On Tuesday night, the Kansas City Chiefs sent out a simple, short press release. It contained information that felt impossible to read only eight months after All-Pro strong safety Eric Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in December. Berry was allowed to return to football activities on Wednesday, opening camp with his team.
When the release arrived in email inboxes of media members at 11:02 p.m. EST, word began spreading around Twitter. Within minutes, the football world realized that an event nothing short of incredible and beautiful had taken place. Everyone knew this was a moment to savor, all while the nation exulted in triumph for a 26-year-old who was deemed cancer-free.
Everyone noticed, except for the major sports networks.
NFL Network was in the process of airing another episode of NFL Total Access, a re-run from earlier in the evening. Instead of breaking into the show for live coverage of Berry’s return, the pre-scheduled programming continued to run without even a mention on the bottom line.
Berry’s triumph would have to wait another day, despite the NFL Network being anchored on the West Coast. For the men and women at that station, they could not be bothered to produce coverage at 8 p.m. PST. Why? Because the NFL Network couldn’t risk halting their non-stop, looping coverage of what might happen to the New England Patriots and their quarterback Tom Brady. Brady, as everyone on Earth is now aware, has been suspended four games by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in spite of his appeal to the league.
Meanwhile, ESPN was also busy showing breathless coverage of the Brady saga. ESPN made sure to cover this news as though a meteor was screaming towards Earth. It was not to be interrupted by a man beating cancer. The only mention of Brady came at the end of the episode after Jay Harris and Steve Levy were done running down the Top 10 plays of Tuesday night. Then they congratulated him on the way to commercial. When they came back? More baseball in July. More Brady.
Hell, the only thing beaten into the ground more than coverage of Brady on ESPN was Brady’s cell phone.
While covering the suspension of the NFL’s golden boy certainly makes plenty of business sense, where is common sense? SportsCenter failed to run the news about Berry on its ticker, and never bothered to throw up a breaking news box in the top left corner of the screen. This is a network that breaks into coverage when Tim Tebow runs shirtless in the rain.
Meanwhile, a three-time Pro Bowler and First-Team All-Pro safety in the prime of his career exudes the will of the human spirit in the face of death, and gets nothing. It is the depths of sports journalism when an event bordering on the miraculous can’t break into coverage about the air pressure of footballs.
Congratulations, Eric. You deserve it. The world knows about your triumph and the struggle you endured. We can all see it clearly.
We just can’t turn on the television to see it.