If we learned anything Sunday in the NFC conference championship round it’s that football fans generally don’t like players on other teams.
How’s that for an epiphany? I mean, good luck finding insight like that anywhere else on the UltraNets.
By way of explanation, there are reasons to like all four semifinalists. The Patriots for their extended excellence and ability to get more wins from less talent; the Broncos for taking a chance on a supposedly kaput Peyton Manning and getting this far despite missing their head coach for part of the season due to health issues; the 49ers for revitalizing old-school methods – run the ball and defend like hell – in an era tilted toward the pass game; and the Seahawks for their undersized, underdog quarterback and ear-busting fans.
However, it’s far more fun to focus on what irks us – the people whose teams previously were eliminated – about these contending clubs. Because those qualities are even easier to identify and criticize.
For example, Bill Belichick is a jerk (see: every press conference ever) and a cheater (Spygate). Manning supposedly chokes in the playoffs and is too willing to embrace his inner (and outer) awkward white guy-ness. Still, the AFC title championship was the JV game in terms of dis-likability.
Niners coach Jim Harbaugh is too competitive even as a professional competitor. He wears pleated pants and grandpa glasses pushed halfway down his nose, seemingly only during key moments. His QB, Colin Kaepernick, kisses his own biceps after big plays, sometimes boasts a dreadful chinstrap beard and apparently maintains an Instragram account dedicated to flossin’ (as the kids used to say.)
Seattle is a bunch of cheaters – see all those “banned substance” suspensions – coached by Pete Carroll, who is peppy to the point of gloating. And then there’s Richard Sherman.
Truth be told, I’d never heard him speak prior to his now infamous postgame freakout on Erin Andrews. If you missed it, Sherman tipped to a teammate a pass that could have put San Fran in position to win the game, proceeded to shamelessly taunt the intended receiver after the play then went all WWE during an on-camera rant. Twitter went nuts over it, of course, myself included. People ripped Sherman for being classless, opined that they’d now be cheering for Denver in the Super Bowl and generally carried on. Twitter did what Twitter does.
But here’s the rub: There almost certainly are arrogant clowns, cheaters and weirdos on my favorite team, too. But I’m unlikely to see them as such unless they make a boneheaded play on the field or torture a basket full of kittens. It’s odd that we seem to care far more about decency and congeniality when it pertains to players on teams other than the ones we support. Then again, that’s probably a reflection of real life, too; we tend to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves. It’s part of the reason that daytime talk shows and reality TV exist.
Your canned storyline for the next two weeks: Good guy Manning chases second championship with second team after nearly losing his career to a neck injury. Standing in his way are those heels the ‘Hawks. At least as many untethered spectators will cheer against Seattle as much as backing Denver. It’s the way we – at least those of us in the humble Midwest – have been conditioned to react to outward displays of brashness and/or stupidity.
Even if it’s the supposed character qualities aren’t true, we’ll make them so if only because there are people dressed in different colors.