Bristol- According to confirmed sources close to the situation, ESPN's NFL Live host Trey Wingo is now using understatement almost universally, including in his private life. While critics have long questioned the network's policies on understatement, it is believed that Wingo's case is the first to manifest itself in so public a way.
According to most estimates, the last on-air statement Wingo made that was not an understatement occurred during a October 16 show, when he told Merrill Hoge that "special teams are always criminally overlooked".
"Trey's not Trey right now," said a source inside ESPN, "and it's hurting those around him"
"He's also increasingly unable to do things like order food, because he'll only refer to being able to 'eat a bite or two' or request vague and small amonts of food from a waiter or clerk, when he's actually very hungry."
During the NFL Live show which aired on November 6, every single declarative statement by Wingo was a form of praise highlighted by an ironic muting of his tone and choice of adjectives.
"The Titan defense, they're playing OK right now," said Wingo at one point, "I think ole Jeff Fisher just might be an above average football coach." Later, during a discussion of released Raiders cornerback DeAngelo Hall, Wingo went out of his way to understate the embattled player, "DeAngelo Hall... he can play this game."
Rumors have swirled for years that the NFL Live team was engaged in dangerous use of understatement, although it has often been difficult to distinguish the ESPN team from other football based shows, where a culture of understatement has historically been very strong.
"Last year's Patriots team really sent Trey over the edge," said a production assistant who wished to remain anonymous, "when you have tendencies toward something, you have to know where your trouble spots are and remain extra vigiliant."
"Whether or not Trey did that or not, I can't say. It's not my place to speak about another man's struggles."
In a study commissioned by Royals Review show transcripts from the last three years reveal that Wingo has described Tom Brady with understated praise 88% of the time. Between August 2007 and February 2008, that figure rose to 94%. In December and January, when the Patriots wrapped up their undefeated regular season, Wingo was unable to refer to the season as "great" or "record-breaking" using instead "pretty good" and variations on "this Tom Brady guy, he may be good someday".
"You can talk about his understating Brady or Belichick, but everyone does that," said a former staffer, "some of us point to what happened with LaDainian Tomlinson the last few seasons as well."
Throughout the '07 and '06 seasons, Wingo criticized San Diego's usage of Tomlinson, a frequent NFL Live talking-point. In one example, Wingo looked into the camera and said, "Norv, you have this guy named 'Tomlinson', he's not bad, maybe you could design some plays for him!"
"Tomlinson and Brady are wonderful examples of what has been going on at ESPN for a long time," said David Humphreys, a media analyst for the University of Southern Prince Edward Island, "one or two times, I guess it is somewhat funny or clever. In near universal does however, it's grating."
In Humphreys's view the use of understatement is widespread, "it isn't just Wingo. For whatever reason discussion of the NFL has gotten to the point where there's an assumed infallibility regarding the overall glory or strength of the league. Unlike the baseball or basketball media, coverage of pro football tends to be relentlessly laudatory. So in that environment, understatement suddenly becomes sorta funny. I guess."
Still, others don't think the focus should be on football. "I worry more about his family," said a longtime Wingo neighbor. "The nicest thing he's said to his wife in weeks is that she looks 'not bad' and that her birthday gift for him, a helicopter trip to Iceland (the Wingo family vacation spot since the 18th century), 'was alright'".
An official at East Bristol Elementary School confirmed to Royals Review that Wingo's children were initially confused by their father's increasingly cold way of speaking to them, but are beginning to adjust.
Said the official, "they get it. Last week little Anne came home with straight A's. Wingo's response was, 'well, these are, umm, solid numbers."