Wednesday, November 6, 2013

2 comments Jason Whitlock Gets All Jason Whitlock-y When Writing about Dez Bryant

Jason Whitlock, who probably has more in common at times with Jay Mariotti than he would like to admit, has decided to write about Dez Bryant and his sideline temper tantrums during the recent Dallas Cowboys game against the Detroit Lions. Whitlock is like Mariotti in that he has knocked ESPN (well, Mariotti knocks the entertainment sports machines but I know he's talking about ESPN) as if he is above working for them, but once ESPN (or any major entertainment entity in the case of Mariotti) comes calling he's glad to work for them. It's interesting that Whitlock, who used to criticize Rick Reilly for mailing in columns, has a tendency to do the same thing. Whitlock isn't at the point of consistent ridiculousness that Reilly is at currently, but he has the template to write an attention-grabbing column with a few references to "The Wire" and Jeff George reference down at this point. No need for too much thinking. Just write something that will gain attention and this will allow Whitlock to be deemed a columnist who talks about controversial issues. So Jason Whitlock writes about Dez Bryant and says he is no Jeff George. Whitlock also says Bryant's temper tantrum is different from a white quarterback's sideline tantrum because Bryant is inherently a malcontent. That's sort of differentiating between the two sideline tantrums based on past behavior, which I'm not entirely sure is fair when discussing the reaction to Bryant's argument with Witten/Derek Dooley and (for example) Tom Brady's sideline argument a few years ago with Bill O'Brien.

Not to say Jason Whitlock has sold out by going back to work for ESPN, but above this column is a video of Max Kellerman and Marcellus Wiley discussing this column on SportsNation. Sports news happens, ESPN personalities give an opinion on this sports news, then another ESPN personality comments on that other ESPN personality's opinion, and now not only has ESPN reported on a sports story but they have created and reported on themselves making news for the story. It's the ESPN news cycle, which is why Skip Bayless is still employed despite his overwhelming awfulness. Wash, rinse, repeat. 

False equivalency is the lifeblood of American public debate.

A receiver and a quarterback both yelling at coaches and teammates on the sidelines doesn't seem like a false equivalency to me. I think it seems like a pretty fair measurement for how the media treats a quarterback (white or not) and a receiver who throws sideline tantrums. The key difference is that a quarterback is expected to be a leader and a receiver is not. Whitlock even says Dez Bryant isn't a leader because he's a wide receiver. So he's working on an incorrect belief from the very start that receivers can't be leaders. The media has their own perception of leadership on a football team and which players can be leaders. Linebackers and quarterbacks are leaders. Safeties can be leaders, but only in certain cases. These players who are considered leaders show their leadership by yelling at teammates, preparing well for the upcoming game, not wearing a towel on their head on the sidelines, and blaming himself or blaming nobody for the mistakes made by a team. Quarterbacks are leaders, running backs and wide receivers are not. So when a wide receiver throws a sideline tantrum then it is not possible for him to be displaying leadership.

So it should come as no surprise that, in an effort to rationalize Dez Bryant's counterproductive sideline tantrums, Bryant's defenders compared the immature Dallas receiver to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

I wouldn't argue it is the exact same thing, but sideline arguments happen all the time and the cameras pick them up occasionally. Todd Haley has argued with Anquan Boldin and that didn't stop him from getting a head coaching job. Perhaps Haley was showing leadership since he was the offensive coordinator at the time and coaches show leadership by yelling (according to the media).

Celebrated white quarterbacks yell at their teammates. Why can't a black wide receiver?

The equivalency is false on multiple levels.

It's not even that. It's that many sportswriters shrug off Peyton Manning getting into it with Jeff Saturday or Tom Brady getting in an argument with Bill O'Brien, just like it should be shrugged off. But because Bryant is a wide receiver, and I don't think it is a black/white issue though we all know if Jason Whitlock can talk about race he takes the first opportunity to do so, he gets criticized and his actions get dissected. Bryant was demonstrative and seemed angry, which only further led to sportswriters getting excited over his sideline tantrum.

