Well, at least the Cardinals are sort of in the news? That’s progress.

I touched on this last year when the OBJ trade rumors were in full effect (funny how those are back in force too) but the sports media content machine is the worst part of this year. This is the time of year when the Rumor Cycle kicks in. The rumor cycle is basically this:

-A reporter or media personality trying to fill space pulls a story completely out of their ass. This story could be based off of a deliberately twisted interpretation of a fairly nothing statement made by a coach. It could be based off a weird tweet. It could be invented, straight out of thin air, just because. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk made a frigg’n media empire out of this shit. For our real-life example here, let’s use the one I drew above. Cardinals Coach Kliff Kingsbury once stated that if he was an NFL coach he’d trade everything for the 1st pick and Kyler Murray. Now that he is an NFL coach with the first pick…well does that mean he will draft Kyler Murray?

-The interpretation/speculation is then reported on. Tweeted about. Schefter might say something. You might see the word “sources” pop up with nothing substantial to back it up. “Kliff Kingsbury once said he’d pick Kyler Murray. Could he do it?”

-The reaction content mill takes hold. Pieces fly up on B/R, SI, Deadspin, SBN, ESPN, discussing the news that this thing could be happened. The stories at this point are still mostly just “this is a thing that could happen”. Kliff Kingsbury could trade Josh Rosen for extra picks. But they just picked Josh Rosen! This is shocking!

-Speculation on the impact of the initial story begins to drive the content mill. Pieces on why a team might do a thing appear. Speculation on who else is involved appear. Who would the Cardinals trade Rosen to? What would they get for him? Where does he fit? Is this the right move?

-The initial speculative rumor has now taken a deep enough hold on the discourse that people stop asking “why” and start taking what was originally a load of bullshit as fact. Writers (even ones I respect) will tweet about who the Cardinals should aim for. This is the worst part of the entire thing, when people seem to forget that none of this has been remotely confirmed in the first place, but is now being treated like it’s actually happening. So many people seemed to easily just assume Rosen was gone.

-The rumor finally gets back to the source. Kliff Kingsbury and the GM Steve Keim now have to answer stupid questions from reporters about a story that was based on basically nothing to begin with.

-The content mill now turns to trying to second guess or over-interpret the statements made by the sources. Steve Keim said Josh Rosen is the QB right now. Why say “right now?” That opens a door! It’s happening people get your Rosen signals up!

-Eventually the content mill runs out of stories to run because nothing is actually happening. It finds a new rumor or actual news to report and the cycle begins anew. All of the nonsense is forgotten. In a week it is very likely no one will be talking about Josh Rosen being traded or even remember that at one point they were convinced it was happening. This particular story will pop up a few more times in the next month as we start the draft process. It will only truly die after the Cardinals don’t draft Kyler Murray.

You can apply this cycle to almost all offseason stories. OBJ last year was for sure getting traded until…he didn’t. No matter how many times Gettleman told the media to buzz off, the story didn’t die and people, even Giants fans, were convinced it was happening and were trying to figure out what they would get. It’s absurd. That’s the part about this I really hate. I have no problem with speculation; speculation is fun! But it’s fun in a thought experiment/what if kind of way. When you start treating these rumors as fact, that’s when you are the problem.

This time of year is full of complete bullshit because the content must be generated. It feels like most of these trade rumors always end up as garbage falsehoods. The real news always comes as a surprise, like Jason Witten unretiring, or the news is extremely heavily telegraphed with confirmed reports out the ass, like whatever will eventually happen with Antonio Brown. Please, my fellow sports fans, do not engage with the bullshit as if it is fact. Confirm the rumors. Remind people that none of this is real…yet. Be vigilant and do not let the bullshit win.