Jameis Winston loves emotional displays. They make for great entertainment, and they're part of who he is as a person. Everyone who's been around him speaks of how genuine, energetic and just constantly pumped up he is. We've seen it during games, most obviously when he got hit against the St. Louis Rams, and then got into it with Aaron Donald and other Rams players.
Coaches and players love Winston for the emotion he shows, yet some fans see something else: they see what they see when they see Cam Newton celebrate a touchdown. Words like "childish", "selfish", "arrogant" and much worse appear regularly. Sometimes elaborate diatribes can easily be replaced by a single word starting with the letter "n" without losing any of their meaning or intent.
As with Newton, much of the way people read these external displays of emotion has everything to do with how they view Winston as a player and person, and very little to do with the effect those emotional displays actually have. I have yet to see someone call Drew Brees a "thug" for his pre-game speeches, and those same folks will regularly criticize players like Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning for not engaging in emotional displays.
Jameis getting the team hyped before the game!!! #GoBucs pic.twitter.com/AJemKQSK0v— T (@BucWild007) December 18, 2015
The Bucs' website has more of the kind of video you see above in their weekly behind the scenes video. Look at that! Jameis Winston is pumping up the players, getting them ready to go out there and kick some Rams butt, show them who's who and win this game by showing them who's boss.
How easy it is to forget, then, that the Bucs came out flat on offense and scored just six points in the first three quarters.
Centuries of narrative and decades of movies have taught us to look for that speech and that energy right before the action. From Shakespeare to Lincoln to Patton to Brees, we love to consume these emotional moments. That big speech can grab you and make you feel part of the action. Can't you just feel yourself getting pumped up?
That emotional response, along with the ease of conveying them verbally, is exactly why speeches take central roles in many of the narratives we consume. But what we don't see is far more crucial: we don't focus on the hours and hours spent in film rooms, on practice fields, in doctors' and trainers' rooms, getting Toradol shots just to be able to get on the field, studying alignments and technique to get the smallest advantage. Those are the things that win you games -- but good luck packaging that as an easily-consumed, 20-second clip with the same emotional impact as a fired-up speech.
That is not to say that speeches like that are entirely meaningless. For some people they work wonders. For others, though, they don't. Gerald McCoy has gotten some flak over the past day for the above video in the Tweet, where he's standing around outside the huddle. Go back and look at the video on the Bucs' website and you can see that probably half the team isn't in that huddle -- but McCoy has for some unfathomable reason become a lightning rod for criticism this year. It's why folks tend not to include the subsequent tweet that noted McCoy was having his hand treated before the huddle, and prayed after.
One of the reasons I started writing about football was precisely to get away from the popular psychoanalysis that drove much of sports writing and commentary. To try to view sports not the way we do a movie, lived through emotional connections to actors' ostentatious displays, but to focus on what actually happened. Who missed a block, who's taking the right angles to the ball carries, how is that ball thrown, what's breaking down mechanically, schematically, on the field?
I do that because I have no way of knowing what goes on inside a player's head. Analyzing facial expressions and emotional displays for some deeper meaning is an exercise in so many prejudices and biases, it's almost comical to attempt it. The only thing amateur psychoanalysis proves is that people's preconceived notions allow them to construct the narratives they want to see -- whether that's a selfish Jameis Winston, or an emotionally weak Gerald McCoy.
Let's get down to the basics: Jameis Winston is an outstanding player because of the way he throws the ball, navigates the pocket, reads defenses and adjusts. Everything else is nice, great entertainment, possibly positive for the team, but ultimately peripheral. Because what matters for wins and losses is what happens once the ball is snapped.