Dez Bryant erupted on the Dallas sideline for at least 10 solid minutes.

Apparently the amount of time of the eruption factors into whether it is leadership or just a player acting immaturely.

A friend of mine, a native Detroiter, was seated a dozen rows up behind the Dallas bench on Sunday. He and his friends heckled Bryant throughout Sunday's game.

Jason Whitlock is going to the Bill Simmons well of "I have a friend who saw it and this is how he reports it so it must be fact" journalism.

"The television highlights do not accurately portray how bad his tantrum was,"said Scott Nichols, the point guard on Ball State's 1990 NCAA Sweet 16 team. 

What he did 23 years ago is irrelevant and doesn't give his story more credibility. This may be Whitlock's attempt at name-dropping. The fact that this guy and his friends heckled Bryant the whole game (which for a person who is around 44 years of age seems really, really mature to do) tells me that he could very well be exaggerating the length and severity of Bryant's tantrum, as well as using his bias against Bryant as a way to make Bryant look worse than he was.

"He berated dozens of teammates for what seemed like 20 minutes."

But it wasn't 20 minutes. It was 10 "solid" minutes apparently. Also, why would I trust the account of someone who heckled Bryant all game?

Yes, I'm aware of the video showing Bryant interacting positively with Tony Romo and an assistant coach. The video is a little more than a minute long.

And of course to prove his point and churn out this column Jason Whitlock will assume Dez Bryant didn't interact positively with Romo or any assistant coaches for the entirety of the game, so one minute of being nice doesn't override the ten minutes of a tantrum. 10 is more than 1, Dez Bryant is an asshole and not comparable to any quarterback. 

Problem is, it's not footage of the scenes that made news all Sunday and Monday. It's a highlight of Bryant's "good" screaming. It's the same as if I released a one-minute clip on YouTube of me eating raw vegetables and leaving out the 19 minutes of me making love to a deep-dish, meat-lover's pizza.

So now it appears Jason Whitlock is arguing the point that Dez Bryant was unfairly portrayed by the media, which could lead me to assume that Whitlock doesn't see a false equivalency in comparing Bryant to a quarterback who gets in the face of a coach or teammate...except that's not the way Whitlock goes at all with this column.

I eat raw vegetables. But my 30 for 30 documentary better include sit-down interviews with Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders and Little Debbie.

Yeah, we get it. You like food and ESPN has a "30 for 30" documentary created by your good buddy and the only other ESPN sportswriter who is in love with his own opinions as much as you are, Bill Simmons.

Jason Witten wasn't yelling at Bryant and DeMarcus Ware wasn't restraining Bryant because he was shouting positive reinforcement at Romo and the coaching staff. Go sell that garbage somewhere else. Dez Bryant melted down Sunday, even if he littered his tantrum with a few positive words.

I'm not sure anyone is arguing that Bryant was yelling words of encouragement on the sidelines. It's quite obvious he was pissed off. So Whitlock is not really disproving anything here.

Brady and Manning have never done what Bryant did Sunday. Not even close. What Bryant did was akin to the tantrum thrown by my former high school teammate Jeff George when Falcons coach June Jones pulled him from a game in 1996. You remember that tantrum? And surely you remember the national media shredding George for doing it. You may also remember that Jeff George is and was white.

A lot of information here. Yes, Manning and Brady haven't thrown a tantrum quite like Bryant's in front of the cameras, but Brady has thrown a few tantrums on the sidelines during a game and gotten visibly angry on the field as well. This of course doesn't make Tom Brady a bad person, bad leader, and he's gotten a little criticism for it. Brady doesn't deserve criticism because disagreements happen on a team, despite the fact the media seems to believe this isn't true and likes to blow a disagreement out of proportion.

