If you don't know already, nfl.com released the audio of Dez Byant's Sunday "rant" during a last-minute loss to the Detroit Lions. But I'm not sure what to call it, since the closest Bryant ever came to ranting was him telling Tony Romo that the Cowboys were "the best in the NFL" before going over routes and coverage. Lord knows Tony needs his ego inflated more.
The mercurial, immensely talented wideout was on the cusp of a breakout season in July 2012. However, following a widely-publicized family spat with his mother, the Cowboys cracked down on Bryant harder than a Roy Williams hit.
He was effectively grounded. Cowboys GM Jerry Jones gave Bryant a midnight curfew and round-the-clock
babysitters bodyguards, amongst other restrictions.
What got lost in the shuffle of the two-week news cycle was the fact that Papa Jerry's Rules seemed to have worked. Bryant went on to have the best season of his three-year career, amassing 92 catches for over 1300 yards and 12 touchdowns, a figure good enough for third in the league.
But because of this:
Fox color commentator and former NFL coach Brian Billick said this:
“This is the point Dez Bryant has to understand. This serves no purpose. If I’m the coach of the Cowboys you have to get this under control. This temper tantrum, I don’t know what else to call it, Dez Bryant, want to help your team? Grow up.”
And none of THAT seemed to matter anymore.
Personally, I try to shy away from narratives with possibly racist undertones, possibly to a fault. As a black man who's walked this planet for 24 years and one who's made plenty of mistakes by my damn self, I basically try to explain away the blackface.
Who gives a shit that he couldn't hear a thing Dez was saying, right? He was flapping his hands around! He was excited! He's a black Cowboys receiver with a checkered past! He must be calling for the ball!
You call this leadership? Arms out & not 1 player or coach listening to him. More like a selfish temper tantrum. pic.twitter.com/lFEGKO5lmf— Brian Billick (@CoachBillick) October 27, 2013
Yes, I do call it leadership. I also call that "analysis" shoddy fucking commentary.
And of course, as is the wont of professional journalists these days, others were quick to hop on the Bryant-bashing bandwagon. Rich Gannon called the discussion "disturbing." In a must-see back in forth with Keyshawn Johnson and Tim Hasselback, Ron Jaworski called Bryant a "distraction," while Hasselback called him "selfish."
But still, nobody was worse than Billick, who decided admonishing Bryant in front of a national audience wasn't enough [emphasis mine]:
"I've had diva receivers. I've had Chris Carter, I've had Randy Moss, I've had Derrick Mason, so I understand what it is to lose yourself in the moment, to be passionate out of the game. And I understand those who are trying to justify what Dez Bryant did by excusing it because he's passionate.
Well, you know what? You're passionate about a lot of things. Road rage: people are passionate about what happens to them [and say] this justifies any knuckleheaded or stupid thing I do. And that's exactly what it is. It's knuckleheaded, it's stupid, it's a petulant child acting up like a 2 or 3-year-old.
The images of him going off on Tony Romo as he's sitting there with the head coach and his quarterback coach—looking at the pictures, trying to determine what we're going to do next, how do we make this better—and to see the ranting Dez Bryant up and down the field, I thought it was very noteworthy that Jason Witten tried to get him under control, [and Bryant] wanted no part of it. It took Demarcus Ware to go over and in a very physical, forceful way say 'Look, you gotta get this under control.'
But look, Dez Bryant has to understand, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. The ranting does no good. I don't care if you're justified or not, I don't care if you were open, you're becoming part of the problem. Every moment you spend not working on the problem, you become the problem, and he's acting like a petulant child.
This has got to get under control, the question is, who's going to do it? Jerry Jones, Jason Garrett? If you leave it to the team members, it's going to wear them out as well. And [Bryant's] heroes—Terrell Owens, and maybe Chad Ochocinco—I would point out that neither of them ever played on a championship team."
In the space of two minutes, Billick manages to compare a grown man who has changed his ways for the better to:
- A female version of a hustla
- Road rage
- Terrell Owens
- A man who beats his wife. Maybe.
- A petulant child
- A 2 (or 3!) year old
- A petulant child again
UN. FUCKING. BELIEVABLE. That's a full clip of shots Billick emptied trying to assassinate the character of a player who was trying to fire up his team—plus one in the chamber. Yes, the outburst at the end of the game wasn't conducive to the team's success at that point, but if my defense manages to give up 80 yards and a game-winning TD in less than a minute in Madden I'll be screaming at anybody within earshot.
What is believable is that few, if any retractions will be published. That Billick is going to return to the booth next week and pretend that nothing ever happened. That a white color commentator is going to praise the athletic abilities of an RGIII or a Wilson while extolling the football IQ of a Luck or an Aaron Rodgers. That foolish narratives like this will continue, up until the point where somebody's subliminal racebaiting finally goes too far and they get shown the door.
Until then, I don't expect much to change. And as the ever-prescient Tommy Craggs noted in a 2011 article on Slate where he saw how Jaws praised Tony Romo for "coaching" Cowboys center Phil Costa in a manner not unlike Bryant's:
All I saw was Romo haranguing his teammates, in particular poor Phil Costa, the center, who it turns out was getting his radar scrambled all night long by the Redskins. Here's a thought experiment: How would the broadcast crew have reacted if Dez Bryant had been doing that kind of coaching on the field?
Looks like we got our answer.