The information bubble-blowers are ever on the job.
In case you forgot, an information bubble is produced oftentimes by the media, sending out information that confirms any misbeliefs fans already have about a certain person — and usually that person is Black.
I watched Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman’s post-game comments. If you are among those who don’t know what the young man said, here is the gist of it:
“I’m the best cornerback in the game,” said Sherman. “When you try me with a sorry receiver like [San Francisco’s Michael] Crabtree, that’s the result you are going to get.”
Sherman afterwards has been called everything but a child of God. I had no problems with what he said — I was more disturbed with Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews, who stuck a microphone in his face expecting some impromptu Shakespearean dissertation of his game-saving play that propelled his Seattle Seahawks to this Sunday’s Super Bowl. It further cements my belief that sideline reporting is a needless position.
Let’s look closer at what happened: What Sherman said in the heat of the moment, in the immediacy of his team’s biggest win of the season, was adrenaline-induced. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, adrenaline is a substance that is released in the body of a person who is feeling a strong emotion, such as excitement, and gives the person more energy.
Upon further checking, we’ve found the five symptoms of an adrenaline rush on a site called Fitday.com: increased strength, no feelings of pain, heightened senses, sudden boost of energy, and increased breathing. I’m not a doctor, but if a player makes a game-saving play at the end of a contest that determines who goes to the Super Bowl, I suspect that player had at least four, if not all five of these symptoms.
However, others took Sherman’s comments differently, using Twitter and other social media to the max. Some acted as they were related to Crabtree. Others threw racial slurs at Sherman like snowballs filled with rocks.
“I thought society had moved past that,” said Sherman during a CNN interview. “They had time to think about it. They were sitting at a computer, and they expressed themselves in a true way. But these people are acting like I attacked them in some way, like I went after them.”
Nonetheless, Sherman’s actions gave the media the needed ingredients to create those information bubbles. The NFL player was called among other unflattering terms a “thug” — Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC earlier this week reported the word was applied to Sherman over 600 times on television alone.
“So many titles for African American males when they act in a certain way,” observes University of Minnesota junior Kenneth Eban. “I think it’s very interesting when I see society spend a lot of time praising athletes on what they do [and] then we take sound bites and really judge them for those moments.”
The MSR met Eban during a January 23 event at the school’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, where he participated on a panel discussion with other local community activists. “How Twitter exploded — these guys are ‘thugs’ in the way they talk and carry themselves: ‘How can they talk like that? How can they act like that?’” he pointed out.
“Regardless of how that interview goes,” surmised Sherman, “it doesn’t give you the right to say the things they were saying.
“Richard Sherman for three years now has been the best corner in the NFL, and we praise him for that. But we suddenly shut him down when he expresses verbally what it takes within himself to do what he has to do every single game and believe that he is the best. We too quickly judge what people are saying and how African Americans are acting.”
“I think it is safe to say that if Peyton Manning or Justin Verlander had conducted a heated interview like Richard Sherman, we would have never heard the words ‘thug,’ ‘ghetto’ or ‘uneducated,’” wrote former NFL player Jack Brewer on The Business Journal. “I didn’t like Sherman’s outburst, but if you look beyond his sound bite (and his race and his dreads and whatever else you don’t like about how he talks or looks), you will find a man of great character, not just another stereotype,” noted Brewer, who runs The Brewer Group, a global advisory firm, and regularly contributes to the magazine.
“I’m not necessarily saying that that was right,” said Eban on Sherman’s comments. “I also don’t think it was wrong that he [didn’t shy] away from the biggest moment in his life, and we can’t judge him on the biggest moment in his life in the way that he talked about himself,” said Eban, who added that something similar occurred with college quarterback Jameis Winston after his Florida State won the national championship in early January.
I didn’t see the televised live comments but later watched it on You Tube and found nothing out of the ordinary in Winston’s post-game comments. But a mother of a college player tweeted that she didn’t understand him, hinting that he didn’t know how to speak proper English. Although the woman later deleted it and half-heartedly apologized with a second tweet, the original did its viral damage nonetheless.
“He’s 20 and we’re judging him on how he answers a question,” added Eban. “People want to know [during these sideline interviews] what are [a player’s] thoughts. He was very real, very raw, and he wasn’t as articulate as we wanted him to be, but he’s 20 years old. He didn’t say anything bad, but he articulated it in a way that some people were uncomfortable with. It just shows an unwillingness to accept his culture.”
In the heat of the moment, anything can happen, which unfortunately presents information-bubble opportunities for media and fans. There’s typically at least a 10-minute cooling off period before media can interview a coach or a player, but sadly this doesn’t apply for televised contests.
Finally, based on his seemingly polarizing comments, America now will either root for Denver because of Peyton Manning or against Seattle because of Sherman. Those information bubbles have done their job.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.