Peyton Manning had a pretty good weekend. Against (smiles to herself) Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers, he surpassed Brett Favre’s NFL-record 508 touchdown passes. He managed in 246 games what it took Favre 302 to do—throw TD No. 508. Then, just for fun, he tacked on 509, 510, and a touchdown celebration that left watchers with a humble, wholesome impression of him, even after it emerged that the celebration was planned.
Maybe Peyton wanted to go crazy. Maybe he wanted to grab a mic from Erin Andrews after the game and scream about how he’s the greatest quarterback of all time a la Richard Sherman, polarizing people—some of whom may have appreciated the gesture, others of which would no doubt take every opportunity to point out how unintelligent and egotistical he is. He chose not to, though, and you can’t blame him for sticking to his less surprising plan.
I have heard a lot of people complain about what they perceive as the limited emotion and candor that Boston College athletes and coaches use in interviews. Steve Addazio often sticks to a couple of motifs—heart, hard work, family, etc.—but when was the last time you saw Manning or Tom Brady go off on a rant during a press conference? Probably never, and that’s because they know that doing so will only provide a distraction and give people the opportunity to criticize them, either for the content of their speech or the way that they say it.
These are players and coaches that know what their job is—to go out and win football games—and they do everything they can in order to achieve that. It’s not up to them to entertain members of the media, to create easy stories with emotional outbursts just so that writers or TV personas have something interesting to talk about. Just because they are more reserved in on-camera situations doesn’t mean they don’t know how to motivate themselves and their teammates when their words aren’t being monitored.
I’ve sat in many a press conference when the game-winning scorer or star goalie of the game sat calmly and attributed their success to the hard work of their teammates. A lot of people choose to roll their eyes at these sorts of expression, preferring, perhaps, a Sherman-esque outburst during which players call themselves the greatest ever to play their position.
For a college athlete, though, how could that possibly help them?
Any reactions that people may have to pros speaking out will only be stronger for college athletes, firstly because people are even less used to it from these “amateurs,” and secondly because it’s even easier to write a player off as a stupid, immature kid when he doesn’t have years in the pros to back up his statements.
The image of Johnny Manziel’s face at the most recent NFL draft is still clear in my head as one of the most highly touted draft-eligible quarterbacks tumbled down into the twenties, finally picked up 22nd by the Browns.
I’m a huge Manziel fan. I don’t care if the kid did or didn’t sell autographs, because the only reason that’s considered wrong by some is because of some stupid NCAA rule and I see no moral issue there. I also don’t care that he has a massive ego, because he’s exceptional at what he does. Power to him.
People don’t like that from a college kid, though, and as Johnny Football’s draft status tumbled, the announcers on ESPN discussed how he had been working on shedding his image as an egotistical party boy.
Sports are political. People have the idea of what makes a great quarterback in their head with examples like Manning, Brees, and Brady in their heads, and that’s exactly what they expect from a leader of their team. Not many people are going to want to elect the brilliant asshole. Rather, they let personality influence where they choose to cast their vote.
It’s obviously not an ideal thing that many athletes feel the need to temper their emotions, but people should stop complaining when Thatcher Demko fails to toot his own horn after a shutout or when Tyler Murphy deflects leading questions with praise for his running backs or receivers. It’s not their job to entertain media members, and there’s a huge downside if something that they say is taken the wrong way or out of context.
If they choose to do so, good for them. They’re taking a big chance and there’s a distinct possibility that they’ll piss people off. At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that such actions could have a negative impact on their futures and choosing playing the safe side, especially when you know that every word that comes out of your mouth is liable to be picked apart, be it by journalists, coaches, fans, or scouts.
These types of athletes have two goals—to win games, and to excel in their areas to the extent at which they will be able to take their skills to the professional level, and it’s not their fault that people who have a large hand in determining their futures have closed minds about what the personality of a prospect should be because of what they’re used to from athletes. Nobody wants to be labeled as a liability and let that perception overshadow his or her on-field performance.
Featured Image by Aaron Josefczyk / AP Photo