So what Brady or Manning lack in length of tantrum on the sidelines, due to their long NFL careers they have more quantity of tantrums than Dez Bryant has. This means nothing about their leadership and I don't believe it is a color issue. I believe it is the issue of Dez Bryant not being considered a leader by the media because he isn't a quarterback. Because Jason Whitlock immediately jumps to the race issue in this situation like other mouth-breathing morons, he thinks he's shown a false equivalency by pointing out Jeff George got ripped by the media for an argument with his head coach, June Jones, 17 years ago.

At no point does Whitlock think, "Maybe the difference is that the media didn't really like Jeff George and Peyton Manning/Tom Brady are Hall of Fame quarterbacks and get more of the benefit of the doubt?" No, instead Whitlock says "Jeff George is white quarterback who wasn't well-liked, so the media will criticize a white quarterback and this proves it."

Whitlock doesn't take the media's relationship with George into making this supposedly really good point, because it would go back to the coverage of George and Bryant's sideline tantrums having something to do with each player's relationship to the media, and this could lead back to there not being a false equivalency that Whitlock insists exists.

George's critics questioned his maturity and leadership ability. They wondered if his mental approach would undermine his chance of capitalizing on his immense physical gifts.

And maybe that's the issue here, not the treatment of a white quarterback compared to the treatment of a black wide receiver. Maybe the difference is the media sees a player labeled "immature" having an argument on the sidelines and assumes because that player is immature then this argument could in no way display leadership or just be a typical sideline argument. It's not like the media doesn't enjoy making a big deal out of something small.

No one, to my knowledge, ever intentionally or unintentionally insinuated there was a racist double standard causing the national media to criticize Jeff George. As the national president of the Jeff George Fan Club, I would've heard about this. It did not happen.

Right, because there was nothing to compare George's sideline argument to in 1996. This incident happened 17 years ago. For someone to claim there was a racist double standard causing the media to criticize George then there would need to be a black quarterback who threw a temper tantrum just like Jeff George did and wasn't criticized for it prior to 1996. There wasn't one. For there to be a double standard there has to be two different examples of a standard being applied. Jeff George was one example and there wasn't a comparable example of a black quarterback throwing a tantrum like George threw prior to 1996.

George berated his head coach before the addiction to false equivalencies swept across America like crack cocaine in the 1980s. Politically partisan cable TV ushered in this epidemic. Bill O'Reilly is the Avon Barksdale of false equivalencies. Sean Hannity is Prop Joe.

"The Wire" is like this, "The Wire" is like that. No one gives a shit. It's a television show, not life.

We love false equivalencies in the sports world, too. Remember in 2006 when the Tennessee Titans had a contentious separation from quarterback Steve McNair? My favorite NFL player, Ray Lewis, said the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts would never treat Brett Favre and Peyton Manning the way the Titans treated McNair. 

And neither Indianapolis or Green Bay locked Manning or Favre out of the team's training facility. The Packers simply traded Favre when he wanted to un-retire and the Colts released Manning once they had drafted Andrew Luck. Neither quarterback was physically prevented from entering their team's training facility. Favre wanted to be traded and the Packers did this for him. Manning was released because the Colts found a younger starter in the draft. Manning was done a favor by being released fairly early in the offseason so he could have time to search for a new team as a free agent. The Colts very well could have played hardball with Manning and not released him until they drafted Luck, brought Luck into camp and knew Luck would learn the offense by the time the season began. They didn't do this and released Manning as early as possible so he could have more options in free agency.

Well, despite Favre's and Manning's combined seven MVP awards (McNair had one, shared with Manning in 2004), the Packers booted Favre in an ugly dispute and the Colts pushed Manning aside for Andrew Luck.

The dispute with the Packers was ugly at times, but the Packers ended up trading Favre and absolutely said he could play for Green Bay as a backup. I think a team saying, "Sure, come practice and be the backup" is different from a team saying, "We won't allow you to enter the training facility to participate with the team in any fashion." I'm not arguing there was racism involved, but the Packers nor the Colts locked either quarterback out of their team facility. In fact, the Packers were more than willing for Favre to play for the team as a backup quarterback.

