The Screengrabs Lie

The Screengrabs Lie


The Screengrabs Lie


There are so many content avenues in the wake of a big game. One of my favorite is, and will always be, the context-less screengrab. Internet sleuths isolating one frame to show whatever they want it to show is infinitely shareable. Emotions are typically far too raw to facilitate any critical analysis. And if you think I’m lying, go ahead and try to not be triggered the next time one crops up on your timeline.

But here’s the thing about those viral screengrabs. They lie. Or, more accurately, they don’t tell the whole truth. The below, purportedly showing a surefire Bears touchdown missed late in the Green Bay collapse, is an example.

It sure looks bad. One could be left to wonder what the heck Mitch Trubisky was doing, why didn’t he pull the trigger. That’s Trey Burton wide-open in the end zone! Throw the ball!

Trubisky did not, of course, throw the ball to Burton. The Bears settled for a field goal and Aaron Rodgers ripped their hearts out. Full video of the play in question suggests this is more complicated than one still frame.

So here’s what happened next. There was a backlash, a contrarian take to the initial take. The “it would have been picked” tide rose, led by the voice of a player close to the situation, albeit one with a vested interest (what defensive player has ever believed they wouldn’t have made an amazing play?).

And a former quarterback who knows about these kinds of things.

Here’s the thing, though. Our staff had an extremely contentious and strong discussion about the play in our internal chat. For every person who thought the throw couldn’t have been made, there was one who believed it was like taking candy from a baby with correct ball placement. I personally went through a rollercoaster, initially believing Trubisky could have thrown the Bears to victory, then thinking he was wise not to try, then coming all the way back around and believing a score was left on the table.

We’ll never have an answer.

In reality, the Packers using zone coverage instead of man and the play design help explain why the throw wasn’t made. But that discussion isn’t as fun because it’s harder to have a strong take.

So, yeah, the screengrabs lie. But video can’t always fact-checked. It’s a shades of gray, relative world out there, folks. Choose your own reality.


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