Aaron Rodgers-Hub Arkush uproar is perfect example of why media shouldn't vote on sports awards

·Columnist
·5 min read

Hub Arkush, the Chicago-based NFL writer and commentator, shouldn’t vote for the league's Most Valuable Player award.

It’s not specifically because Arkush said he wouldn’t choose Aaron Rodgers since the Green Bay quarterback is, apparently, “a bad guy” and “the biggest jerk in the league” — although all of that is patently absurd.

As Rodgers pointed out, Arkush doesn’t know him, has never met him, doesn’t know what his teammates think of him and, of course, none of this has anything to do with his on-field play that includes 35 passing touchdowns for the NFC’s No. 1 seed.

No, Arkush shouldn’t vote for MVP because no media should vote for MVP. Or All-Pro. Or the Hall of Fame. Or the Cy Young. Or the Heisman Trophy. Or Coach of the Year. Or NBA Finals MVP. Or almost anything else in almost any sport because doing so isn’t their job in the first place.

Don’t vote. Ever.

Journalists exist to cover (and uncover) the news or offer commentary on the news. They aren’t supposed to make the news, which is most certainly what winning an award represents — especially with monetary bonuses often tied to these awards.

The concept is simple. Trying to justify anything else is an exercise in situational ethics, misplaced priorities and mental gymnastics. There is no counterargument rooted in journalism. There just isn’t. That’s why a number of media outlets prohibit such votes. Integrity matters. Or should.

Arkush, by speaking out loud on "760 the Score" in Chicago, just proved the point in this specific case. By discussing his thought process on doing a job that isn’t his in the first place he created a huge bit of news and even threw doubt on whatever the final tally is.

What happens if, say, Tom Brady wins the award? Is it because he deserved it or because, as Arkush promised, there are other voters who punished Rodgers because they don’t like him or the fact that he misled about his COVID-19 vaccination status?

“I can guarantee you I will not be the only one not voting for him,” Arkush said.

So now anyone who chooses Brady (or Cooper Kupp or Jonathan Taylor or anyone else) is under suspicion. Which isn’t fair to them. Or Brady. Or Rodgers. Or anyone.

This is the minefield that the media happily wades into for reasons that befuddle.

Media shouldn't vote on NFL MVP, or any other sports award for that matter. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Media shouldn't vote on NFL MVP, or any other sports award for that matter. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The NFL is a business that the media covers. It should be up to the NFL to determine who its MVP is or any other honors. Same with other sports. Or Hall of Fames, which are independent museums.

The media doesn’t vote on the rules of the game. The media doesn’t referee the contests. The media doesn’t choose who gets hired as coach or who rides the bench or what plays get called or where franchises get located. The media can make outside commentary on all of the above, but that’s it.

That stuff is the job of the people who are actually in the game … the leagues, the teams, the owners, the coaches, the players.

And it should be their job to come up with a system to choose their award winners. It’s not the media’s job. It’s actually the opposite of the media’s job. There’s a line. Or there should be. Does the sitting President of the United States get to vote for the Pulitzer?

That’s not to say most in the media don’t take the voting process seriously. Arkush is an outlier. Most devote incredible amounts of time and effort and try to remain free from personal bias. They consider it an honor. It’s a tough job, one made even more difficult by increasingly limited access to players and coaches.

This was a slap in the face to those people.

That honest effort is why despite lacking expertise into how the game is actually played — let alone how someone impacts a closed locker room — the media tends to do a pretty good job. They may even do a better job (and actually be more unbiased) than any other group … say a coaches’ vote or a players’ vote or a blue-ribbon panel selected by a league or a Hall of Fame.

That doesn’t mean they should. It’s not the media’s job to “get it right,” as if something this subjective can be “right.” If a player-vote does a bad job and picks the wrong guy, oh well. That’s the NFL’s problem. They do lots of things wrong.

The media’s job would be to offer commentary pointing out said bad job and explaining why it might be a bad job. It’s fine to have an individual opinion. It's not to become a part of the process and determine the official opinion.

You know who understands how hard this job is, how just attempting it creates exposure for cries of incompetence and corruption, who doesn’t want their brand or business associated with the inevitable comments and thinking such as Arkush?

The NFL. And all the other leagues.

That’s why they outsource the job to the media they are otherwise at odds with. The thinking is simple: Let those fools make fools of themselves.

The media should stop playing the part.

Stop voting.

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