Here's an easy example of an all-too-typical, terribly misleading sports headline.
This is the attention grabber from today's "Truth & Rumors" section of Sports Illustrated's home page. Based on this phrasing you'd expect that a first-year player for the Indianapolis Colts said that the NFL isn't tough. The National Football League certainly has its share of hotheads, so maybe one of them got his first taste of the league and spouted off. Like he's been taking some NFL-size hits, some blocks or tackles, and doesn't think they're so bad. Like he's been looking some grizzled veterans in the face and doesn't think they're all that mean or intimidating.
This is the headline once you click the link from the home page. OK, easing away from the first statement a little already. It's still referring to a first-year player for the Indianapolis Colts. But apparently that player said the NFL isn't so tough. Like he's been taking some hits and they're not quite as bad as he thought. Like he's met some veteran players and is slightly unimpressed.
"'The only surprise is it's not as tough as I thought it was going to be, as far as practice and those types of things,' he said.'"
This is the actual quote from the blurb under the second headline. OK, backing off quite a bit now from the first headline. The blurb identifies the quotee as Mike Hart, the former running back for the University of Michigan who is indeed a first-year player for the Indianapolis Colts. Good for them, they got that right.
But Hart doesn't say the "NFL isn't" anything. Hart uses the pronoun "it" and follows that with something longer and more qualified than the terse statements of the headlines.
The blurb conveniently leaves out the question that prompted this quote or the line or two that may have preceded it from Hart, so we don't know the "it" he's referring to. But we do know that "it" is related to "practice and those type of things." This is sounding more and more different and benign.
"'It's a little different,' Hart said Saturday at Randy Wise Chevrolet in Flint, where he signed autographs. 'The only surprise is it's not as tough as I thought it was going to be, as far as practice and those type of things,' he said. 'It's more laid back.'"
This is the full paragraph from the Detroit Free Press online article that the SI blurb quotes from. Here we get even more qualifications and a better sense of the "it" Hart's referring to. The article quotes him further:
"'Indianapolis is a different organization. You watch 'Hard Knocks' on HBO and you expect to be hazed and a lot of those things, but the Colts are a lot different. It's not as bad as I thought--we don't get taped, we don't get hazed with the Colts.'
Even the organized team activities sessions over the past week are "'a lot more relaxed because there's more teaching,' Hart said. 'They get all the rookies and young guys prepared, because the vets on our team, they're proven. . . . Really they want to see what the young guys can do, so they slow it down and teach us. Minicamp, when the vets were there, it was all about the vets, to watch them and see how the speed of the game is.'"
OK, so an articulate, open first-year player in the NFL thinks that the approach of the Indianapolis Colts--his team, not any other team, not the NFL at large--to welcoming and training its young players and to practicing as a team is "not as tough," "more laid-back," and "not as bad" as he was expecting. He expresses respect for the veteran players on his team, and his tone shows a sense of humility about being a member of the National Football League.
Sports Illustrated: "Colts rookie: NFL isn't tough."