Sports Take: The media is ruining Deion Sanders, Colorado football’s narrative

Illustration by George Schroeder | LTVN Executive Producer

By George Schroeder | LTVN Executive Producer

Colorado football’s story is incredible, but that doesn’t mean people won’t get tired of it. Between head coach Deion Sanders’ persona and the vast oversaturation of the Buffaloes in the media, the hype train is losing steam.

I’ll be the first to tell you I was one of the more than seven million pseudo-fans cheering on Colorado against then-No. 17 TCU during the most-watched college football telecast of week one. I wanted to believe. It paid off. But now, four weeks into the season, I’m torn between the underdog tale and the frustrating hype for what is quite possibly nothing more than an average football team.

I think a lot of people feel the same way I do. The change has been clear. In just four short weeks, Colorado went from “America’s Team” to a squad a lot of people were tired of hearing about. A lot of folks were ready for the Buffs to face a “real” football team.

No. 9 Oregon delivered.

“The Cinderella story is over, men! Right? They’re fighting for clicks. We’re fighting for wins,” then-No. 10 Oregon head coach Dan Lanning declared before the Ducks’ near-shut-out victory over then-No. 19 Colorado on Saturday.

Lanning was right … kind of. The story isn’t over, but people were starting to get overwhelmed, seeing through a flimsy narrative. After the Buffaloes barely escaped Colorado State, I think a lot of people were ready for anybody to write Colorado a reality check. The Ducks did just that with their 42-6 shelling of the Buffs.

You can’t force the story. It gets to the point where you have to let football teams speak for themselves. Lanning’s message about playing for clicks rings a little hollow, considering he let the media into the locker room to record it, but two things can be true at once.

“Rooted in substance. Not flash. Rooted in substance,” Lanning said. “Today, we talk with our pads. You talk with your helmet! Right? Every moment!”

Lanning’s group did, to the tune of the rout in front of a national audience on ABC.

Blame whoever you want — I’m blaming sports media, although Sanders has contributed greatly — but nobody wants to hear about an average team 24/7 like they are about to win the national championship forever. Sorry Colorado fans, but that’s what it was beginning to feel like.

Before I go on, I think it’s important that I debunk the ridiculous narrative that the media somehow doesn’t like “Coach Prime,” a claim that was supported by former Baylor football star Robert Griffin III.

“This man represents everything they don’t want to go up against,” Griffin said. “Let’s go ahead and define who is ‘they.’ ‘They’ is the coaches that he’s coaching against and the media. Why don’t they like him?”

Why doesn’t the media like “Coach Prime”? Um … what are you even talking about?

What a wild claim by Griffin.

You can make the argument coaches don’t like Sanders, as Lanning certainly had a message to send Saturday. But to claim the media doesn’t like “Coach Prime” is patently insane.

Let’s make one thing clear: Sanders knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to media attention surrounding his team and himself.

“I don’t say stuff just to say it for a click, contrary to what some may say. Yeah, I keep receipts,” Sanders said in the postgame interview. “I don’t shoot. I don’t do that.”

You don’t shoot, coach? If you don’t take shots, why are you keeping the receipts? Do you know why I keep a receipt? In case I need to return something. Just saying.

Regardless of whether you love Sanders or not, there’s no denying the over-saturation in the media. Don’t agree? Well, “Coach Prime” and I have something in common, because I also keep receipts.

ESPN football analyst Dan Orlovsky claimed, “Deion Sanders is more than a personality. He’s perfect for college football right now. He’s so needed in college football.” ESPN Insider Heather Dinich added, “I think what college football needs right now is Deion Sanders and this entire team.”

SEC Network television and radio personality Paul Finebaum said, “[Sanders] is the biggest name in college football today. He is transcending the sport.”

In an interview with ESPN Los Angeles radio, Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay lauded Sanders, saying, “He’s done a great job at a bunch of different levels. He’s a motivator.”

As the ESPN College GameDay celebrity guest picker, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson — who boasts over 400 million followers across all platforms — said, “We are witnessing … something [that] is very special, and what that special thing is, is passion, mixed with love, mixed with disruption, mixed with swagger, mixed with confidence. He’s changing the face of college football.”

Even Monday, ESPN’s Pete Thamel claimed, “Sanders has taken over the sport … He’s already won for the 2023 season.”

RGIII’s claim is just flat-out wrong, and it gets worse. Let’s go deeper.

From Sept. 10 — the day after Colorado beat Nebraska — until 3 p.m. CT on Sept. 24, CFB on FOX (@cbfonfox) posted on Instagram 453 times, and 123 of those posts were about Colorado. That’s 27%.

During that same time frame, ESPN College Football (@espncfb) was even worse. Of 241 posts, 104 of them were about Colorado. That’s 43% — almost half, including 19 in one day after they beat the Colorado State Rams.

Sanders’ son and junior starting quarterback, Shedeur, flexes his wrist and, foaming at the mouth, ESPN acts like nobody has ever flashed a watch before. Oversaturation is an understatement, and that’s just two weeks on Instagram — I’m not digging through the rest.

You do a disservice to any story when you cram it down on people. If it feels forced, it probably is. None of this is to say it isn’t a great narrative. It is. It’s just being cheapened.

Deion is building something special in Boulder, Colo., and it’s an awesome story — regardless of whether Colorado goes 11-1 or 3-9. But as student journalists, we’re taught to give a story what it’s worth. Apparently, Fox Sports and ESPN skipped that day in class.

Colorado has something to prove all over again. Even if they’re getting sick of it, I think most people still want to believe in the Buffs. But now, the narrative needs to change. It’s time to let the team speak for itself on the field, not just on social media.

The time for talk is over. It’s prime time to recapture your story, Colorado.