In a perfect world, one where people were sensible about things, the title of this article would probably be all I’d ever have to write when discussing the subject of football players making TikTok videos and how that really has nothing to do with anything when it comes to winning or losing games.
But this is not a perfect world. As it pertains to Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, this used to be a world where he was seen as a “breath of fresh air,” a rookie who didn’t know how to drive, had his bike stolen and stole the heart of every fan who had one.
The late-2010s, what an innocent time.
Actually, the world really wasn't so innocent back then, and it was only a matter of time before Smith-Schuster found that out.
In the subculture known as the sports world, unrelated things have always been blamed for why a team doesn’t win all the championships.
It could be a touchdown celebration that a player loves, a commercial that he’s in, a vacation that he takes, a bar that he’s invested in or even a radio show that he co-hosts. If a championship isn’t won in the midst of doing one or all of those things, well, that player needs to stop doing one or all of those things and just focus on his sports craft.
It’s almost always been that way for professional athletes. If you go back and do a deep dive of the archives of any old sports radio show in America, you’d probably find a lot of phone calls that included phrases like this: “I just wish he’d stop (insert non-sports-related activity here) and just focus on the game.”
The “I just wish” sports fan is obviously alive and well today in 2021, and not only in the form of sports talk radio caller but in the form of comments section poster and social media user.
An activity that may have endeared Smith-Schuster to Steelers fans way back in those innocent times of 2017—making TikTok videos—has now made him a villain in the eyes of many in 2021.
I know this because Alejandro Villanueva created quite the buzz when he referenced the TikToks last week during his introductory press conference after signing a deal to play with the Ravens: “It was incredibly challenging that we knew we had to go with these game plans that involved passing the ball, potentially, the entire game and not really practice or rehearse that other part of football that relieves some of that angst,” Villanueva said. “So, the mentality, when you have a balanced offense, or when you run the ball, it’s obviously better for the offensive line. I’m assuming it’s not as fun for the wide receivers, because they’re not getting all the catches. They’re making the TikToks, and they’re having fun on their social media.”
I figured I’d include the whole quote, lest you accuse me of click-bait and “stirring the pot.” But let’s be honest, did it really matter that the media only took a snippet of Villanueva’s quote and ran that sucker right into the ground? No, it probably did not matter one single bit. It also didn’t matter that Villanueva was likely only joking. You know how I know? He also took a shot at the driving skills of his buddy, David DeCastro, and nobody spent a second discussing that.
“TikTok” has become a trigger word for many fans, and the media and trolls know this. They use it to “stir the pot” because they know so many Steelers faithful think a player making some video on Wednesday will affect his performance on the field on Sunday.
Total focus all the time. The “I just wish” crowd has romanticized that notion so much that if a player doesn’t appear to be focused on his professional craft 24/7/365, that will be used as a reason for failure when and if failure does come.
James Harrison once said that he and dozens of his teammates would go out and get wasted multiple times a week during the regular season back in the 2000s. They also played ping pong in the locker room and, according to Ike Taylor, won and lost titles to expensive cars during high-stakes card games.
Nobody cares about that because the Steelers won two titles during that era.
Winning cures everything, while not winning puts anything and everything on trial.
But I think we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel when it comes to TikTok videos.
I know, you just wish the players would stop doing the TikToks and focus on their craft.
I just wish the Steelers would win a championship, so people can stop blaming silly things for why they don't.