In advance of last night's hotly anticipated match between the NFC-leading Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, ESPN simulated the match using EA Sports' Madden NFL 08 videogame as the simulation engine. And of course they simulated the news article that was generated by the information produced during the simulation run. According to the sim, the Cowboys won/would win the game 20-17 in overtime. The "photo" from the simulation accompanying the article showed star Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens triumphantly posing in the end zone after scoring a touchdown.
By scrolling to the bottom of the article one can find the key statistics from the simulated game:
But wait a second: according to the post-game statistics, though Owens caught 8 passes for 98 yards, he did not score a touchdown.
If Owens did not score a touchdown, then why the "photo" of him posing in the end zone as if for an imagined national television audience? Why has Owens (and his "blackness") been fictionalized so in this simulation? Does the fact that it is a simulation automatically confer the license of fiction?
Because Owens — due in no small part to his past experiences of showmanship — has been constructed by the media as the ultimate selfish, preening, prima donna football player. And in a sports world based so intimately upon media exposure, this characterization has become truth, fiction be damned.