Sports fans, especially NBA fans, I’m sure are familiar with the family of viruses the “Miami Flu,” the “LA Flu,” etc. It can be caught in places with a pleasant year-round climate and a plethora of places for young, rich people with lots of energy to party when their teams visit. The result, especially if the game is played early in the afternoon on Sunday, is that the players sometimes don’t have their best games in these towns.
Times are changing in professional sports. For one, players don’t consume alcohol the way they did when Allen Iverson was closing down a TGI Friday’s, or when the “Last Dance” Chicago Bulls were drinking cocktails on the plane and beer in the locker room. Today’s professional athlete understands that alcohol causes inflammation, even more so at 30,000 feet. In order to fly all those miles, play in at least 70 percent of the games, and do so at a high level for longer than Iverson and Charles Barkley did, they have to treat their bodies as carefully as they would their infant children.
Combine that with every single person in late-night establishments armed with a high-definition camera, maybe it’s better to not go to Mansion that weekend. It’s not worth the appearance fees, free bottles, and free section to do a club walk-through. Even if the event happens to be in your team’s home city.
That sounds great for fans, coaches, and front offices. Less partying, less trouble, more focus on work. Possibly. These people still have a ton of idle time in the day after workouts and practice, and what Gen Z does in a much bigger fashion than the generations before them, is play video games.
The face of that group now is Kyler Murray. Details leaked from his $105 million guaranteed contract extension that included he was required to spend at least four hours uninterrupted per week studying with no television and no video games. This clause — that is giving me flashbacks of when I used to get my Playstation 2 from where my mom hid it during the school week and return it before she or my dad got home — was later removed after it went public and Murray was shamed.
It is known that he is a frequent Call of Duty player and he also once made the mistake once of saying during an interview “I’m not one of those guys that’s going to sit there and kill myself watching film. I don’t sit there for 24 hours and break down this team and that team and watch every game.”
Being that Murray is such a big fan of that game, and this story going viral, a Redditor did a surface-level stat dive — posted to the r/NFL subreddit — to try and see if video games do indeed affect Murray’s play. In the COD world, Double XP weekends are like any holiday that involves meat and alcohol. It’s a necessity to heavily indulge. During these weekends players can receive double points, double weapons upgrades — anything to make their profile better.
The Reddit user went to Pro Football Reference and looked at Murray’s quarterback rating, average passing yards per game, and win/loss record during any form of a Double XP weekend compared to the other weekends during his NFL career. All three statistical categories were lower.
Now, this is far from proving a causal effect between Murray’s play and his video game usage. It’s not factoring in his or his teammates’ injuries, how good of a team the Cardinals were playing, what the weather was, turnovers he didn’t contribute to, or even how much he was actually playing video games during those weeks. And one more thing, win/loss record is not an individual stat in a team sport. What those results mostly prove is that those of us who used to upgrade in video games with Game Genie and blood codes, and had to beg our parents to buy a second controller, are starting to get old.
Times sure have changed. Not even 25 years ago a distraction was Dennis Rodman was missing practice during the NBA Finals to participate on WCW Monday Nitro — nWo 4 Life — while Murray is getting criticized for staying at home.
If anything, this whole Murray controversy has made me think that if I ever have children I’m starting a parents group called “Lock em’ Out.” It’s going to be my version of a Homeowner’s Association. Any parent who wants their children in this group has to commit to locking their children out of the house for at least seven hours per week and the only exception is emergency situations. And no electronic devices are allowed outside during that period.
It’s not that I’m against video games. Do what makes you happy. But if my hypothetical offspring ever does become a professional athlete, if they get criticized for not taking it seriously, it won’t be because of something they do at home that is plugged into a wall.