When assessing the arc of Sean Pamphilon’s relationship with the football-watching public over the past two months since the audio of Gregg Williams frothing at the mouth was released, I’m reminded of a Simpsons episode titled “Bart of Darkness,” the first episode during the show’s sixth season that originally aired on September 4, 1994 (definitely all from memory, not lazy Wikipedia research #bloglife).
As was often the case in the earlier seasons, Bart drove the plot, with his poor decision to jump off the top of the treehouse and into a pool bought because of a heat wave leading to a broken arm, and a summer seat in his room where he could spy on the neighbors with a telescope. But it’s a small subplot at the beginning involving Lisa that mirrors Pamphilon.
When Homer buys the pool and every neighborhood kid jumps in, Lisa becomes popular and relevant for the first time. Her reaction is to desire even more attention and pampering as she orders other kids in the pool to get her drinks. Then Martin Prince–another character whose mission is to seek relevancy–comes along with an even bigger pool. Everyone runs, leaving the water draining from the Simpsons’ pool, and Lisa helpless at the bottom.
Sean Pamphilon is Lisa Simpson in that pool filled with adoration. The difference is his pool is overflowing because he’s dumping more water in.
Pamphilon has faced heavy criticism for releasing the Williams audio. While it’s audio that the public needed to hear in light of the boutygate mess, the attacks against Pamphilon were two-fold. Firstly, there was the assumption that he was simply capitalizing on the circumstances to raise his personal profile and promote his next documentary, The United States of Football. The accusations also involved Sean Gleason, Pamphilon’s close friend, and his other documentary subject. Gleason has ALS, and Pamphilon was documenting his life. Without Gleason–a terminally-ill Gleason–there would have been no access for Pamphilon, and no audio, so some felt he was taking advantage of a sick man.
We’re only interested in those two points today for the purposes of review. They show how Pamphilon managed to stay relevant through his daily dates in the court of public opinion. It wasn’t his doing; it was us, and our accusations.
Understandably, he’s tried to salvage his reputation and by extension his career, making numerous radio and TV appearances over the past week to clarify the role of others like Scott Fujita who were allegedly involved in the releasing of the Williams tape.
But eventually we knew he’d forever cross the Rubicon separating a legitimate public defense of his name, occupation, and family from an attempt to claw at his last moments as a public figure who matters, which is the instinct embedded in the artist whose paycheck is directly connected to personal popularity. Last night we witnessed that moment shortly after Yahoo’s Michael Silver published a story outlining potential bounty payments by the Saints paid to players after a playoff win this past January over the Detroit Lions.
There was a shark swimming somewhere, and Pamphilon had a triumphant, soaring leap when he published his phone number on his Twitter account, and spent the evening talking to at least 25 strangers.
When the responses came, there were tears and digital hugs. He was the star.
He either wants to love, be loved, or be hated. Anything in between doesn’t generate discussion.
There’s nothing wrong with Pamphilon’s desire to defend himself. That was the purpose of those appearances and radio interviews. Even if you’re in vehement disagreement, you can surely understand a man wanting to wipe the layers of dirt from his name.
But he’s graduated from that, and now he’s doing what partly generated the public backlash: publicly loving being loved, or at least being relevant. Soon he may be more than Lisa Simpson, and he’ll become Kim Kardashian.
His pool will drain eventually.