Ah, "the narrative". In terms of sports, what it means is that the story has already been written, and the players are just carrying out their roles in the predetermined tale.
For a blogger, convenient narrative is the easiest writing tool there is. Tony Romo blew a game? TONY ROMO IS A CHOKER. Darren McFadden pulled a hamstring? MCFRAGILE MCFADDEN! It's just too easy.
The easiest thing is that to write a post using narrative means the writer doesn't really have to do any research or even write a responsible article; they can just use common marketing-style techniques to make their narrative appear to be fact:
"League sources (my brother who owns an official team polo shirt) suggest the Browns could be looking for a quarterback again next year."
"Some people (my three-year old son and his pet hamster) say Goodell is furious with the ruling about the bounty issue and will do everything in his power to make the suspensions as long as possible."
Just take some generalities, bind them together with issues some people have doubts or questions about, and BAM! Instant story! Except for the fact that most of the time, the ending to the story is far from being written.NFL writers, bloggers, and "scouting experts" seem to use narrative to describe Gabbert's progress and potential more frequently than actually opening their eyes and watching game tape. They'll hear something small and run with it, such as: "Team sources quietly believe Gabbert cannot succeed as an NFL quarterback."
Who are "team sources"? Could that be disgruntled former head coach Jack Del Rio, or perhaps fired 2011 receivers coach Johnny Cox? Or could it be Bob, the janitor who had to clean Blaine's pee off the floor when he missed the urinal? We will never know because it would ruin the story.
In the eyes of some "scouting gurus", Gabbert is already a bust, and what happens going forward is just playing out the string. To some NFL bloggers, the Blaine Gabbert experiment has been and will always be a failure, and though he may have played relatively well one week, it's just a bump on the smooth road to obscurity and a future of Todd Bouman-style tractor-riding back home in Missouri.
I can't say whether or not they are right, but I can say they are wrong as of right now. Is Gabbert a bust? As of this second, NO...the story has not yet been written. He still could be a wasted draft pick, but he could also NOT be.
Here's the problem: the perpetrators of the narrative won't admit they're wrong until there remains no possibility of them being wrong. If you look at it from their side, there's no logic in changing their viewpoint right now. Think of it this way: what looks worse, saying a guy sucks and having him end up being a good player, or saying a guy sucks, changing your mind about him, and then having him suck after all?
The first example makes the writer look like he made an incorrect call. The second one makes the writer look like he is too easily influenced by small sample sizes, likely damaging his credibility. You can't blame him for sticking to his guns because it would make him look worse to change his opinion right now than it would to simply be wrong in the long term.
It's going to suck, but we are going to see "Blaine Gabbert still hasn't proven to be the Jaguars' quarterback of the future" blogs and articles until he has already reached the level of "solid NFL starting quarterback". Could that happen after this year? Sure. Maybe it will take until after next year. Heck, there's still a possibility it will never happen. It most likely will not be during the season, though, which means we have another 16 weeks at least of annoying, narrative-laden blog posts and national media game recaps. Ugh.
There are two possible responses for us:
- Blast the media now for their Gabbert opinions and try to make them admit they're wrong
- Wait. Yeah, it sucks, but...wait.
The first option, to be blunt, makes Jaguars fans look like jerks. "HEY YOU MORAN, BLAINE LOOKED GRATE SUNDAY!!11!" is not a voice all Jaguars fans want representing them, but I would argue that "Looks like you were wrong about Gabbert, eh?" is just as bad; it's just the difference between a screaming lunatic and a smug jerk (I had a bunch of synonyms for "jerk" ready to go, but this is a family site).
We shouldn't come across as either. It's no fun, but Jaguars fans should leave Evan Silva alone. They should leave Mike Lombardi (who?) alone. They should leave Michael Schottey alone. Why? Because there's nothing to be gained by having the discussion right now; to them, the narrative has already been written.
We know the story is far from over, but until the narrative is officially re-written, Gabbert is guilty until proven innocent in the eyes of the media. Let's bide our time and wait, because if/when we are officially right, we will all be well within our rights to shove it in their faces and yell "I TOLD YOU SO". Until then, I'm going to abstain from the narrative-fueled discussion, and if you want to save yourself an argument with a brick wall I'd suggest you do the same. In time, the story will write itself, and the narrative will be meaningless. I'm looking forward to seeing what's on page two.