At the moment Erin Andrews put a microphone in Richard Sherman’s face, there were more than 60 million Americans watching Fox.
NFC Championship Game – or AFC Championship Game, whichever is in the late time slot – is the second-most-watched television program of the year, behind only the Super Bowl. No matter what Richard Sherman said in that moment, it was already beyond viral – a nod to the mass-consumption culture that we once were.
So when Sherman delivered his now-famous rant, there was no need to tell your friends about it. They probably watched it with you. Unlike most “viral” videos in today’s culture, the social media world did not light up with YouTube videos. Instead, the viral-ness – is that a word? – came from the reaction.
It must be a sign of the times or we just have too much time on our hands because Richard Sherman’s rant became a cause célèbre that had literally every single writer, sports or otherwise, contributing their two cents.
What did Sherman’s outburst mean? What did it say about America? What did it say about race? What did it say about gender roles? What did it mean for us?
There were no right or wrong answers to these pointless questions but any writer worth a dime knew that putting “Richard Sherman” in a tweet or a headline meant extra page views. I mean, 60 million people saw that interview – that’s 60 million potential readers. And no one whores themselves out better than a sports writer desperate for attention and today’s page view culture is begging to be tamed.
The sports media world, particularly online, has developed a cottage industry from writers trying to out-write each other about what a sports moment meant to the larger culture. A game is not merely a game; it is a reflection of our society. A player is not just an athlete, but a vessel of change and hope. Everything says something to someone.
Everyone is wrong.
Sports are, in the end, meaningless. I love sports. I love writing about sports. I am in a position where I can waste 30 to 60 minutes a night on my couch or desk, typing out the sports-related thoughts that bounce around my head when I’m stuck in another endless Metro delay or taking a shower.
But that doesn’t make the sportswriters happy because they don’t like to be confronted with that harsh reality. Now, instead they like to deliver nuanced takes. And people like sharing nuanced takes. You know, like:
A nuanced take on Richard Sherman from Art Thiel of http://t.co/w3qyQkqeJm: http://t.co/ITQKdFw22G
— Ken Goe (@KenGoe) January 22, 2014
Smart, nuanced take on Richard Sherman: http://t.co/hOE2zEr42t
— Mike Saucier (@MikeTheSauce) January 20, 2014
Good, nuanced takes on Richard Sherman's interview from @tommytomlinson (http://t.co/oAlLQ7aa1O) and @JPosnanski (http://t.co/c6vtA16dPw).
— Andrew Bucholtz (@AndrewBucholtz) January 22, 2014
Is there a more infuriatingly elite phrase than “nuanced take”? I mean, seriously, what the fuck is a nuanced take? Does that mean you thought about it more than us dumbasses? Is your take somehow more relevant because it’s nuanced? Are simple takes not appropriate? Do I have to be nuanced to be taken seriously?
In fact, the “nuanced take” is so important to a site like Grantland that they run a regular feature in which they slaughter the “simple take” by mocking it. I’m surprised the author of that piece doesn’t put his IQ or SAT score next to his name. We get it – you’re soooo smart, right?
In the week following Sherman’s rant, the discussion about what he said has violently run off the rails. The word “thug” was used to describe Sherman by many and this opened up a discussion on race and how the word thug is now a corollary to the n-word*.
*Sherman, showing off impressive obliviousness, pointed to hockey players and asked why they aren’t called thugs. Of course, anyone who watches hockey knows that the word thug is used all the time. But what’s the fun in pointing out facts? More nuanced takes, please.
Is there any American institution as far behind when it comes to race, gender and sexuality than sports? Ah, time for more nuanced takes.
Sherman was compared by some to Muhammad Ali, as absurd a comparison as I’ve ever heard in my life. As if by being a loud black athlete made them similar. Ali was the heavyweight champion in the world, growing up in a segregated society, avoiding the draft, changing his name and literally shocked the world. Sherman is a cornerback who went to Stanford and grew up in the 1990’s.
Others congratulated Sherman for speaking his mind, for breaking free from the stereotypical post-game interview by sharing his real, inner thoughts. No matter that those thoughts were selfish and childish – it was different, dammit! Dez Bryant, who also breaks from the script, did not receive the same congratulations late in 2013, nor did he receive any defense when most of Twitter likewise called him a thug.
I guess that Oklahoma State degree is worthless, eh? If only he went to Stanford – certainly can’t be a thug if you go to a good school like that. Is this where I mention where the biggest thug in NBA history – white dude Bill Laimbeer – went to school?
Ultimately, the problem with nuanced takes is that they imply the writer is smarter than you. It’s also bullshit. Nuanced is a word that carries with it the implication that you thought about it more than I did and, thus, my take is less than. A word that carries unintended implications? Maybe nuanced is the “thug” of the sports media world.
The issue I have with nuanced takes stems from the fact there is nothing truly nuanced about your reaction to Richard Sherman. In fact, it is the opposite.
You either saw the guy as a jackass or you found a reason to root for him. I fell into the former group, but plenty of people I know fell into the latter. And that’s okay. We can disagree. But let’s not get caught up in taking 5,000 words to decipher and deconstruct a post-game interview as if it is shining an illuminating light into our country’s race relations.
Richard Sherman and Michael Crabtree play football for opposing teams and they do not like each other. Sherman let the world know that. That’s all.
And you know what? Richard Sherman was being a jerk. And he knows it – that’s why he apologized.
Is that take nuanced enough for you? Or does the lack of nuance means it’s not enough? Or do you need another nuanced take to balance out this and other nuanced takes for the sake of being nuanced?
There’s no reason why I should ever have to read a headline that says, “What Richard Sherman Taught Us About America.” Hell no, I’m not linking to that garbage.
All he taught us is that way too many are way too desperate for sports to mean something more.
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