Bears vs. Packers Ditka vs. Lombardi. Sweetness. Farve. Singletary. Starr. Fans from both sides will be inadvertently locked in debate over who has the greater franchise until the trumpet sounds. The rivalry between Chicago and Green Bay is as old as the league itself, with a combined 55 Hall of Famers, and is the marquee rivalry. With the conclusion of the NFC Championship game last Sunday, it marked yet another storied game to the bedlam that occurs annually on Soldier and Lambeau field. However, the lesser known match up that occurred during the wake of the title game is almost as interesting as the game itself. The PR battles facing the teams (or one particular player) give a perfect example of how social-media and public perception can drag a squeaky clean franchise through the mud.
First let's talk about the subject that has engulfed sports radio shows and the media for the past week. Jay Cutler. Yes, the Chicago Bears quarterback that “quit” during the championship game. The public perception of the young quarterback is terrible. Uninterested. No heart. Quitter. All words that have been used to describe Cutler. However, these claims didn't all of sudden appear out of the cold Chicago air last Sunday. No they are perceptions, which have followed him since his days with the Denver Broncos, that affect how the media handle him and what the public makes of his actions. His short interactions with the press don't help his cause. (Never mind the fact that the guy founded an organization back in Denver to help children with diabetes.) Cutler simply doesn't care what people think of him, which makes me applaud as a man and cringe as a PR professional. So let's put on the helmet of Jay Cutler for a moment. Forget that we do care what the media thinks of us, we are the media circus everyone wants us to be (Rex Ryan), and we want to improve our public image. How do we recover from the public perception that we are an uninterested, frat boy bitch?
Well first, against the Cutler way of shying away from the media, we want to get information out there about his foundation, the Jay Cutler Foundation. The guy obviously isn't doing this for publicity. (Take note that not a single thing on the home page of the website says a thing about Cutler.) But nothing will make a city fall more in love with an athlete than on-field success and off-field charity work.
Second, TALK TO THE MEDIA. Chicago fans want to love their sports heroes. They supported Sosa through the corked bat incident. They stuck with Belfour until the marriage tore it's last thread. Chicago LOVES its sports and they want to love you, Jay Cutler. You don't have to be flashy or make the reporters laugh or stir controversy. But you can handle the media in such a way that makes you look like the intelligent, team leading quarterback you are. It's all about PR, Mr. Cutler.
Now I'll move on to the Packers. This past week, with the Pack celebrating their first trip to the Super Bowl since they lost to the Denver Broncos and quarterback legend John Elway in 1998, who incidentally Cutler was supposed to be the second-coming of, the team found itself among turmoil. Tightend Jermichael Finley and linebacker Nick Barnett tweeted their unhappiness about team policy. When the team was set to have their photo taken at the Super Bowl, every player on IR, including Finley and Barnett, were going to be left off because they were considered to not be part of the team, despite their star roles prior to their injuries. The Packers, seeing the media stir and recognizing their error, quickly arranged to have all the players on IR flown down to Arlington for the team photo.
So why did I spend more time on the Bears than the Packers? Because negative publicity is always going to get more air time than positive. When a man saves a child from getting hit by a car, everyone says, “Yeah that's great.” for a day. That's it. Now if the man pushes the child in front of the car, we talk about it for weeks, months, even years. My point is, Mr. Cutler, if you ever get to the point where you care what your public perception is, take a page from the Packers. A little PR can keep you from frying under the heat lamps that is public opinion.