It was meant as an innocent joke at a charity event, but two days later, Jeff Fisher in the Peyton Manning jersey has taken on a life of its own – not only locally but nationally.
Fisher said his intentions were to bring levity to his own Tennessee Titans’ frustrating season. And many people in attendance apparently understood that, giving the coach a standing ovation and chuckling as he removed his shirt to unveil the royal blue No. 18 jersey.
Truth is, it was kind of funny.
And well before confirmed news reports told of the stunt and hours before TV video of the incident aired on the evening news, word was already making the rounds on the Internet and through the airwaves. Camera phones and text messages had already set the scuttlebutt of the matter ablaze with rumors and conversation.
For several days this week, you couldn't walk from your house to your car without hearing somebody talking about it.
But should Fisher really have been vilified for his actions?
A City Paper poll indicated that roughly three out of four of those who voted checked the choice that said, “Good to see he still has a sense of humor.”
Nationally, an ESPN poll had those not being offended by the joke holding about a two to one lead over those who had issues with it.
The flip side of that, too, is not everyone appreciates the joke. Some folks don’t like it when the head coach of “their” team is having some sort of association with a rival.
Remember how interwoven former Titans running back Eddie George and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis were after Lewis stole a pass for George that sealed Baltimore’s playoff victory in 2000? Or how the whole thing was brought up again a few years later in the ’03 playoffs when George, separated shoulder and all, flattened Lewis on key march late in the game?
George and Lewis were competitors tied to each other on the field, but off the field, they’re associates and good friends.
And no matter how much fans might not be able to separate rivalries with other cities and teams, it’s no secret that players and coaches on various teams are really part of an fraternity exclusive friendships that include mingling in the off-season, friendships and past working relationships of having played or coached together in the past.
It doesn’t lessen the desire to win, but in the realm of the players and coaches, once the game is over, the “us vs. them” takes a back seat, as it did with Fisher on Tuesday.
For fans, of course, it’s harder to make the distinction. Who can forget the stir Tom Brady (Remember him, Titans fans? He’s the one that set all sorts of records on Sunday.) caused simply by wearing a New York Yankees hat in public? Same thing for LeBron James.
And that isn’t even the sport they play.
I don’t question Fisher’s motive, but his timing certainly is debatable, given it came less than 48 hours after arguably the worst loss in NFL history.
But, as players and coaches are fond of saying, it’s time to move on.