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Clinton Portis Explains How He Sees The Media Coverage

Posted by Matt Terl on January 4, 2011 – 12:09 pm

Clinton Portis has talked a lot in recent years about “haters” and “doubters” and people in the media who are against him — here’s a perfectly sound example — but to the best of my recollection he’s never given a calm, reflective explanation of what he perceived as “hating” and what he didn’t.

But “reflective” would be a good word to describe Portis’ radio appearance today on the Mike Wise Show With Holden Kushner, as would “elegiac” and “nostalgic”. The hosts focused many of their questions on the possibility that Portis’ time in D.C. has come to an end — although that’s far from certain at this point — and that sentiment infused just about everything Portis said.

So when Wise challenged Portis’ claim that he had “never seen a feel-good story about anyone in this organization,” Portis explained what he meant.“For myself, there was good stories, there was bad stories,” Portis said. “But that’s the NFL. That goes with winning and losing.

“I just think that the focus was geared toward all the stuff that really didn’t matter inside of that organization. When you put 53 men together, there’s gonna be some men that don’t get along. There’s gonna be some men that’s not friends. There’s gonna be some coaches and players that clash. I think that’s life.

“I think that happens in the studio; I think it happens with you and your co-workers. I think it happens in every business that you got. There’s gonna be competition. There’s gonna be somebody — if you get a lead story, somebody else wanted it. Somebody else feel like they could’ve wrote it better. Somebody’s gonna have an opinion of what you said that they don’t feel your facts was totally correct. But therefore you have the opportunity to write your story the way you wanted to write it.

“So with myself, I just think that there was so much negativity, so much negative attention placed on the negativity in the organization, besides all the good stuff …. You were saying, Lorenzo Alexander’s a great man. Lorenzo Alexander’s a dedicated person to God, a dedicated person to the community. The upbringing of Lorenzo Alexander from Oakland, California to where he is now, you know, being undrafted and comin’ in playing all the positions … I love Lorenzo’s story. I don’t how many people in this area know Lorenzo’s story.”

I think this long excerpt does a couple of things, both of them coincidentally having to do with perspective.

First, I think it does an excellent job putting the idea of conflict in the locker room into a more commonplace perspective. From what I’ve seen here, the actual experience of, say, the players dealing with The Neverending Albert Haynesworth Saga is much less stressful than the media coverage of the same saga. As Portis suggests, I think disagreements between the beat writers covering the team could probably be elevated to the same near-operatic levels if they were covered as exhaustively as the disagreements between people on the team.

Second, and conversely, I think Portis does show how skewed his perspective of the media is. Somewhat earlier in the show, he acknowledges that “I don’t read the paper every Sunday,” and that’s made clear in his example; Lorenzo Alexander’s story has most definitely been told. But people in general remember the negative much more than the positive — in writing workshops we used to hear that you would remember three negative comments for every positive — and that’s just magnified by the way coverage of a football team works. Because Portis is right about one thing: there’s unlikely to be a crawl on the bottom of ESPN that reads “Lorenzo Alexander is a pretty good dude,” and if you’re not reading articles every day you’re much more likely to stumble across ESPN’s continuing coverage of The Albert Haynesworth Saga than you are a random Outside The Lines about a Lorenzo Alexander. So if you’re more likely to remember the negative, AND you’re more likely to stumble across the negative … well, I think that explains a lot about why Portis sees so many “haters” and “doubters” out there.

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