Sherman Controversy Combines Race, Condescension and Marketing
Sherman also discussed what actually sparked all the attention: his post-game interview with Fox sideline reporter Erin Andrews. You can watch it here if you somehow missed it. Sherman didn’t apologize about that either. What he basically said was that he regretted how it came out, but hey, these things happen.
This story has exploded like infected spores spreading across the sports world. It has everything if you’re looking for unabashed undertones of racism, blatant condescension, and the realities of marketing.
Every story involving Andrews circles back to her credibility as a reporter. Notice I didn’t say “by” Andrews. I said “involving” Andrews. She winds up in the middle of the controversy because she doesn’t have the foundation as an actual reporter to make her her qualifications a non-issue. She’s not a reporter. She doesn’t have the experience or the in-the-trenches ability to be one. Because of that, when something happens that requires the sensibilities of someone who will automatically know what to do next based on experiencing these types of incidents hundreds of times before, she has the startled, “whaddoo I do now?!?” look on her face forcing Fox to get in her ear and tell her to send it back to the people in the booth who the the upper management of the network knows will be polished enough to explain it away without stammering, stuttering or embarrassing themselves.
As a “sideline reporter” with everything the job entails, Andrews has what Fox is looking for. She’s pretty. She’s charming. She’s likable. She’s well-spoken. She handles herself well in front of the camera. As a reporter, she’s a joke. There to do fluff pieces and represent the network by accumulating a few more viewers who would prefer to look at her than Jimmy Johnson or Jay Glazer, she serves the purpose she was meant to serve. Either unaware of this, trying to bust out of those manacles or because the network wants her to appear credible, she is in a constant and mistaken battle to validate herself and the job she has.
Much of the ridicule is her own doing. From almost calling Justin Verlander “Justin Bieber”; to her interminable whining about the cold in Green Bay; to the softball pieces she does; to this latest controversy with Sherman, she isn’t accustomed to doing the things that reporters must do to be assessed on their work and not that which they don’t or can’t do. Instead of tacitly accepting that the only reason she has the job is because of attributes other than skills, there’s always an explanation as to what happened and why. We’re not hearing about the Sherman vs. Crabtree battle, but hearing about it through the lens of how it involved Andrews.
As Sherman came off the field and had the microphone shoved in front of his face for a reaction, Fox got the unexpected. Controversy and shock sells, but if it’s unexpected, then the interviewer must have the skills to deftly nudge the story back on track to get something out of it. What they got was a lot of shocked viewers and Fox Sports producers who knew it was safer to get Andrews out of the situation rather than let it play out.
Andrews insists that she wasn’t scared. She may have leaned more toward taken aback and stunned than actually frightened as a vast portion of non-racially enlightened America was at the large black man towering over the beautiful blonde white woman.
Certain quarters have stated that Andrews handled it well. In comparison to the alternatives—fainting; dropping the microphone and running away; spontaneously handing over her purse; shrieking—I suppose she did. If you read Andrews’s comments here on Bleacher Report, you’ll see that it comes back to being about her. The telling portion was: “I was thinking, here we go, here’s another one for the critics.” She knows why she’s there whether she admits it or not. Part of that evolves into a self-centeredness that she has to repeatedly explain why she seemed unprepared for the eventuality of a fired up player shouting about an opponent.
She could travel across the globe trying to become a “legit” reporter by doing stories on kids playing soccer in war-torn Syria; to death threats in Pakistani cricket; to re-education camps in North Korea where the inmates get 15 minutes of exercise per day, and it will yield the same result: no one will think she’s a reporter. At this point, she can’t make that transition from pretty sideline eye candy to actual journalist and what happened Sunday is a prime example of why.
She’s an unintentional “gonzo” reporter taking part in the story itself. Unlike Hunter S. Thompson, who innovated the practice of jumping into the middle of the stories he was covering, Andrews won't get the opportunity to become anything more than what she is even if she's capable of doing it.
Fox won’t let that reality deter them. Since Andrews is part of the story, you can bet that she’ll handle the Sherman profile and interview in the endless pregame show on Super Bowl weekend. They know they need extended content and there’s little that will accrue ratings like a still living, breathing, half-dead zombie that will be the story of the Sherman-Crabtree-Andrews trio. What better way to take advantage of it and try to establish some reporting bona fides for Andrews than letting her deal with Sherman? She’ll have the questions prepared for her and like the spokesmodel she is, she’ll stick to the script. Some will buy it; others won’t. The truth is that it’s more of the same that got her into this situation in the first place.
For Sherman, this was much ado about nothing. He had just made the play that, in part, sent his team to the Super Bowl. He walked off the field with his adrenaline in maximum overdrive coming off a confrontation with his bitterest rival. Then he had to discuss it for the viewing public.
Well, he answered the question as to how he felt and that viewing public was aghast. People who have never played competitive sports, and especially a physical and emotionally draining one such as football, don't understand that the intensity necessary to compete successfully can't just be turned on and off. Sherman wasn't going to pull a Superman-Clark Kent bit and go from one personality to the other. He couldn't suddenly morph from the blustery and arrogant cornerback to the Stanford-educated, poised and polished man he is off the field.
What did they expect? So accustomed to the canned responses made for public consumption and to maintain an image, we’re expecting to hear the hypocritical thanking of Jesus Christ for helping win a violent game played on the Lord's day. Thanking a deity is socially acceptable provided it’s Jesus. If any player ever walked off the field and say “Praise be to Allah,” then the controversy would probably be worse than what happened with Andrews and Sherman.
Sherman was flying high, but he was far from out of control. He didn’t curse. He didn’t say anything overtly personal or offensive. All he did was talk about how great he is, reference a nickname (LOB – Legion of Boom) for his team’s defense, and gloat over stopping Crabtree.
This story blew up because of the confluence of events. The racial component of this can’t be ignored and its aftermath is dripping with condescension. In the ensuing days since it happened, we’ve received everything but Sherman’s middle-school transcripts to prove that he’s a person with a brain and not some thug out of Compton wearing colors to represent a gang he’s affiliated with and how he would be in jail if he didn’t find a way out with the NFL. Again and again, it’s mentioned how he comes from a “normal” family; that his father drove a garbage truck and his mother is a social worker; that he was an A student in high school, graduated from Stanford, does charity work and speaks at schools telling kids to stay on the straight and narrow.
Why that should matter is a mystery considering the fact that the entire episode stemmed from the heat of the moment and that Andrews either didn’t know what to say or do or that Fox didn’t trust her to know what to say or do. It all fit perfectly together to inconveniently cast a pall over the Seahawks winning their conference and created a viral incident that wasn’t an incident at all. It was something that happened and should have been a distraction rather than what the sports-viewing world is talking about days after the fact.