Mazurek: Players need to block out the noise
Marek Mazurek | Friday, February 9, 2018
One word you’ll hear all the time from athletes is “noise.” And they’re not talking about how loud a particular stadium is.
“We just have to block out the noise.”
“None of that noise affects us.”
In this context, noise serves as a synonym for expectations, criticism or even praise from fans or the media.
And it really is used all the time. As recently as last Friday before the Super Bowl, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson told the media, “I’m blocking out the noise, just like I’m telling the players to block it out. And I’m focused on my job and helping this team win a football game.”
If you’re a results-based analyst, you’d be inclined to say that Pederson succeeded in his goal.
But for every instance of a team being able to put the noise to one side and execute, there are many other cases where the noise gets to players.
Nowhere is this more prevalent than in esports. Many esports athletes are 18–23 years old and, based on the nature of their games, heavily immersed in the internet and message boards.
This means the players are much closer to their fans than many athletes in traditional sports. Esports players check message boards and sites, particularly Reddit, where fans can post anything and everything pertaining to a particular player.
Have a bad game? Reddit will let them know about it with invectives, snide remarks and memes. If you thought Mark Sanchez being known as the butt-fumble guy was bad, those types of typecasts are a dime-a-dozen in esports.
In a few extreme cases, criticism from Reddit has caused League of Legends athletes to quit the game, and a few have been vocal about the dangers of Reddit. William “Meteos” Hartman has talked about how fan reactions on Reddit has altered his perception of himself as a player.
Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou was a League of Legends player who recently retired, and he had a reputation of being a bad teammate. In an interview, FORG1VEN cited bullying from Reddit as one reason he chose to quit the game.
And before you start to think noise only applies to esports athletes because they’re on the internet more, there are plenty of examples of traditional athletes caving to fan perceptions.
A few months ago, Kevin Durant revealed he had used at least one alternate Twitter account to strike back against fans who criticized his move to the Golden State Warriors.
A 20-year old League of Legends player you’ve probably never heard of letting fans on the internet get to him is one thing, but Durant is another. Durant has been named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player and has an NBA title to his name, as well as four scoring titles. Durant fits the mold of someone who shouldn’t care at all about what some random person online thinks of him or his game.
But Durant still lashed back, and that says something about the power of “noise.” The fact that someone online saying something not even that offensive can rile up an NBA Finals MVP to respond is surprising. And while Durant’s performance on the court hasn’t seemed to suffer, who knows how many rough spots for other players around professional sports are due to the weight of community expectations and criticism?
Next time you hear an athlete talk about blocking out the noise, just realize there’s some merit to the cliche.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.