Oh, DeAngelo Williams. Oh, dear.
This season has been a smashing success so far for the Steelers running back, who is filling in while Le’Veon Bell serves a a three-game suspension. Or, it was a smashing success, right up until the moment when his phone started playing a song while he was addressing the media in Pittsburgh’s locker room following a 24-16 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
The song was “Rockstar,” a 2005 hit by Nickelback. That’s right. Nickelback. Oh, DeAngelo.
“I’m a Nickelback fan, don’t judge me,” Williams told reporters.
Williams displayed a clear awareness of the mockery for which he was setting himself up. For years, Nickelback has long been viewed, and not just by insufferable hipsters (okay, that’s a redundancy), as something of a musical punchline, shorthand for corporate-rock, last-dregs-of-the-’90s, embarrassment-to-Canada blandness.
In fact, earlier this year, a Finnish student wrote an article that used 14 years’ worth of reviews of Nickelback to find out why people hated the band so much. ” ‘Hypocritical bulls— performed through gritted teeth’: Authenticity discourses in Nickelback’s album reviews in Finnish media” concluded (via the BBC) that “they follow genre expectations too well which is seen as empty imitation.”
It might say something about the band that it licensed “Rockstar” for use by a British furniture company, but the advertisement using it ended up getting banned. Why? Because it portrayed sofas as being bigger than they really were.
Williams, of course, is entitled to listen to what he likes, and one could even argue that he deserves credit for marching to the beat of his own drummer (in this case, that would be Daniel Adair, who joined Nickelback in time for “Rockstar,” after a stint with 3 Doors Down). Williams certainly deserves plenty of credit for helping lead the Steelers to a 2-0 start, as, through the Sunday afternoon games, he led all players in rushing attempts and yards, with 58 for 237 and two touchdowns, adding 10 catches for 66 yards and another score.
The 33-year-old may be listening to a rock band nobody else seems to like, but he’s also been hearing lots of cheers from Pittsburgh fans who love how he’s been playing. Williams performed similarly well last year, when Bell missed 10 games with a suspension and then a knee injury, so this is how he reminds people of what he really is (i.e., a very good running back).