For the most part, comparing Dez Bryant to quarterbacks is nonsensical.

He plays receiver. It's a different lane and a different role from playing quarterback. Quarterbacks call plays. They bark instruction. They lead huddles. The very nature of the position dictates that quarterbacks yell at the line of scrimmage and occasionally yell at teammates. It's the job.

See? Wide receivers aren't considered leaders by the media oftentimes. I think this is silly. Steve Smith is considered a leader by his Carolina Panthers teammates and he acts like an asshole, yells at his teammates and just generally doesn't act mature on the field. He's gotten the benefit of the doubt that Dez Bryant doesn't have yet. Bryant acts like a knucklehead and hasn't been in the NFL long, so he won't be considered a leader by the media and any argument he has with a teammate is not waved off as just a disagreement, but a sure sign that Bryant is really immature.

Dez Bryant isn't a quarterback. He's not a leader.

This is part of the problem. Jason Whitlock, and other media members, don't think wide receivers can be leaders, especially wide receivers who have a history of being unfocused and a diva. Wide receivers are divas and so an argument on the sidelines with a teammate is just diva behavior.

He's so high-maintenance that a year ago Jerry Jones employed a team of "advisors" to help Bryant function as an adult. Jones gave Bryant a curfew and a set of guidelines pertaining to strip clubs and whatnot.

This is true. My point is that I take Bryant's sideline argument as a part of who he is on the field. A lot of NFL players are different on and off the field. Bryant has an ego and he thinks he is better than he really is. I would not say that Tom Brady has thrown a tantrum like Dez Bryant threw, but I also think using this as a way of proving Bryant's immaturity isn't fair. My point is that quarterbacks and other football players will argue with each other on the sidelines. Looking at which player is arguing and judging what position he plays seems to be the only criteria for determining whether this argument is a product of immaturity or leadership. Dez Bryant had an argument with a teammate. It happens and may not mean anything more than that, no matter how much the media wants it to.

Dez Bryant is a typical, me-first NFL receiver diva, cut from the same cloth as Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss and Keyshawn Johnson, sprinkled with a heavy dash of Pacman Jones.

Maybe, but it doesn't mean his sideline argument with Jason Witten or Derek Dooley isn't just a part of football.

Diva receivers believe emotional sideline tantrums and elaborate, hey-look-at-me gimmicks are an extension of their "passion" for the game. They can't recognize the fine line between Ray Lewis' inspiring pregame dance and ranting for no good reason.

Notice how Whitlock won't criticize Ray Lewis now that he is a member of the ESPN team. There's nothing about Ray Lewis's pregame dance that isn't hey-look-at-me. The dance can be inspiring, but it was also about getting attention on Ray Lewis. 

Jerry Rice is the gold standard because he beat defenders with his head. Bryant won't catch Calvin Johnson by screaming.

First off, Dez Bryant is four years younger than Calvin Johnson, and second, their numbers through their first four seasons are eerily similar:

Johnson: 270 receptions, 4191 yards, 33 touchdowns
Bryant: 245 receptions, 3512 yards, 35 touchdowns

So if Dez Bryant wants to catch Calvin Johnson, he seems to be doing a pretty good job when you compare their NFL careers through the first four seasons.

I root for people from tough backgrounds who have emotional issues. I want to see them overcome. Bryant won't overcome if we lie to him and rationalize his obvious errors. He was clearly out of bounds on Sunday. He was too caught up in the one-on-one duel he was having inside his head between himself and Megatron.

Bryant apologized because he knew he was out of line. It's a non-story. Players argue. Because Bryant is considered immature and doesn't play the quarterback position there is more related to the importance of this argument than would be when a quarterback and his coach argue. When a quarterback argues with a coach then it is over a play-call or the overall direction of the offense. That quarterback is just looking out for his team, while Dez Bryant didn't care about the team and was intent on waging a personal war that only existed in his mind. Fortunately Jason Whitlock can read minds (or at least pretend to read minds in order to make his point) and knows why Bryant really had a sideline tantrum.

