We Are Better Off Not Scrutinizing Derek Anderson Too Closely

ESPN got a few days worth of sports news out of a boring Monday Night Football game between two bad teams, thanks to its videos catching Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson and right guard Deuce Lutui—well, doing what, exactly? The first take was that they were “laughing” on the sideline, at a time when the Cardinals were being blown out by the 49ers.

Scandal! Unemployed coach turned TV analyst Jon Gruden launched into an

on-air tirade

about leadership. A reporter for the Arizona Republic badgered Anderson about the moment in a

postgame press conference

—”The cameras showed you laughing”—till the quarterback broke into a defensive rant and cut off the rest of the session. The rant became a

media/Internet joke

. Derek Anderson is a clown and he is thin-skinned and he is a liar. “I wasn’t laughing about anything,” he snapped.

Except the camera did not even show Anderson and Lutui laughing. It showed them grinning ambiguously. Anderson may have been gritting his teeth as he smiled. it did not look like they were playing grab-ass or checking out ladies in the stands. It looked like a lot like two guys sharing a mordant grin about what a lousy day they were having.

Who hasn’t had a bleak smile—or, screw it, a good bleak chortle—with a co-worker when things are going badly? Possibly Jon Gruden hasn’t. Most normal human beings do it.

“What Deuce and I talk about is nobody else’s business,” Anderson said, on his way to his meltdown. That was, alas for him, fundamentally true; his desire for privacy aligned itself with ESPN’s desire for noise. Maybe Lutiu and Anderson were calling their offensive coordinator a moron. Maybe they were sharing a wish that their dumb alternate black jerseys would make people think the Atlanta Falcons were the one laying a stinkbomb on TV.

It was too late for context to make a difference. Anderson wasn’t on trial in the postgame Q&A. He was already convicted and having his sentencing hearing: “The cameras showed you laughing.”

Wasn’t Derek Anderson having obvious enough troubles between the sidelines, without the Panopticon following him to the bench? Diplomats and

climate scientists

can relate. This world of ours does thrive disclosure and exposure. I can’t wait to see what Wikileaks has on the banking industry. But an open book isn’t guaranteed a smart reading, or even a fair one.