The NFL Draft can make television people do weird things.  With the draft not taking place until May, it gives everyone extra time to freak out about various proclamations from talking heads.  It also gives ESPN plenty of time to milk these opinions and turn them into news stories as part of the ESPN Echo Chamber.  We’ve already seen it happen with Ron Jaworski’s comments about Johnny Manziel saying he wouldn’t take the Heisman winner in the first three rounds.

For a while on Friday, it looked like the same thing was going to happen as First Take tweeted out that Merril Hoge said he would take Michael Sam over Jadeveon Clowney.


Everyone, predictably, lost their minds.

Sam has been heavily scrutinized by every NFL talking head, scout, and anonymous front office source.  We’ve already seen his draft stock ridiculously go down in some circles because he’s now outwardly gay instead of just to his teammates.  He definitely deserves to be drafted, but absolutely nobody would consider saying he should go above Jadeveon Clowney, a consensus Top 10 pick.  It’s just not rational.

The only problem is that Hoge didn’t say it.

Hoge did appear on First Take Friday morning, but he said he would take Buffalo’s Khalil Mack over Clowney, not Sam.  He said he would take Sam in the 5th or 6th round.

So why did everyone blow a gasket over the misquote?  Because we’re all smart enough not to be watching First Take and didn’t know any better.

But to be honest, the bigger issue at hand here is that First Take could tweet such a misquote… and everybody believed it.  Why wouldn’t everyone believe that Merril Hoge would say something as extreme as drafting Michael Sam over Jadeveon Clowney on First Take?  It’s completely within the modus operandi of both.

In the same day on First Take, Hoge embraced debate by saying that Johnny Manziel had “bust written all over him.”  He took two of the most popular players entering this draft – Clowney and Manziel – and shredded their resumes.  Why?  Criticizing celebritized athletes is a very quick way to draw attention.  (See: Bayless, Skip.)  Hoge has a history of making a name for himself by sharing extreme viewpoints on the most talked about players.  The misquote about Michael Sam would fall in line with his history.

You see, Hoge isn’t an NFL analyst, he’s a NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE analyst.  There’s a big difference.  NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE analysts get their authority by spelling out what the NFL initials mean for all of us.  They may also try to get their own catchphrases over and have a tendency to share some scorching hot takes.

And for First Take, it’s par for the course to put forward a manufactured debate topic like Sam vs Clowney for retweets or ratings or what have you.  In fact, it was only a matter of time before the show gave in and started to use fiction for their debates.

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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