A Sportswriter’s Lament

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest writer is Frank Candor, whose book, Tipping is a Sign of Weakness, was just released. This article has been adapted, with his permission, from the unsaved AppleWorks document on his desktop.”

Following Sunday’s Super Bowl, I expected to feel relieved. After all, we’d avoided the nightmare of Cam Newton smiling on a national broadcast, talking about how he needs to sit back and relax with a cool tub of Oikos. We were in the clear, I thought, with role models like Peyton Manning, John Elway, and Thunder the Bronco putting the “class” in “Super Bowl classic.”

But I must have thought too soon, because 15 minutes after the game was over, I had lost my faith in humanity. On the field at Levi’s Stadium, I watched as consummate professionals and previous Super Bowl winners–folks who had literally been in this position before–acted like that wasn’t the case. What did they do? They stormed the field and danced in confetti and showed off their Microsoft Surface tablets, even though the soundbites I force-fed the players and encouraged them to regurgitate this week suggested that the Super Bowl was “just another game.”

Let’s just say that when I saw such a raucous display, I was very thankful I’d been abusing opioids and was unable to properly move my bowels. Because trying to digest that scene made my stomach turn.

Look, before I hear it from all the “bloggers” and “Twitterers,” let me be clear: I’m in favor of fun. I like fun things, like a bowl of vanilla ice cream, or the PGA Tour. And I believe celebrations have a place in sports, but they need to mean something. They need to be reserved for things that matter: a fist pump for getting drafted, maybe a firm head nod upon receiving a paid TV gig that requires little to no preparation.

And Sunday’s win, well, it just didn’t qualify. Ultimately, a Super Bowl trophy is just a participation award for participating more successfully than your opponents over an entire season. Maybe that’s okay–heck, even smiled upon–in today’s America. But I wonder what our founding fathers would say in a situation like this. No one gave Washington a slab of metal for his efforts in the Revolutionary War, nor a microphone to thank “the man upstairs.” Thomas Jefferson didn’t hold a press conference once he buttoned up the Declaration of Independence. I never thought I’d say this, but in a sense, the Panthers were closer to Jefferson’s ideals than the Broncos were, what with Carolina’s singular resolve to “keep pounding.”

There’s a lot of danger, too, in allowing all the hullaballoo to set up a stage for the postgame ceremony. If the Broncos didn’t know for sure that Peyton was retiring, I’d have to seriously question their behavior in leaving him out there during that disgusting song-and-dance. You’re going to trust that immobile Manning will be able to avoid getting bowled over by an equipment cart, not to mention Peter King and Jason Whitlock, in that postgame scrum? It’s one thing during the four quarters, when the threats are almost always in front of him. Afterwards, though, it’s a 360-degree minefield, and at this point in his career, Peyton doesn’t exactly have his head on a swivel.

But the worst thing is the message this celebration sends to our kids. We see this all the time in college basketball, when Purdue beats Indiana, or NC State beats Wofford, and the home crowd just spills over onto the court, putting everyone from the stars to the scorekeepers at risk. I hear it every year: “Frank, they’re just kids having fun!” I have firsthand knowledge that there is a very real reason to be afraid of those youthful mobs. Sure, Coldplay might tell us that it’s “all yellow,” but true Clockwork Orange fans know what I mean.

And now, with these inane celebrations receiving the implicit endorsement of Manning and Elway and (the God himself) Jim Nantz, we find ourselves at a moral crossroads. How do we make our kids understand that celebrating wins is wrong? That expressing joy and emotion outside the confines of the clock isn’t the point of sports? At this point, with seemingly everyone getting a “Sweet Sixteen” these days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coach K throw a party if Duke wins a few tourney games this year.

I’ll be honest: I don’t know the solution here. It’s just disappointing when Manning, one of the good guys who seemingly would never give in to outside pressures, goes along with such a misguided ritual like a postgame celebration. When he came into the NFL, he was all “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” and “aw, shucks.” But yesterday, on that podium, you could see how proud he was of his team, especially given that he exorcised his fraternal jealousy and matched his brother’s Super Bowl win total.

Envy? Pride? On a Sunday, no less?

They say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. But I guess you can teach them new sins.

Oof. If you’ll excuse me, I think I need some more opioids.

Image credit: MilanMarkovic78 /Shutterstock

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Lucas Hubbard is a writer with a knack for impersonating old men. You should follow him on Twitter.

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