National Columnist

Forbes list of most disliked NFL players depends on ignorance

Cutler is the sixth-most disliked NFL player. (USATSI)
Cutler is the sixth-most disliked NFL player, according to Forbes. (USATSI)

Let's do a list. Lists are cool. Who doesn't like a list? Who doesn't want to click on the slideshow of five or 10 items -- longer lists are better than shorter lists -- to see this list to the very end?

Let's do a list. Here's the title: Ten Worst Sports Lists.

Here's the problem: I can think of just one list to put on my list. This list here, by Forbes: The NFL's Most-Disliked Players.

That annual list dropped this week, and while I've read it every year, this is the first year I actually looked at the fine print. Which means that, until this year, I've been unaware of this little fact:

The list is garbage.

Until this year, I didn't know that. Which means I've been part of the problem -- because that Forbes list traffics in ignorance, and it relies on people like me to stay ignorant and think the list reflects reality. When it does not.

That list reflects fame more than unpopularity, but it's not packaged that way. It's packaged dangerously, for weak people -- people like me -- to look at that list every year and see which NFL players it's safe to dislike. Because if they're on this list, that means lots of people dislike these guys. Therefore, I can dislike them.

And so can you.

It's Groupthink 101. Either you're part of the group, or you're not. Let's not.

This year, according to Forbes, it's safe for us to dislike Michael Vick. He's first on the list. It's also safe to dislike Manti Te'o, who's second. No. 3 is Ndamukong Suh, and from there the list reads like so: Ben Roethlisberger, Mark Sanchez, Jay Cutler, Tony Romo, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Reggie Bush.

Wait, I have an idea. Here's a list of the Ten Things Wrong With This Forbes List. My goal? Search Engine Optimization, obviously. Beyond that, what the heck, how about this for a goal: Maybe Forbes will read this list -- who doesn't love a list? -- and decide: You know what, that guy from CBSSports.com is right. Our list of disliked NFL players is misleading and unfair, and we're not going to do that one ever again.

1. The list comes from a survey by E-Score, a creepy outfit that someday might contact you at your home, name some famous people and ask if you think favorably or unfavorably of them. The people E-Score polled to find out The NFL's Most-Disliked Players? They're not necessarily football fans. Or sports fans. So swish that around your brain for a minute: We're reading a list of the most disliked NFL players based on a poll of people who might or might not recognize the names of anyone in the NFL.

2. Seven quarterbacks are on this list. Why? Because even non-sports fans have heard of quarterbacks. The bigger the market the QB plays, the more likely people know his name. Forbes culled the list by considering only NFL players who were recognized by at least 10 percent of the people contacted by E-Score.

3. Know how many people were contacted by E-Score? Exactly 1,100. Ten percent of that is 110. That's how many people needed to recognize a guy's name for that guy to qualify for this list. According to Forbes, Michael Vick is disliked by 53 percent of the people. That sounds huge! More than half of America dislikes Michael Vick! Well, no. More than half of maybe 110 people dislike Michael Vick. So what does that "53 percent" number really mean?

4. I have no idea.

5. Neither does Forbes.

6. If you're famous, we've heard of you. And if we've heard of you, we don't like you. That's how people operate in the world today, where snark is a commodity and cynicism passes for intelligence and therefore people think to themselves, "If I'm snarky and I'm cynical, I'm smart. So guess what? Yes, E-Score, I've heard of Mark Sanchez. Don't know much about him. Can't stand him."

7-10. There is no 7-10. I hate Top 10 lists. I'm starting to hate all lists.

 
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