A Mockingbird Finds Its Own Voice

Have you ever tried to talk to an inanimate object?

I’m not asking because I’ve drifted into a despondence and begun holding council with my sofa post-New England Patriots loss.  I’m asking because the responses you’d receive from, say, a wooden chair, is what you normally get from tight-lipped coaches and players from around sports.

In today’s world of subtweets and retweets – and retweets of subtweets – and camera phones, and hidden cameras, and any other device that could make a slight athlete tongue slip into a full-blown scandal, press conferences are boring.

The following is an actual transposition from a New England Patriots press conference with Coach Bill Belichick.

Any word on Tommy? “No.”

What did you think of Danny Amendola? “I don’t know. I’ll have to go look at him.”

Your offense didn’t seem to operate as well today, why? “We didn’t perform well enough.”

–          Seriously. That’s the type of stuff reporters deal with every day. Coaches and players seem to troll for fun, they are mockingbirds with pre-determined calls for everything in an interview.

“We win by one play at a time” – “I always put forward 110%” – “They’re a good team, we have to show up”

But wait.

In the last 24 hours, with players (Richard Sherman) and coaches (infamously obdurate Belichick) opened up with downright accusatory and controversial statements. Their actions breathed fresh, clean air into the musty tomb that was the writers room.

Richard Sherman, in a post-game interview with Erin Andrews, erupted about Michael Crabtree – the San Francisco 49ers Wide Receiver who was targeted by Colin Kaepernick on a throw towards the endzone late. Had Crabtree caught the ball, the 49ers would have tied the game and been in prime position to take the lead, but Sherman defended the play, batting it up which eventually led to an interception.

The play made Twitter buzz, but Sherman’s commentary blew up the Internet. #LOB started trending and reactionaries noted Sherman’s interview. The number of ambivalent fans were disgraced and embarrassed by his “classless” and “disgusting” demeanor. His utter lack of sportsmanship – or any semblance of the word – alienated many of those who watched the game as an unaligned third party.

He seemed to attack his critics ad hominem by saying that his persecution for his interview was “racism” and he has since taken to Twitter to retweet his supporters rather than battle with his aggressors.

However, the best thing to come of it was a tweet from Tom Crabtree, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers back-up Tight End. When Sherman references that “sorry reciever Crabtree” Tom sent out the tweet of the weekend. Tom comically interprets Sherman’s comments as a dig towards himself rather than the 49ers Wideout.

As for the implications of Sherman’s harsh words, that remains unclear. Whether he should be penalized at all is in question. Certainly it seems that his unsportsmanlike conduct would incur the wrath of the easily-provoked, heavy-handed, smiting-power of Roger Goodell. Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots Halfback, was fined $5250 for wearing red cleats. This has to be worse than red cleats right? Now, he didn’t “Ndamkoung Suh” the guy and stomp on him (a $100k penalty), but he did intimidate and behave deplorably on national television. My guess – if he is fined (which is likely) – is around $20k.

Before this incident, Richard Sherman let his defense on the outside speak volumes, but today, he’s only known for one soundbyte.

In the other Conference Championship game, the AFC one, a controversial play led to an unusual remark from New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick.

Former-Patriot, now-Denver Bronco Wes Welker was running a crossing route and collided with Patriots Cornerback Aqib Talib. The hit seemed intentional – he didn’t make an effort to get open – but it went unflagged. The result of the hit was a hip injury for Talib and his prompt exit from the game. Talib’s absence eventually hurt the Patriots as he was the only one big enough and fast enough to cover Demaryius Thomas of Denver. (Thomas finished with 134 yards and 1 touchdown.)

Bill Belichick – the same guy from that aforementioned boring press conference – said about the hit, “It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen.” He delivered the critical comment one minute into his press conference after the game in Denver. It was unprompted.

For fans, coaches, and players, yesterday was an exciting day both on and off the field.

For Richard Sherman and Bill Belichick, they broke the monotony of “good game” and “they’re a good team” – and while the public may not have liked it, for them, at least they are mockingbirds who found their own voice.

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