The Internet was quick to jump on Dez Bryant on Sunday and Monday for his perceived sideline “meltdown” during the Cowboys-Lions game. I use the word “meltdown” because it appears in almost every headline written about the heated discussions that took place between Bryant and Tony Romo, his coaches, Jason Witten et al. Publications like SI.com, the LA Times, CBS Sports (in a particularly impassioned article by Gregg Doyel), Business Insider, and Sporting News, just to name a few, all characterized Bryant’s actions as a meltdown, or rant, or another word that stands in for “immature outburst.” We weren’t immune to noting it either, although we didn’t spend more than a sentence on it.
Too bad that doesn’t appear to be what happened. Video released by NFL Films seems to back up Bryant’s claim that he was being passionate and positive, not a dick. From NFL.com:
The video certainly exonerates Bryant of any petulant behavior. He comes off as an extremely (extremely) amped-up individual who’s clearly invested in the game. He’s essentially the anti-Haynesworth.
Especially telling was Bryant’s conversation with Romo, an interaction that looked — from a distance — like a wide receiver complaining to his quarterback about his lack of targets (Bryant had just two catches at that point). In reality, Bryant is talking strategy with Romo.
“We good on that, Tony!” Bryant yells to a serene Romo, seated on the bench. “We the best in the NFL on that. We the best in the NFL!”
Couple this audio with Witten’s words after the game (“I love that kid like a brother. There are no hard feelings. DeMarcus and I talked to him. He’s a great receiver and plays his tail off week in and week out. It’s as simple as that. It’s a disappointing loss. Dez is a guy who plays with his heart. We all do. Those things come up.”) and the picture comes to focus: It was easy to assume that Bryant was freaking out, so that’s the story people went with.
Did Bryant lose his cool after the Lions scored with 12 seconds to go? It looks like it. But nobody — including the people with whom he lost his cool — seems to mind that he did that. Did he yell at his quarterback and coaches about getting the ball earlier in the game? No, he didn’t. Is his passion a problem for the Cowboys? No — stopping opposing offenses and having a semblance of a running game are the biggest issues facing the team.
And let’s not forget that, at the end of the day, these guys are the ones actually playing the game. You think you’re passionate about your favorite team, or your fantasy team, or the team you have money riding on in your office pool? How do you think the guys on the field feel? Have you never expressed your frustration that your team is losing? This fucking guy exists, and I’m sure he’s not the only one. If you want your athletes to be robots, go start a robot football league, and leave the NFL to the people who understand that frustration has its place in sports.
Finally, here’s an excerpt from a post on Larry Brown Sports (a website I appreciate and respect greatly) regarding this whole mixup:
Just like it’s wrong of me and others to make assumptions based on a video, it’s wrong of TV networks to show footage of sideline behavior without the accompanying audio. As we have learned, the power of visuals is very strong and can influence the perception of many. The millions of viewers watching the games only know as much as what we’re shown. If that isn’t shown on TV, nobody knows that anything even went on and we don’t have a chance to jump to poor conclusions.
This is, of course, ridiculous. The correct thing to do is to wait for all the facts to come out before jumping to said conclusions. Your Twitter feed may suffer for it, but the media landscape will be better off.
So, who’s ready to write the Dez Bryant apology column?
Photo via Getty