Sometimes the media doesn’t need Donald Trump to mock it for “Fake news!’’ Sometimes it does it all by itself. That was certainly seemed appropriate was this week when reporters in Philadelphia brought up with Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles “The Curious Case Of The Missing Handshake.’’
The missing what?
The world wanted to know, folks covering the Eagles felt, whether Foles was irked that Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady failed to plow through a sea of well-wishers and a snowstorm of confetti to shake his hand following the Eagles 41-33 win in Super Bowl LII. How, they wondered, could Foles countenance such a slight?
Did he, they asked, expect Brady to finally give him a bro hug, slap him five or engage him in some sort of pre-game ritual handshake prior to Thursday night’s meaningless exhibition game between the defending Super Bowl champions and the team it vanquished? And if it didn’t happen, what then?
These questions were asked breathlessly, as if a guy choosing to walk off the field after a bitter defeat in which he was strip sacked with the game on the line and outplayed by a backup quarterback rather than wander through a crush of humanity to share a brief grip and grin with someone he didn’t even know was some sort of act for which the rosary must be said so Brady might be absolved of his sin.
Foles listened patiently to this nonsense. Then he answered politely but the look on his face said more than his words. Loosely translated that look said, “Have you guys taken leave of your senses? This matters?’’
Foles said he hasn’t heard from Brady since that game. He didn’t bother to add they weren’t exactly pen pals before it either. Truth be told, they’re barely acquaintances. In fact, it would be fake news to say they are even that. So where’s the slight in leaving a field of chaos once your work is done?
“I think everyone’s making a really big deal out of this and it’s not a big deal at all,’’ Foles said of the absent post-Super Bowl handshake. “I’ve already talked to him before; he’s a guy I’ve always looked up to. You’ve got to admire someone who is probably the greatest ever and still going strong. I mean, even at his age (41) he seems to get better and better. I’ve already had a conversation with him before when we practiced (in a joint session several years ago), so if we have one in the future, we’ll have one and it will be cool.’’
Left unsaid was the obvious. If they don’t have one, they don’t and that’s not a big deal either. Except, maybe, to some grandstanding media members with too many twitter feeds to file and not enough real news to fill them. Enter “fake news.’’
Last February Foles and Brady engaged in one of the great football throw downs of all-time. It was a classic quarterbacking battle in the biggest game of the year with Foles becoming the unexpected hero after replacing injured starter Carson Wentz late in the season after Wentz badly injured his knee.
While Brady was setting a playoff record with 505 passing yards, three touchdown throws and no interceptions, Cinderfella Foles was throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns himself, including a late fourth quarter TD to tight end Zach Ertz that gave the Eagles their winning margin.
To the best of my knowledge, Johnny Unitas did not seek out Joe Namath and pump his hand after losing Super Bowl III to him. I don’t recall Jim Kelly tracking down Phil Simms or the other three quarterbacks who sent him and the Buffalo Bills to defeat in four straight Super Bowls.
The truth of the matter is for most of NFL history such post-game lovefests didn’t occur. Sammy Baugh didn’t seek out Sid Luckman after the Bears tore Baugh’s Redskins a new one with a 73-0 beating in the 1940 NFL Championship game.
For decades there was little fraternization between warring teams. There was grudging respect but when the game was over too much blood had been shed and pain shared for handshakes and prayer meetings. Instead he losers went to their locker room and the winners to theirs. You want a handshake? Get a bank loan. In football you didn’t get handshakes. You got hands to the face.
Lately all that’s changed. We are civilized now. The losers are supposed to seek out the winners, even in their disappointment and on a field littered with people and more floating confetti than the first astronaut rode through during his ticker tape parade down Broadway.
That’s all well and good but that Tom Brady didn’t go through that charade of cordiality after losing Super Bowl LII is not a controversy nor a cause for corrective measures. It’s just real fake news.