True story. About a year ago (I think) I got word from a source close to Ted Phillips that the former team president was cutting his workday short to pay a visit to Virginia McCaskey. Virginia’s family was concerned the illness with which she was suffering at that time might be the one to finally take her out. Ted, essentially a member of the McCaskey family, did not want to miss what might be a final opportunity to thank the matriarch of the Chicago Bears for giving him the opportunity to lead the franchise he loves. I wrote a column about it called In Praise of Virginia McCaskey. I never wrote “Virginia McCaskey is dying.” As a matter of fact, I deliberately did not speculate on her health, even joking about the notion of “good health” for someone in their late-90s. And yet days after my column posted, I was inundated with folks on social media criticizing me for Virginia McCaskey’s continued existence.
You see, what happened was, nobody read the post. Nobody read what was, in fact, my attempt at a living eulogy, a column I have been told Virginia read and enjoyed immensely. They simply read the first paragraph and ran with, “DaBearsBlog says Virginia McCaskey will be dead in minutes.”
I don’t know Marc Silverman (Silvy) personally, but I feel like I do, and he has been a pivotal part of the success of DBB. Here’s what I imagine happened last week. Someone in Lake Forest told Silvy that the team is frustrated with Chase Claypool’s progress. Silvy went on his radio show and shared that information. But he didn’t say, “CHASE CLAYPOOL IS A BUST AND THE BEARS REGRET THE TRADE!” He actually said there were frustrations, which there usually are when injuries are involved, and the ball was now effectively in Claypool’s court. He sounded, at least to me, completely measured and perfectly reliable. But the next thing you know, it is a nationally aggregated headline and the whole of #BearsTwitter is “forced” to respond, themselves having no earthly clue what anyone inside Halas Hall thinks about anything.
Here’s what I know about Chase Claypool. I know he was an incredibly productive receiver over the first two years of his career, averaging 60-860-5. I know Ryan Poles loved his unique set of skills enough to deliver the Steelers a second-round draft pick in the middle of the 2022 campaign. And I know that Claypool was relatively unproductive in the months that followed, unsurprising since he joined the worst team in the league and his quarterback fought through injuries over the final month. Do I think Claypool is going to be a star in Chicago? I have no idea. Do I think Claypool is going to be out of Chicago after the 2023 season? I have no idea. But I am willing to wait until he has a full off-season with a quarterback who likes him a quite a bit so that I can judge him over the course of a full campaign.
And I can tell you what someone inside Halas Hall told me about the Chase Claypool story: “They are out there running around in shorts. What is there to be frustrated about?” (This person was on vacation and accompanied their text response with a picture of blue water and a green beverage.) The subtext of this comment: frustrations with Claypool, and Claypool’s overall production, are not that important big picture. If wasting a second-round pick brings this building down, the structural integrity never existed at the start.
So why did this innocuous Silvy comment gain such traction? The answer is not complicated. The sports media landscape is now a conglomerate of aggregators; folks who do none of their own research, cultivate none of their own sources, write at about a seventh-grade level, and get paid by the click. They scavenge the internet for anything they can turn into a search result on Google. It seems a miserably hollow existence to me, but to each their own. These aggregators feed off the notion that NFL fans are the most impatient human beings to be found in the whole of the sports world. Everything has to be a scoop. Every post has to be posited as news.
These aggregators also believe fans are stupid and more often than not they are proven correct. I’ve always said about the phrase “snake oil salesman” that we only know that phrase because people bought a ton snake oil! Off the record, the folks doing this work will tell you their mandate is simply to create as many posts as possible. They don’t care about the veracity of the content because they are shielded by the notion that it is not their content. They’re just the messengers. Google Chase Claypool and here is what the aggregators will tell you.