This is the 40-Something Files!
A weekly take on the state of Seattle Sports through the lens of a guy whose four decades of fandom has earned too many scars, and seen too few celebrations.
Context – the only thing that any sports fan should truly care about when gathering information regarding a topic of interest – doesn’t even get a seat at the table.
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Regular readers of the 40-Something Files have come to expect an expression of disillusionment with the way many of today’s media options interfere with a sports fan’s ability to just enjoy the ride. Far too often, the discussion seems to be directed by click-seekers, fearing no consequence as they shout “fire” in a crowded theater.
While this piece doesn’t shy away from this all-too-common theme, it also serves up one particular click-bait topic du jour. This time, however, it comes with a side salad of what is actually going on.
This week’s episode of headlines-as-news began when sports radio, blogs, and tweets all fanned the flames of impending controversy surrounding Russell Wilson‘s “desire” to play baseball, and the strain that must be putting on “urgent” contract extension talks between the QB phenom and his team. Much of this spawned directly from last week’s web debut of a video snippet promoting Wilson’s appearance on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
The writers, the talkers, the bloggers, and the tweeters let half-truth (arguably no-truth) headlines designed to attract viewers lead the ensuing discussion. Because after taking in the actual interview, which finally aired for the first time on Tuesday night, one would be hard pressed to conclude anything about the state of negotiations.
HBO drummed up an impressive amount of publicity for the fact that they were about to debut an exclusive interview, wherein Russell states that he “would honestly play two sports if that was possible” (Gumbel skillfully interrupts with the follow-up question basically drowning out the last and most key part of Wilson’s answer, which to no one’s surprise, doesn’t make it into the headlines, either).
From that statement, HBO jettisoned scruples, and delivered a controversial talking point that spread like wildfire:
Russell Wilson wants to play professional baseball.
A job well done by a “genius” promotional team. A moment of honesty, chosen from dozens of sound bites, presented entirely out of context, in order to generate buzz.
The predictable formula set off a tornado of headlines, each one more certain that this could spell trouble for the Seahawks and their hopes for a smooth transition from Wilson’s league mandated rookie deal, to locking up their franchise QB for years to come. And as the self-perpetuating media tweeted and retweeted and posted and reposted each others’ agreements with each others’ line of thinking, they justified this angle by adding that negotiations have taken a lot longer than we originally expected…
It never fails that if something is reported enough, throughout today’s info-saturated on line world, it simply becomes fact. There is no time for checks and balances (like, for example, words beyond the headlines).
But here’s the twist: The “genius” Real Sports promoters behind the pre-released Wilson interview snippet, just might have “bitten off their nose to spite their face” on this one.
I’m not sure anyone actually bothered to tune in, as there are attention span shortages among sports fans (rivaling the water shortages among Southern California cities) and clearly, the entire story had already been told, chewed on, and spit out by the time the show aired. Even if anyone did bother to tune in, the lack of actual controversial tone to the interview itself, forced an egg-faced media contingent to let this already sleeping dog continue to snooze.
For those who had the foresight to hoard attention span while it was still generally available, I’d like to let it be known that the entire story had not actually been told in the promos. Not even close.
The conversation starts with a look through the QB’s eyes at “The Play” that ended last season in heartbreak. He goes on to humbly expose the fact that he had to take “a look in the mirror” at halftime of his mostly disastrous play in the NFC Championship Game. “I had never played like that before,” he admits.
There’s a close look at how Russell’s ongoing connection to and love for his father, who lost his battle with diabetes on the day Wilson was drafted into professional baseball, drives him to this day.
He opens up about having been black in a mostly white prep-school and the curve ball (pardon the pun) that scenario threw into his dating life. But, when pressed further, he says it didn’t really bother him, because he knew it was a privilege to go there.
In addition to the pre-released, chaos-inducing, spliced quotes about still wanting to play baseball, Wilson also talks about baseball as a way to help him stay in the moment while he plays football. “That’s why I go to spring training,” he says, to remind himself that it’s one pitch at a time, one play at a time… One snap at a time. In other words, the more likely takeaway here is different than the one that the click-baiters ran with.
Here’s another portion of the interview, bonus footage from HBO’s website, where they actually discuss his contract negotiations. Wilson says he leaves that stuff to the lawyers, but still manages to drive home his appreciation for being a Seahawk in a way that should deliver nothing but good vibes to the team and the 12s.
The Seahawks’ exceedingly confident yet genuinely humble QB concludes, “Hopefully I’ll be wearing number 3 in the blue and green forever.”
But hey, who’s got time for context like that?