Thank goodness no one ever stuck a microphone in my face after a big win or a tough loss on the tennis court or in the board room. The likelihood that I would have come up with a calm, witty reply is virtually zero. The probability that I would have uttered a statement that could be torn to shreds in social media is nearly one hundred percent.
The amount of effort, emotion and concentration it takes to be highly successful in any competitive arena on a big stage challenges the best-of the-best.
If you missed watching Sunday’s NFC championship football game you might not be in the know. The game was an epic battle between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers with some entertaining post-game player interviews. If you did not watch you are likely to hear about one of those interviews around the office cooler in the coming days because nearly 56 million people saw the game according to Nielsen Media Research.
For the record, the Seahawks won 23-17 on a decisive defensive play in the closing seconds and advanced to the Super Bowl.
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman got a hand on a ball in the end-zone that denied a game-tying catch to San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. The ball was batted into the hands of Seahawks teammate Malcolm Smith for an interception. Game over. However, the post-game interviews have garnered more controversy than any referee call during the game.
Three Seahawk star players of the game displayed a wide range of human emotions following the team victory. Quarterback Russell Wilson was jovial and loose and delivered his comments with his trademark humbleness and carefully crafted answers. Running back Marshawn Lynch was silent. He darted into the locker room and there is no record of him even talking to a reporter post-game. Lynch is known for his disdain of the interview process and typically gives one-word answers only when forced to engage. Appreciative fans showered Marshawn with Skittles in support of his outstanding touchdown run and that was probably plenty of social interaction for him.
Cornerback Richard Sherman was an entirely different matter. Moments after Sherman’s game-saving play reporter Erin Andrews interviewed him on the field and asked him about his play and interaction with Crabtree. Sherman looked straight into the camera and shouted, “I am the best corner in the game!” When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get!”
His few juicy words lit up the Twitter and Facebook world. He was criticized for his abrasive boasting and lack of humbleness. Realistically, who wouldn’t feel a little amped up and not at their interview-best in that moment?
Later Sherman appeared in front of reporters in the more controlled post-game interview area. By that time he had showered, changed into a suit and bow-tie and was an hour post-adrenaline rush. He was funny and more measured in his responses yet direct as always.
We expect a lot out of these guys. We want to scream and cheer them on as they bang up their bodies week after week and we want them to bounce back quickly from injuries. We want them to be stars in their position yet be “team players.” We want them to be clever and humble in post-game interviews and equally gracious whether they win or lose. It’s true that they are paid to do this job but as one of my friends who worked in sports marketing once told me, “Sport is unscripted drama.” These guys definitely delivered dramatic entertainment during the game and after.
Perhaps Russell Wilson summed it up best in his interview. Wilson said he tried to “stay in the moment” during each phase of the game. He remarked that to play at this level one has to have “amnesia” and take it “one play at a time.” All of these stars contributed to the winning end-result and each was outstanding in his own way. They each deserve permission to be themselves. Only two more weeks until the Super Bowl. I can’t wait to see what unfolds.
Carol Lewis Gullstad January 20, 2014