One of the most difficult things about being a passionate fan of America’s most popular sport in the dawn of western society’s Information Age is . . . well, all of the information. It skews our perspective. It shrinks our worldview. It reduces everything to hyperventilated, frayed-nerve instantaneism where every single utterance of anyone in the employ of our favorite team is writ large across the glass and copper webs draped across the civilized landmasses of Earth. Every sound bite and interpretable gesture is broadcast to the masses, with thousands and thousands of ravenous fans salivating for the delivery of every bit and byte. Especially now, in the hard offseason—where nothing of significance will happen for over a fortnight—all forms of media must participate in what amounts to building construction; troweling great significance onto the most meager pebbles of news.
Unfortunately, this micro-level obsession robs us of our ability to even perceive the macro level. LaDanian Tomlinson has practically been handed the career rushing record, and it’s taken as a given that Adrian Peterson will stay healthy and productive long enough to wrest the crown from him. Larry Fitzgerald had two great playoff games this past, and analysts were saying—without sarcasm—that he had eclipsed Jerry Rice. Within minutes of the shocking news of Steve McNair’s senseless death, he was being eulogized in 140 characters or less all across the Twitterverse.
As a card-carrying member of said Twitterverse, blogosphere, forums, New Media, and what have you, I certainly am no less hungry to consume information (and have my information output be consumed) than anyone else. However, this last example--the swift, stunning death of Steve McNair—has really given me pause. Reaction, overreaction, and speculation blew all over everywhere, well in advance of any actual facts coming to light. When it comes to shocking, tragic deaths, I’d much rather find out the real story later than a dozen different wrong stories RIGHT NOW. Moreover, what does this do to the families of the victims? Outside of the very, very next of kin, I’m sure there are relatives that found out first (and probably wrong) from the Internet . . . just awful.
Seemingly millions came out of the woodwork to eulogize McNair, often based entirely on their years of having him on their fantasy team. To me, given the circumstances surrounding his death, internet denizens presuming anything about who he was off the field is laughable. For those who didn’t know him personally, all we have to go on is who we saw in uniform on Sundays: a tenacious competitor, a poised and confident leader, a quality teammate, and a consummate professional who persevered through incredible physical adversity to achieve great things in football. Please, let’s remember him for that, and spare his family any further grief.