January's Sports Lowlights

Peter Cavanaugh

BBC

After Coca-Cola's Super Bowl ad ran, the group of us lying about watching the game started to make jokes. We put on our best and thickest 'Merican accents and played that we were pissed as all get out. Who's this, singing about our country in these serpent tongues? It's a rum and Pepsi now, thank you. In a perfect world, the alphabet would only be three letters: U, S, and A. But I guess this is Obama's America.

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The jokes were short-lived. The realness set in and we all got sad. Twitter had already begun to blow up with hatred and ignorant calls for Coca-Cola boycotts from shovel-faced honkies. We knew the next day our social media feeds would be awash with links to lists of “look at all these racists.” It's not surprising, but no one likes to be reminded of how ugly we can be. People have shitty thoughts, and Twitter lets us all think louder.

The one positive, though, is there is no vetting on Twitter. You think it, you key it in, and there you are. #TCOT and #white Twitter explode all teary-eyed over some weird looking people singing about their country in anything other than English. It's a mess of “your” and “you're” and “they took our jerbs!”

There's no typing it out and working on a second draft in the morning, there's no editor to call you on your bullshit. Which doesn't give racist twitter users a pass, but does make you wonder what in the hell is going on with the sports journalism world.

Black athletes are obviously tasked with handling some of the more obtuse and baseless criticism, but this past month was banner month for journalists going out of their way to translate the actions of a few athletes into lazy conclusions, and editors doing nothing to make sure these ridiculous claims get killed in the early draft stages.

We all saw Richard Sherman's postgame interview. We either cheered along with him or got annoyed. Or maybe we just didn't care. Then we saw the reaction from some sportswriters and the 625 stair ascendance of the t-word. Sherman, speaking several days after his famous interview, pointed listeners to a recent hockey game wherein no hockey was played after the puck drop and all players began fighting. He made the point that it's rare when we call a hockey player a thug, and that anymore thug is becoming an acceptable way for the media to call someone the n-word. We're learning, slowly, but hopefully Sherman's point was heard. Though we are still qualifying him as a Stanford grad, as if he needs to be validated somehow. He's no Peyton Manning, so let us remind you that despite his looks, and despite his background, he did go to a good school.

And then before we could resolve our confusion with Richard Sherman – he's a thug, right? he is from Compton, but didn't he go to Stanford? – his teammate and known media shirker, Marshawn Lynch gave a single interview for the Super Bowl Media Day and we got another chance to wield the all-purpose t-word. Despite the fact that Lynch gave one of the best and most quote-worthy interviews of the day and despite the fact that his four minutes was enough to spawn an innumerable amount of articles, essays and think-pieces, journalists were still unsatisfied.

CBS New York sports blogger, Jason Keidel wrote one of the most amazing articles on Lynch this past week. Deadspin has a rather great takedown of Keidel's article if you're interested face-palming yourself for a good 10 minutes. Keidel's thesis seems to revolve around the fact that Marshawn Lynch, despite coming from a rough area and growing up in poverty, is in fact not a thug. But, as America is a beautiful and varied country, some people might look at Lynch and assume he is in fact a thug, so it would have been wise for Lynch to take that national stage and dispel the notion that he is a dangerous, bling-wearing, stripper-coveting thug. One commenter on the Deadspin article pointed out that he's pretty sure Jason Keidel doesn't molest children, but Keidel's silence on the subject is a little suspect. An immature joke, to be sure, but a good point. Reading Keidel's recent tweets, unfortunately, proves a man who while he does seem to mean well, really can't understand what he did wrong.

Even after the Super Bowl, we're having trouble talking about athletes. The great NY Post columnist, Phil Mushnick, has a light-hearted and humorous recap of Fox's coverage of the big game. As expected, he was none too thrilled with their treatment of Richard Sherman before the game, calling it “nauseating”, and saying, “And his [Sherman's] enthusiasm is for himself, not the game. Pathetic, TV-typical, bad-is-good pandering.” In a vacuum, he could have a point. But it's not a vacuum. We just spent two weeks hearing all those racists and borderline racists interpretations of Sherman's behavior. And then the next point he makes, which he files under “sad”, is “The only team captain among eight to shake the hands of honorary captains Joe Namath and Phil Simms after the coin toss was Peyton Manning.” I don't know, Phil. You can control the context of any player, so if Sherman is selfish and takes away from his team, what do you say about old Broadway Joe? The dude is an alcoholic, makes brash declarations guaranteeing Super Bowl victories, kisses women without their permission on live TV, and ignored dress protocol by donning huge fur coats and white low-tops. Not shaking his hand seems pretty honorable.

But these are petty quibbles for the month of January. Football season is finally over. A new batch of players can retire and begin counting down the days until their NFL-sponsored health insurance runs out and they’re left bed-ridden and unable to answer questions in complete sentences.

We can now look forward to the Winter Olympics, which without a doubt are definitely not going to be one of the biggest shit shows in recent memory. Human Rights Watch just released the following video to get everyone pumped up for the big event. It’s thoroughly depressing and will probably make you cry and lose all faith in humanity. You can watch it, but it’s violent and sad and every other superlative you need.

You’re all invited to my place to boycott the Olympics. We’ll watch the Pacers and do the Lance Stephenson shimmy. It’ll be a lot less morally suspect than cheering on the NFL or watching the Olympics and ignoring Russia’s horrible treatment of the LGBT community.

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