Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mutually Assured Censorship

Let's All Encourage Less Speech
Seahawk RB Marshawn Lynch whipped through a perfunctory media session this week, having not quite learned his lesson by having to appeal an earlier $50K fine from the NFL for exercising his First Amendment right to, well, not speak to the media. Why doesn't he like talking to the media? Perhaps because he doesn't like talking while near-naked after three-plus hours of being in car accidents, or he doesn't like hanging out with guys who clearly tried and failed to do what he does for a living, or those who he was absolutely nothing in common with, who will use anything he says that isn't a cliche against him. What an oddball! Let's fine him, or others might want to be more like him.

Seahawk CB Richard Sherman had to scratch a check for a weird amount this week for failing to celebrate the biggest win of his career in an acceptable way, then spent the next week doing the media's work for them by being the source of a million easy paint by numbers pieces and counter pieces as to what kind of man he is, and what that says about Society. You'd think that the media would put together a collection plate to keep him talking, but as he's a guy that doesn't shine from individual attention, he must be chastised. Otherwise, more might want to be more like him. (Sherman apologized, so that means everyone was right to be offended, right?)

There's a fun aphorism in Japan, that, loosely translated, is this: the nail that stands up that will be hammered down. So clearly we live in Japan now. Anyhoo...

Now, let's look at Denver. Peyton Manning is a master not just at what he does, but how he does it. For the most part, he plays the media game nearly as well as he does the one between the lines; he's capable of saying nothing in original ways, all the while sounding earnest, funny or anywhere in between. From this, he's made an astounding amount of money in commercial endorsements. And the rest of his teammates more or less carry the same vibe. DeMaryius Thomas is a friend of Sherman's, but he's not going to go meet him at the WWE green screen. Wes Welker's said things in the past that probably greased the skids for his departure from New England, but this week, he's going to talk about nothing more controversial than his desire to play in the game, even if concussed. If there's going to be controversy at this game, it's going to come from Seattle, clearly.

Now, the easiest thing in the world is to note the background racial and classicist aspects of all this, but it goes beyond that. Rather, it's on Lynch and Sherman for not following the outdated and artificial script provided to them by the sports media contract, which is this... You have to defer to these people, and give them what they want in roughly the space and length in which they want it, or they will crap all over you like the mean girls they are. All at a time when athletes are able to go direct to their audience with as much (or more) hype than the official channel.

You know what happens next, right? That's the generational shift between the dinosaurs in the media and the audience at home, followed by the fracturing of the coverage, and, please Xenu please, the eventual ability to choose your own level of analysis and coverage. Me, I'm going for Complete Stat Nerd that treats the players as electrons in a video game, because then we don't have to hear them, or the media, talk. And now that the coolest endorsement contracts are for guys who turn themselves willfully deaf to the media, and become deaf in turn, it's a movement.

And just to show my years and bad attitude, you know where to put the cork. Though if you'd like to put it somewhere else, that's a defensible choice as well...

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