Over 26 million Americans tuned in to watch this year’s National Championship game between BCS’ number 1 Florida State Seminoles versus the number 2 ranked Auburn Tigers. The game proved to be one of the most competitive and highest rated games in the BCS era (garnering a 14.8 US rating); which was enough to make the telecast the third largest audience of any program in cable television history. However, what had the “twittersphere” buzzing most, was an interview that happened during the post game celebrations and became a heavily debated topic for the talking heads (commentators) on ESPN and other media outlets.
Jameis Winston is a polarizing figure, and however you may feel about him or his off the field troubles, it is safe to say that his performance throughout the 2013-2014 season, and in the championship game, solidified both his place in the long storied history of FSU football and his team’s place amongst the greatest teams in college football history. Winston, who was born deep in SEC country (Bessemer, Alabama), was critiqued most heavily for his postgame speech, in which the brand new 20 year old (Born Jan 6, 1994) seemed uncontrollably giddy. During his post game speech, Jameis had difficulty expressing his thoughts and emotions in an interview that occurred less than 5 minutes after the final horn had sounded FSU as the national champions.
The interview (featured below) turned into a firestorm of criticism, mostly pointed towards the intelligence, or lack thereof, of the Heisman trophy winner. While I do not claim to know Jameis personally, it is well documented that Winston held a 4.0 in high school, while also becoming the number one rated Quarterback prospect in the 2012 class AND receiving draft interest from the majority of MLB executives looking to put his 97 MPH fastball on display for their franchises.
I understand what a lot of you are saying, and I happen to agree that GPA is not always the strongest indicator of intelligence. GPA, is often more an indicator of the combination of effort and intelligence. However, that is a debate for another day.
The more pressing issue here is the longstanding stigma that: athletes, especially young African-American athletes, are sub-par intellectually to their fellow peers. As I scrolled through my timeline on Twitter, and read tweet after tweet bashing Jameis for his sporadic and seemingly repetitive post game comments. I became bothered by the overwhelming condemnation of a young man who I believe possess a number of admirable qualities, qualities that are rare in this day and age for most middle aged people, much less your average 20 yr old college sophmore.
*Enter AJ and Dee Dee McCarron*
By now, AJ McCarron is a household name. If not for his outstanding resume as the starting quarterback, for arguably the greatest 4-year collegiate dynasty in modern sports, then most definitely for his absolutely gorgeous girlfriend who stole the show during the 2013 national championship causing Brent Musberger to need a change of boxers.
However, an interesting video surfaced (Included below) in which McCarron, born in Mobile, AL (less than 4 hours away from Winston), is asked a series of questions about his girlfriends sudden rise to fame via twitter followers, including one, Lebron James. McCarron, who is oblivious to what has transpired away from the field, comes off sounding a bit silly and even a little (Dare I say it) unrefined.
The problem I have is with the public perception tied to the two videos, which I believe is a microcosm of a disparity in media coverage. Both of the young men carry HEAVY southern accents, and growing up in the south I know better than to mistake a southern drawl for a southern dunce.
Both young men are being interviewed after a monumental occasion in their lives, and are seemingly unable to clearly articulate the racing thoughts in their minds. However a quick look at the videos will show that Winston’s interview is nearing 100,000 views after only a week, whereas McCarron’s video is struggling to reach 15,000 after more than a year.
Is it a coincidence that McCarron is portrayed (through the media)as an “All-American”, do no wrong kind of kid. Whether this is true, I cannot be the judge. However, it’s painstakingly clear that in both the media and court of public opinion, it’s become “acceptable” to pick and choose what we, the public, want to accentuate and/or downplay, especially when it comes to sports and entertainment personalities.
This is not a call to arms to defend Winston, because let’s be honest, Jameis’ off the field issues are well documented, nor is it a witch hunt out to get AJ McCarron. This is a challenge to see through the ESPN, CNN and Fox News reports and dig deeper.
A challenge to play close attention, next time you watch a college football or basketball telecast, pay attention to the way players of color are typically described vs. others.
A challenge to question why Terrell Prior was ruled ineligible for multiple games due to his choice to exchange memorabilia for tattoos, but Johnny Manziel missed less than 1% of his teams season for a similar offense.
Deeper than just a race issue, it’s the elephant in the room, an issue that ought to be drawn out. It’s the reason why Dee Dee McCarron (AJ’s Mom) felt the need to produce, then quickly delete this tweet shortly after posting it
In a moment that we all could have been celebrating a group of young men’s amazing accomplishments, the majority of our society has become one that would rather accentuate any negative, however grave or slight it may be.
Was the interview that hard to follow, you be the judge.