Does it add fuel to the fire when someone like Rex Ryan calls you overrated as hell?”

That questionable query from a reporter was directed at Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield last Wednesday during the Browns’ weekly press conference. It came after former Jets and Bills coach turned ESPN analyst Rex Ryan referred to the second-year QB as such days earlier on a morning show.

The Browns were 1-2 with a huge division road test in Baltimore upcoming. If Mayfield needs a tongue-lashing from a television analyst for motivation, he should hang up his jersey right now.

There was conversation about his team and the Ravens defense that was awaiting his arrival, but these questions always seem to rear its ugly head into the discussion and isn’t remotely in the same zip code as real news.

Unfortunately, this interaction was the only thing that made it into the mainstream media. Unless you were in the room or a follower of Cleveland local news, you probably won’t hear what was said about the Browns’ game plan for the Ravens or how they were preparing that week in practice. No, just the juicy details about how Mayfield felt about someone’s opinion.

The national media and the reporter got just what they wanted when the quarterback replied, “It’s whatever. In the wise words of (Cleveland coach) Freddie Kitchens, if you don’t wear orange and brown, you don’t matter. And Rex Ryan doesn’t have any colors right now, so it’s OK.”

Mayfield took the bait and now you’re in what some reporters refer to as their happy place …

A feud.

Should Browns fans, much less football and sports fans, care about what Ryan thinks about Mayfield or what he thinks about Ryan? Short answer: Not in a million years.

Save this frustrating fodder for the reality shows. You would see this scenario on “The Bachelor” or “The Real World” not in the National Football League. Media is being driven by a reality-show mentality where drama is celebrated and being used to drive ratings. It’s nonsense.

ESPN should have been professional enough to let it go and let the coerced conversation die, but not surprisingly, they ramped it up. It was discussed again on its Sunday morning show while Ryan wore a brown suit and an orange tie. Purposely wearing Cleveland colors, he exclaimed that Mayfield would “be in trouble” if he was wearing black and purple today.


The Browns earned a big division win, Mayfield threw for 342 yards and running back Nick Chubb ran wild for 162 yards and three touchdowns. One reporter just couldn’t refrain from this tedious tug-of-war …

“Did Rex Ryan’s comments fuel your play today?” Really? The Browns played their best game of the early season and that’s the question you want to ask?

Adding further insult, a Google search produces other publications suggesting that it’s Mayfield that keeps adding the fuel to this dumpster fire, saying that he is the one that is keeping the feud going. He’s the one escalating the war of words when it’s the media that is doing so.

His reply: “Absolutely not. Rex Ryan does not get any credit for this week’s win.” To his credit, Ryan did compliment Mayfield’s play the next day so hopeful this will quell this unflattering display until the next opinion drives the conversation again down a dead-end street.

I’m not a great interviewer. Never claimed to be, but I will never envision heading down the somebody-said-something-about-you-so-I-want-you-to-say-something-hateful-back path. That’s exactly what this back-and-forth showcased.

Antonio Brown dominated the headlines for weeks with his childish antics. Little news came out of Raiders’ camp other than Brown’s tantrums about the way he was treated. After he was released by the Patriots, coach Bill Belichick should have answered questions about Brown initially, but after the onslaught had been asked and not answered, it’s time to give it up. Here’s a scoop: No one who acts like that should get a second of airtime.

But as he arrived at Foxboro for New England’s game a week later, a reporter asked again what was the last straw for releasing Brown. We all saw the horrid text messages he sent involving one of his alleged victims. Case closed.

Aaron Rodgers was grilled by a reporter last Sunday because he didn’t give a more controversial answer about the way NFL players dealt with contract negotiations. Kevin Durant’s injury dominated the coverage of June’s NBA Finals. Two years ago, at UK Basketball Media Day, I witnessed a veteran reporter at the Herald Leader chastise coach John Calipari for not wanting to answer a fourth question about the Adidas scandal that rocked college basketball but had nothing to do with the Wildcats.

Defenders will say they are doing their job because it’s news. We need to start defining what is newsworthy. Reporters are important to society. We are needed to inform the public, but you should be reporting the news, not trying to create it.

Producing insightful post-game questions is not always an easy task and sometimes we ask straightforward questions just to get a coach or player’s perspective on an important issue or on a contest they just played. But asking a frivolous question that doesn’t produce anything but a ratings grab should not be excused.

In a world of fake news that’s been proven not to be, we need to appreciate what is real.

MATTHEW SPARKS is a guest columnist. Follow @SparksWillFly35 on Twitter.

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