The national sports media is similar to many of today's families in that dysfunction is often the norm.
By design the goal should be to "report" on the athletes and the games in which they play. There's plenty of room for feature stories, analyses, columns and the other aspects of the job, but detailing the happenings around a given team is at the heart and soul of coverage.
Far too often sports journalism gets away from what should be its stated objective. Call it the "TMZ" side of the business. It's when a charismatic, controversial athlete arrives on the scene and captures the imagination of virtually every sports media representative that types his or her byline on a laptop computer.
It's at that point when reporting is washed away in the wake left by the actions of the celebrity in question. That's never been more evident than in the case of Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, who's arguably the biggest name in U.S. sports at this time.
The national media can't get enough of "Johnny Football," except in moments when Michael Sam is the main topic of conversation. High-level staff meetings at "ESPN" long ago approved Manziel stories to be included with the Holy Grail of subjects allowed by the four-letter network.
They include, in no particular order:
1. Kobe Bryant's future.
2. What's wrong with the Dallas Cowboys?
3. Do the Yankees have enough pitching?
4. What did LeBron have for lunch?
5. Will Tiger Woods ever be dominant again?
Now that Manziel has been included into the club, Skip Bayless can start bouncing up and down in his seat telling viewers how poorly Browns management is handling Manziel's arrival in Cleveland.
It's not just Bayless and his ESPN cohorts. National media across the country have been criticizing the Browns for their handling of Manziel, and it's because none of them were allowed to attend the team's rookie camp last weekend. Many of them are acting more childish than Alec Baldwin when he sees a photographer.
When news first broke that team management had instituted a ban on national reporters, my initial reaction was in support of the media. The whole idea of full access in a country with a free and open media made the Browns' policy seem a bit harsh.
Upon further review, I realized how many times a small media outlet is barred from big sporting events. Try getting into the Super Bowl if you work for a newspaper with less than 50,000 circulation and no history of covering a NFL team on a permanent basis. A personal audience with the Pope is more likely.
From that perspective, I can see why the Browns did what they did. The idea was to control the circus that has become Manziel coverage, although it won't be as easy when the NFL requires full access when training camp opens.
It was actually pleasant watching 15 minutes of practice last Saturday without a horde of national types. It was even better when those of us in the local media had 10 minutes with Manziel after practice. It was relatively easy asking a question without the shouting-match competition it would have turned into with a larger audience.
It wasn't so pleasant for national scribes and broadcasters who had to receive reports of Manziel's first day in Cleveland via what must have seemed like the Pony Express. They're fuming mad at the lack of access, while also showing bewilderment that owner Jimmy Haslam had the audacity to say that Manziel has been told to "begin acting like a backup."
The bottom line in much of this conversation is that the media feels it created the Johnny Football image, and it wants nothing more than to cultivate it for ratings and circulation purposes. There's concern that Manziel didn't land in a sexy spot like Dallas, where his image would have played perfectly to the media's desire for TMZ-like stories. With Cleveland as the backdrop, it means pushing the envelope to enhance Johnny Football's image.
The fact that Manziel took Haslam's comment and ran with it to the point of showing true humility is a good thing. He's not being stifled in his creativity as a player. He's simply being asked to earn his way to a starting spot, which should be the case with all rookies.
Maybe someone should ask Manziel what he thinks about all of this. I think his recent actions answer that question, which is precisely the reason for all the outrage.