Bryant wanted to go catch for catch with Johnson.

Or he wanted the football when he was wide open so that the Cowboys could score a touchdown. But again, Bryant only wanted to score a touchdown for himself, and didn't care if scoring a touchdown helped the Cowboys team or not.

Some people have blamed Dallas coach Jason Garrett for not commanding enough respect to silence Bryant on the sideline. Garrett is powerless in his relationship with Bryant.

Jones, who doubles as the team's GM, drafted Bryant. Jones has invested millions of dollars in Bryant. Jones paid for an elite baby-sitting team.

I've read the "Sports Illustrated" article about Dez Bryant. I know he isn't mature and I know he definitely seems to march to the beat of his own drum. I'm not defending Bryant as much as I am defending his right to have a sideline argument with a coach or teammate that doesn't turn into a representation of Bryant's concern only for himself. It's just interesting to me how a sideline argument that features a quarterback is couched in terms of a disagreement between that quarterback and his coach over the direction of the team, while Bryant's argument is being shown as his concern only for himself.

Having watched his baby act like a baby and create the non-composed environment that powers fourth-quarter collapses,

Yes, Jason Whitlock is now blaming Dez Bryant for the Cowboys fourth quarter collapse against the Lions. I always thought the Cowboys fourth quarter collapses were Tony Romo's fault, but now I've learned they are Dez Bryant's fault. I do know where the blame for the fourth quarter collapse does not lie, and that's with the Cowboys defense. Not their fault at all.

False equivalences are fun and easy. They're a good tool for defending someone you love and respect. There was a time in the 1990s when I would've excused Jeff George for hiding on the grassy knoll and assisting Lee Harvey Oswald by saying: "No one was mad at AC for driving O.J. all over the 405 and tying up traffic."

While Bryant throwing a sideline fit and Tom Brady throwing a sideline fit aren't the same thing, they are false equivalencies only in the way the media chooses to look at each player's behavior. It's ingrained that quarterbacks are leading and showing concern for the team's direction when arguing on the sideline, while wide receivers are divas and any argument had with a coach or teammate on the sideline is self-serving. This is what the media feeds us.

I'm as guilty as anyone. But let's stop the nonsense. We're only hurting Dez Bryant. We're baiting him to resist maturity and evolution. We're reinforcing bad habits.

I'm 100% sure that Dez Bryant doesn't care what anyone writes about him. His behavior isn't going to stay the same or change based on people's reaction to a sideline argument. It's best not to condescend like this anyway.

He apparently thinks the best way to handle a frustrating situation is by erupting emotionally. That's no good. It leads to trouble.

But see, the same could be said for any sideline argument between teammates or a player and a coach. Yet, the same thing isn't said in every instance of a sideline argument between two teammates.

He won't equal or surpass Calvin Johnson until he channels his emotions properly.

Oh that's right, I forgot Jason Whitlock can read minds and knows this is the real reason Dez Bryant blew up on the Cowboys sidelines against the Lions. It seems ESPN prides itself on employing writers who use their friends' observations as definitive proof something is true and have the ability to read minds in order to reach a conclusion that supports their column's main thesis. 


Frank said...

I agree 100% that it is more about how the media sees a player instead of the position or race of that player. Last year Jay Cutler was criticized for yelling and bumping into Webb during the Green Bay game. He was upset that Webb was allowing the Green Bay D-Line kill him all night. Even though he is a quarterback the media does not see him as a leader so he had to be in the wrong.

Bengoodfella said...

Frank, it's the view on the player by the media. I don't think it has anything to do with race in this situation. I think it's just that Bryant is a "diva" and plays WR. So he isn't a leader and what he was screaming about was more than just a typical disagreement.