False equivalency is the lifeblood of American public debate.
So it should come as no surprise that, in an effort to rationalize Dez Bryant's counterproductive sideline tantrums, Bryant's defenders compared the immature Dallas receiver to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Celebrated white quarterbacks yell at their teammates. Why can't a black wide receiver?
The equivalency is false on multiple levels. Dez Bryant erupted on the Dallas sideline for at least 10 solid minutes. A friend of mine, a native Detroiter, was seated a dozen rows up behind the Dallas bench on Sunday. He and his friends heckled Bryant throughout Sunday's game.
"The television highlights do not accurately portray how bad his tantrum was,"said Scott Nichols, the point guard on Ball State's 1990 NCAA Sweet 16 team. "He berated dozens of teammates for what seemed like 20 minutes."
Yes, I'm aware of the video showing Bryant interacting positively with Tony Romo and an assistant coach. The video is a little more than a minute long. Problem is, it's not footage of the scenes that made news all Sunday and Monday. It's a highlight of Bryant's "good" screaming. It's the same as if I released a one-minute clip on YouTube of me eating raw vegetables and leaving out the 19 minutes of me making love to a deep-dish, meat-lover's pizza.
I eat raw vegetables. But my 30 for 30 documentary better include sit-down interviews with Ronald McDonald, Colonel Sanders and Little Debbie.
Jason Witten wasn't yelling at Bryant and DeMarcus Ware wasn't restraining Bryant because he was shouting positive reinforcement at Romo and the coaching staff. Go sell that garbage somewhere else. Dez Bryant melted down Sunday, even if he littered his tantrum with a few positive words.
Brady and Manning have never done what Bryant did Sunday. Not even close. What Bryant did was akin to the tantrum thrown by my former high school teammate Jeff George when Falcons coach June Jones pulled him from a game in 1996. You remember that tantrum? And surely you remember the national media shredding George for doing it. You may also remember that Jeff George is and was white.
Like Dez Bryant, Jeff George was supremely talented. He'd thrown for 4,143 yards and 24 touchdowns in 1995. He'd been the overall No. 1 draft pick in 1990 and the NFL Rookie of the Year.
George's critics questioned his maturity and leadership ability. They wondered if his mental approach would undermine his chance of capitalizing on his immense physical gifts. No one, to my knowledge, ever intentionally or unintentionally insinuated there was a racist double standard causing the national media to criticize Jeff George. As the national president of the Jeff George Fan Club, I would've heard about this. It did not happen.
Honestly, I'm a bit surprised it didn't happen. Well, maybe not. George berated his head coach before the addiction to false equivalencies swept across America like crack cocaine in the 1980s. Politically partisan cable TV ushered in this epidemic. Bill O'Reilly is the Avon Barksdale of false equivalencies. Sean Hannity is Prop Joe.
But I shouldn't pick on political commentators. We love false equivalencies in the sports world, too. Remember in 2006 when the Tennessee Titans had a contentious separation from quarterback Steve McNair? My favorite NFL player, Ray Lewis, said the Green Bay Packers and the Indianapolis Colts would never treat Brett Favre and Peyton Manning the way the Titans treated McNair. Well, despite Favre's and Manning's combined seven MVP awards (McNair had one, shared with Manning in 2004), the Packers booted Favre in an ugly dispute and the Colts pushed Manning aside for Andrew Luck.
At least Ray Ray compared McNair to other quarterbacks. For the most part, comparing Dez Bryant to quarterbacks is nonsensical.
He plays receiver. It's a different lane and a different role from playing quarterback. Quarterbacks call plays. They bark instruction. They lead huddles. The very nature of the position dictates that quarterbacks yell at the line of scrimmage and occasionally yell at teammates. It's the job.
Dez Bryant isn't a quarterback. He's not a leader. He's a talented, high-maintenance wide receiver. He's so high-maintenance that a year ago Jerry Jones employed a team of "advisors" to help Bryant function as an adult. Jones gave Bryant a curfew and a set of guidelines pertaining to strip clubs and whatnot.
Dez Bryant isn't Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Russell Wilson. Dez Bryant is a typical, me-first NFL receiver diva, cut from the same cloth as Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss and Keyshawn Johnson, sprinkled with a heavy dash of Pacman Jones. This is no secret. Diva receivers believe emotional sideline tantrums and elaborate, hey-look-at-me gimmicks are an extension of their "passion" for the game. They can't recognize the fine line between Ray Lewis' inspiring pregame dance and ranting for no good reason. Diva receivers are oblivious to the fact that offense is the intellectual side of football and defense is the emotional side.
Now I happen to like Dez Bryant. I like underdogs. I root for people from tough backgrounds who have emotional issues. I want to see them overcome. Bryant won't overcome if we lie to him and rationalize his obvious errors. He was clearly out of bounds on Sunday. He was too caught up in the one-on-one duel he was having inside his head between himself and Megatron.
Detroit QB Matt Stafford has no other passing options so he forced the ball to Megatron regardless of coverage. It's one of the reasons the Lions should've lost despite Johnson's breathtaking performance. With a more balanced approach, Dallas put 30 points on the board despite Tony Romo not being particularly sharp. Bryant wanted to go catch for catch with Johnson. It didn't happen. And Bryant demonstrated why Jerry Jones treats him like a child.
Some people have blamed Dallas coach Jason Garrett for not commanding enough respect to silence Bryant on the sideline. Garrett is powerless in his relationship with Bryant.
Bryant is the owner's pet project. Jones, who doubles as the team's GM, drafted Bryant. Jones has invested millions of dollars in Bryant. Jones paid for an elite baby-sitting team. Having watched his baby act like a baby and create the non-composed environment that powers fourth-quarter collapses, Jones defended his baby after the game.
And then the false equivalencies started rolling in via Twitter, radio and TV. I get the temptation. False equivalences are fun and easy. They're a good tool for defending someone you love and respect. There was a time in the 1990s when I would've excused Jeff George for hiding on the grassy knoll and assisting Lee Harvey Oswald by saying: "No one was mad at AC for driving O.J. all over the 405 and tying up traffic."
I'm as guilty as anyone. But let's stop the nonsense. We're only hurting Dez Bryant. We're baiting him to resist maturity and evolution. We're reinforcing bad habits. He apparently thinks the best way to handle a frustrating situation is by erupting emotionally. That's no good. It leads to trouble. He won't equal or surpass Calvin Johnson until he channels his emotions properly.