Speed, Time, and Understanding

by Corey

Donte Whitner is, if anything, an emotional person. He doesn’t say what he thinks, because I’m not sure that he does. He says what he feels. I think the man operates on pure instinct and gut reactions. This can get a man into trouble.

When you play football fueled by emotion while lacking perspective and control, you can end up making costly mistakes. You read situations incorrectly and find yourself out of position. You get embarrassed by your own deeds.

Sal Capaccio reported on Twitter via direct contact by Whitner that the former Bill had signed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Then things got complicated. At 2:04 P.M. EST Capaccio broke the news. By 5:11 P.M. something was amiss.

Whitner doesn’t help.

Bengals Bengals Bengals Bengals 49ERS.

I don’t know what the hell happened. I assumed some kind of classic athlete media manipulation. An athlete would say something to the press and use it as leverage in negotiations. Now I’m pretty sure I was wrong. I think Whitner made a mistake plain out.

I don’t know what the relationship is between Whitner and his agent, but I’m willing to bet at the last moment the 49’ers came over the top with a good offer for Whitner. Whitner, reacting emotionally to the prospect of going to the Bengals (something brewing for days) got ahead of himself as the deal with Cincy appeared to close. As fast as negotiations can be, Whitner may not have known that the 49’ers were attacking. Three hours can go by fast when millions of dollars and your future in the NFL are on the line. You can forget about what you said to the press.

All of this is speculation. In the span of three hours, Whitner went from being a Bengal to a 49’er, and some folks were seriously riled. Most of the reaction could be summed up as follows: Did Whitner just lie to Sal? Scumbag.

No he didn’t. Whitner did what he always does. He reacted with his heart instead of with his head. Capaccio did nothing wrong here. Whitner was feeding him information, and he reported it. This is armchair quarterbacking, but I would have preferred an additional source of verification myself. The subject of the texts Capaccio was receiving (Whitner) had been systematically burning down Twitter in arguments with everyone and anyone for the previous months. It had gotten bad and, of course, emotional. An additional source to confirm the move may have been prudent in this case. Hindsight, right? I can’t really kill Capaccio for that when The Buffalo News regurgitated (without crediting) his information on their BillBoard blog while doing the same amount of cross referencing: zero. The blog post was later taken down.

This is kind of a failure of how news in the Twitter age works. Speed is everything, and the process is a dirty one. People get stuff wrong on Twitter because in life things constantly change. A negotiation changing at the last second is not uncommon, let alone when millions of dollars are involved. People are going to send out bad info or at least info that can be misinterpreted. We are seeing how the sausage gets made.

So this is a two fold process now. We need to be smarter on how we take information in on social media – perhaps by acknowledging that the first thing we read may not be true. Secondly, when the mistake eventually happens, we need to understand that life unfolds in a messy way when we watch it in real time. A little understanding can go a long way.

Perhaps instead of wringing fists in the air at the indignity of being made the fool, a little extra legwork should be applied to find out exactly what happened. People can’t take this stuff personally. It’s not like Whitner posted a picture on Twitter of him giving Capaccio a swirly. If you get a story wrong, find out why its wrong and correct it. The story being wrong is a story in itself – report it. To act like Whitner owed the world an apology for jumping the gun? Come on. He most certainly owed Capaccio and explanation as to what happened, and an apology would certainly be on the side of gentlemanly conduct (and Whitner did apologize,) but to infer an intentional slight in his actions is an extreme interpretation of events. You begin to act in the same manner as Whitner – operating on emotion only. I made the mistake of assuming nefarious intentions on Whinter’s part, so I’m guilty of jumping to conclusions as well.

Whitner isn’t a bad person. He got excited and jumped the gun. Capaccio isn’t a bad journalist. He published info that was right according to his source at the time, but maybe didn’t look both ways before crossing the street. We need to get to a place where we can use social media to get to the truth without turning everything into a pissing match.

No one needs to apologize for life happening at the speed of life.