Many are wondering why the sports media’s coverage is more about Arizona Cardinal Quarterback Carson Palmer’s NFC Championship game loss than Carolina Panther Quarterback Cam Newton’s victory.
An hour after the game, FoxSports.com’s headline story was “Carson’s Sorrow,” in which writer Jason Whitlock crafted a lengthy column celebrating Palmer’s “grace in defeat.” The story contained some not-so-subtle shots at Newton:
“After Carson threw an interception, he didn’t dab his tears away. He didn’t milly rock in sorrow. He walked to the sidelines like a proud professional, until it was his turn to return to the gridiron. Then he threw another interception.”
ESPN’s coverage was equally Palmer-centric. On their flagship SportsCenter program, NFL analyst Jerry Butler insinuated that the Cardinals’ loss deprived NFL fans of the opportunity to see Broncos QB Peyton Manning “pass the torch” to Palmer in the Super Bowl. Palmer is 36, just three years younger than Manning.
Twitter user TrillClinton spoke for many when he tweeted:
“Who was asking for Manning vs. Palmer? I wasn’t.” The tweet received over 1,000,000 retweets.
ESPN’s incessant coverage of Palmer didn’t stop there. After the 7PM SportsCenter, the network debuted a 30 for 30 documentary called Palmer Boy, about Palmer’s Scottish Terrier Palmer Boy. Palmer Boy is 17, beyond the average lifespan for terriers. The movie was about Palmer dedicating the Cardinals season to his dog. Palmer contended that his dog’s final wish was to walk along the field of a Super Bowl stadium. The movie ends with Palmer hanging his head in sorrow on the team flight from North Carolina, while Palmer Boy licks his ear.
On the SportsCenter episode after the movie’s premiere, ESPN’s NFL analysts noted that they wanted to talk about Cam Newton’s four TD day, but were too overcome with emotion about Palmer Boy. After they recollected themselves, they went on to speculate for over an hour on whether the Super Bowl would be Peyton Manning’s last game.
On the NFL Network, while analyzing the Super Bowl contest, analyst Chris Thompson said he was “worried” about Carolina’s QB play. When questioned on why he’s worried about the play of Newton, who’s scored six touchdowns this postseason, Thompson stuttered before noting his own 13-year NFL career “helped him see things others couldn’t.” He then randomly grabbed fellow analyst Michael Irvin’s arm and began laughing hysterically.
The sports media blogosphere exploded, and the hashtag #WhatAboutCam trended on Twitter and Facebook.
ESPN reporter Stephen A. Smith tweeted about the backlash to ESPN’s coverage, calling it “a thirst for tokenism.” During a segment on the next day’s ESPN First Take program, Smith became indignant, screaming, “why should we talk about Cam Newton, just because he’s Black?! He’s not the first Black Quarterback in the Super Bowl, so frankly it’s not that special! We have to be content with post-racial normalcy!”
Skip Bayless stood up from his chair and patted Smith on the back, telling him “he’s glad someone said it.” Bayless then looked directly into the camera and said “that was a message for the Black race.”