9:22 am Sep. 20, 20102
Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?
The New York Post: Since both covers focused on yesterday's big Jets win over the Patriots, I decided to call in a consult this morning. Let's stipulate that it's possible that neither paper should have gone this big on the game. Can't really be a voting issue, since they both went for it. Being not a sports guy myself particularly, I called in my co-editor Josh Benson to talk about the effect of today's fronts on football fans.
Tom McGeveran: We'll start with the Post. ON THE MARK seems pretty apt!
Josh Benson: Yep. Topical. The Jets won, of course, but the thing that freaked everyone out last week was the way that Sanchez played. He was ponderous and scared. And yesterday he wasn't, to the tune of four touchdowns. So a Sanchez-based hed looks about right.
TM: Was he getting in trouble with the Post last week?
JB: I think he was in trouble with everyone last week!
TM: I mean one of the great things about tabloids is that the redemptions are so dramatic in part because the comedowns, which the tabloids kind of hasten, are so rough. This picture, for instance. It's a bit of a sports cliche but, as they say, some things keep getting re-used for a reason. Who's he looking at—the stands?
JB: That's what it looks like.
TM: And there's that heroic Friday Night Lights thing going on behind him too. If this win were over another team besides the Patriots do you think it would be taking over the whole wood?
JB: Maybe, actually! Because, remember, this is a bigger sports story than the downs and ups of Mark Sanchez. Last week, the opprobrium was broad-based: the post-loss reaction was much more about their Rex-inspired loudness as a team, and subsequent failure to live up to it, than it was about any one player's performance. And also they'd just come off a somewhat uncomfortable week of stories about harassing a pretty female reporter, which they capped off by losing, in the world's most lopsided one-point game ever, to the Ravens. It was crisis time. So the mere fact that they came back and won convincingly against a decent team...
TM: Right. So this actually leads us to the News. (Are you looking at it?)
JB: I can't avoid it.
TM: So, this isn't precisely the same picture but it was shot at roughly the same moment. But, what the hell is up with that green background? His arm looks like it's been photoshopped onto his torso, not well.
JB: I don't know. It looks a little like a special-edition Pakistani flag.
TM: Well that's what they're after here, right? Big Team Colors emphasis. But it's like they took the bright lights and the roar of the crowd and painted it all flat green. And in addition, that arm—you just can't take your eyes off it. Getting rid of the three-dimensional background puts an angle on it that makes it look withered.
JB: Green-screen Sanchez. I don't know, it's just weird.
TM: So this doesn't do something scientific that I'm unqualified to judge to raise the blood of Jets fans into a frenzy of excitement?
JB: Well that's the funny thing. We like being frenzied. Give us any old excuse and we're there. But I think actually there's a problem here which is substance-based. It's the second game of the season. They are 1-1. I get On the Mark, because he was bad and now he's good again. The team's accomplishment yesterday, this was...good. Very good, even.
TM: But it didn't prove that they're "FOR REAL"?
JB: Maybe it did! Or maybe just that they're for real until they're not again! But what can the News do when it's later in the season, if the Jets, say, lock up the division with a blowout over Miami, or move into first place? What if the Jets win a playoff game, even? How much greener can they get? Can they just print the whole thing in green?
TM: Ah well now you are just telling a tabloid to hold back. Like when teachers give you a B so you have something to work toward. It's not going to happen! You must oversell every day. Nobody will accuse you of bathos later. Because they don't remember Green-Screen Sanchez. Well, so, I think we're in the next portion.
Observations: Aside from the fact that the News looks super wonky, there's the fact that last night's game didn't really change the season for the Jets, does that sound about right?
JB: The change was incremental.
TM: And we're agreed the Post is solid.
JB: On the...money.
TM: Whee! I think we know what we're doing here.
Winner: The New York Post.