how team doctors and the NFL’s allegedly independent doctor allowed Tagovailoa back in the game last Sunday.
- The risks of long-term health impact — and, yes, even death — are far greater when someone suffers two concussions in such a short period of time, something called SIS, or Second Impact Syndrome.
- The NFL’s bigger problem of CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, includes the league’s shameful history of trying to suppress the science and data that highlight the damage done to so many of its players.
- The NFL still relies on judgment to clear players to return to games, be it the same game or another game four days later.
That’s a lot for a halftime show, yes. But Amazon needed to do better.
Maybe it’s time to call in a pro.
Kevin Whitmer is a strategic communications/digital media expert and President of Whitmer Consulting LLC. He spent more than 30 years managing large news operations and building digital audiences.
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