Emotions and Sports


photo credit: Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated

I tend to be an emotional person. Usually you know exactly how I feel. For better or worse, I’ve made efforts to not be so vocal about my emotions (particualarly in the work place.) But at times, its unavoidable. You’re going to hear my celebrations, complaints and banter on Twitter and Facebook during basketball or football season. If sports can make me jump up and down, have mini heart-attacks and scream at the TV, I can only imagine how the players feel. Why do sports evoke so much emotion in those who don’t even participate in the game? And why do we not expect it from athletes?

In 2012, the Patriots lost the Super Bowl. I happen to be on a plane from Portland to Boston as it was happening. There was a collective sadness as we got off the plane. You could literally see tears in people’s eyes and it was totally silent. You would think that someone died. Why? Because it’s how we connect to others. It’s something that we can believe in. It’s something to get excited about. And the opposite of excited is bound to happen with any team’s fans at some point.

You can probably see where I’m going with this. You shove a microphone in the face of a player walking off the field after winning the biggest game of his career, so far, you’re asking for emotion. Raw, adrenaline fueled emotion. That’s what we saw from Richard Sherman. But stop and think for a second what YOU were doing when this was happening?

If you’re a 49ers fan you were probably cursing at the TV, damning the refs (I agree that wasn’t the right call) and over all pretty frustrated. If you’re a Seahawks fan you were probably jumping up and down, high-fiving your buddies, cheersing the person next to you and screaming (at least I was.) So take those emotions, multiply them by 100 and then you likely have the emotion of a person on the field…of a PLAYOFF game.

While I don’t think it’s right to talk negatively about people, particularly on camera, I think we need to think about what we do expect. Imagine if they interviewed Marshawn Lynch and they got forced one word answers. Boring! As noted in the Forbes post “22 Brief Thoughts About That Richard Sherman Interview,” this is the kind of thing Journalist want. And it’s the kind of televsion you want. You want to see the emotion (mad, sad, happy, whatever.) That’s why you wait to see what the losing coach or QB have to say. You know it’s going to be heavy hearted but that’s what helps people relate to professional athletes. You’re upset your team didn’t win and you feel for them.

So before we go harshly judge the sentiment or reaction of an athlete, think about your emotions related to sports. Next time your team loses or is treated unkindly or you witness a dirty play from an opposing player, think about how you would react in the moments immediately after. Richard Sherman is not a thug. He’s certainly not an idiot. He may not be our idea of “classy” at times, but he’s aware of his behavior. The article he wrote today isn’t exactly an apology, but I think there is a lot of truth to it.

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