Here are two of the nearly 30 definitions of the word "rated," courtesy of dictionary.com:
15. to estimate the value or worth of; appraise: to rate a student's class performance.
16. to esteem, consider, or account: He was rated one of the best writers around.
2. to create interest in by flamboyant or dramatic methods; promote or publicize showily: a promoter who knows how to hype a prizefight.
It’s amusing at times to watch people – whether they are at the bar, the barbershop or the smartphone-addled bar called social media – get into deep discussions about who is overrated and overhyped in sports. This is the result of consuming so much media that the constant talk about a player, team or even sport can drive people a little batty. Despite what one may believe to be true with his or her own eyes and ears, there’s a tipping point to how much praise and press something or someone in sports deserves.
That tipping point is when two terms that should be as different as their roots become improperly interchangeable.
To be overrated should mean that a player’s actual skill set does not match the value bestowed upon her or him. While this usually equates to said player’s contract, more often than not, it deals with the labels received from sportswriters, color commentators and studio analysts.
Consider this: Every Hall of Fame quarterback at one point or another was labeled overrated after a few good wins … that became few good seasons … that became a pretty damn good career. Close your eyes and just listen to some of the Steelers fans out there that would swear that Tom Brady is grossly overrated, that he’s a system quarterback who needed the Tuck Rule and Adam Vinatieri’s leg to become TOM FRIGGIN’ BRADY!
Or just observe the first Lakers vs. Heat game of the season – mark those calendars for January 17 – and watch the Kobe and LeBron stans battle each other in the never-ending war COUNT DA RINGZ versus CHECK MY $TAT$.
Or even observe a team’s perceived strong point. Despite the rave in-game reviews from color commentators, it could be a bit of a stretch to place the Chicago Bears’ or Houston Texans’ defense in the same class as that of the San Francisco 49ers.
To be overhyped is a wholly different matter. It’s having Madison Avenue blowing up your phone after a stretch of good performances. It’s breaking into the mainstream with paparazzi snapping photos of your every non-sports move because you’re “what’s hot right now.” It’s having reporters ask opposing players and coaches about you when you’re not even involved in a game!
Think of just about every athlete that has had his or her 15 minutes of fame while struggling to maintain success for 40 minutes per game over a sustained period. Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow may be the most immediate names that come to mind, and Anna Kournikova or Danica Patrick might be your poster children of being overhyped. Yet, there’s a long list of fame-soaked athletes whose games never matched their fame: Brian Bosworth, Freddy Adu, Reggie Bush, just about anyone that ever beat one of the Williams sisters, etc. And one can’t forget the most historically significant athlete labeled "overhyped," a guy by the name of Joe Namath.
Even teams and rivalries aren’t safe from the label. The Yankees/Red Sox rivalry still gets premium hype despite not being worth a damn in a few years. And these days, there are a lot of opinions on Notre Dame and SEC football as we inch towards college bowl season.
The overrated/overhyped debates are part of the glue that makes sports stick with us, but I honestly believe that we get these terms mixed up because there are always people who are not convinced of someone’s sporting greatness. Simply put, being overrated is to be given too much credit. Being overhyped is being given too much attention.
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school's 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.