NFL

Losing is the New Cool

What a terrible week.

Philip Seymour Hoffman died. Dylan Farrow wrote that open letter. DMX is going to fight George Zimmerman. The oceans are going extinct.

Nothing like a week that says, “life is hard and will only get harder until you die.”

What can you do? Besides reach for the Fireball (and keep on trucking).

Nothing. You can’t really do anything. So enough with the resistance.

Let it happen. Let the pain and sadness wash over you, like a cascading Gatorade shower of pure sugar and limited sodium content that does nothing but dehydrate you anyway.

I think losing is cool. It’s the new sticking it to the man. Nobody says you have to succeed and be happy all the time. Be proud Peyton Manning. Way to go John Elway. Everyone wanted to win the Super Bowl and you actually had a say in the matter and you chose not to.

What’s wrong with embarrassment or not showing up? It’s hip. It’s what the other 50% is doing and 100% of them don’t want to do it anyway. There’s an opportunity to be trendsetters here. To take the road less traveled. Everybody wants to win; that’s boring.

Vegas set up all these expectations for you — that’s not your fault. It’s like when my parents told me to go to a liberal arts college and be a business major. How could I stick it to them in the worst possible way (in a 2.5 point spread, nonetheless)?

By going to art school, duh. There’s nothing more terrifying than your child throwing paint at walls and making films about scab picking and losing by 35 points.

Embrace it Peyton! If you fight it, you’re just another squad that got whooped because you were scared. But rolling over in protest of the massive, consumer packaged joke that’s known as the Super Bowl?

Legen… Wait for it… Never mind. That was too mainstream. David Bowie said it better.

It’s not like doing things differently is new to sports. Who are the real trailblazers nowadays? Look at Jason Collins. Forget winning or losing — he’s not even the league. That’s totally meta. The Vikings punter — what was his name? He’s not in the league either.

Those guys are so hip they’re affecting sports without even playing them. I think you can get there Peyton. Eventually. Just look at your brother, Eli. It’s something to aspire to.

Look, there are very few cool things nowadays. Being a hipster and going against the grain is definitely one of them.

Hipster is the new hip and athletes do whatever it takes to up the fresh factor on their “brand” (whatever that means). One of the hippest, most independent athletes in sports? Russell Westbrook. Dude’s wardrobe is like MC Hammer mixed with Urkel. So fresh.

But do hipsters win? Nah. Brandon Jennings? Heck of a haircut, bad team. James Harden? Killer beard, pitiful defense. None of them have won anything.

Kobe’s got five championships and he’s always referring to himself as an old man. The last time he was hip, they were serving pterodactyl eggs and raptor bacon for breakfast at Camp Firewood. Talk to me when you’ve got a bunch of bird tattoos and you need beard shampoo, Kobe. Until then? Hipster-unapproved.

Winners are dudes like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Gregg Popovich. They’re like the Nickelback of sports. Even Shaq tried indie rapping and sounded very, very unlike Kendrick, who performed with Imagine Dragons, so… Can you imagine those dragons?

Winning can be boring sometimes, plain and simple. Variety is the spice of life.

Come on. It’s not like our society doesn’t reward people for completely failing in life. It’s everywhere, from movies to culture to politics — heck, it’s capitalism!

Death, criminal and sexual accusations, terrible art, greed? Losing in my book. But America loves this stuff — the results are PPV boxing fights, a lifetime achievement award, a Heisman, blockbusters, $20M bonuses (and a tax loophole!).

There’s this thing called rape culture, but I think we’re culture-raped. We’re rape-cultured too (see Allen, Woody or Football, College), but our whole way of life has been violated by a bunch of things someone decided needed to be the “norm” when in fact there’s nothing normal about them.

They’re as abnormal, cancerous, and shamelessly money-grubbing as a PPV fight of an ex-rapper and a man who shot a 17-year-old kid.

So now, we’re all a bunch of damaged goods, pickled in negativity, and we’re expected to get it all right? To not lose by 35 points in a Super Bowl when nearly 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day?

Should we really have to plug in our basses during the Super Bowl halftime show? (Kurt Cobain would be proud, Flea)

What if we just stopped caring about all this messed up stuff? How cool would that be? People being passionate about things that don’t matter at all — No longer! Putting energy into things that do — Heck yeah!

Way to go Peyton. Way to go John Fox. Doing the hard thing. Getting it done in true counter-culture fashion.

People will look back at this Super Bowl – when the 6th Extinction of the 3rd Rock from the Sun is upon us – and they’ll hail you two as prophets.

When the times get tough, curl up in a ball and wait until it’s all over.

After all, the mammals survived and the dinosaurs didn’t.

Richard Sherman and Stanford: Why it Shouldn’t Matter

Richard Sherman’s interview with Erin Andrews brought the haters out of the woodwork. Thankfully, some people chose to defend him. The problem with some of the defense, however, is that it’s just as shortsighted as all of the offense.

How many times do we have to hear that Richard Sherman went to Stanford? Or that he got good grades and nailed his SATs?

Excusing Sherman’s “actions” based on his academic degree – while thankfully not malicious in any way – is still narrow minded. I didn’t see Bill Gates (a Seattle native) all pumped up on national television. Is that because Bill Gates went to Harvard for two years? Or is it because he dropped out?

Sherman’s SAT scores don’t matter much either because it’s the same as name dropping an alma mater. I certainly wouldn’t want people rushing to defend my personality with a number that determined how well I took some outdated and extremely flawed ‘aptitude’ test. There’s also this idea that school isn’t the bees knees either. So why judge someone by their grades?

I care about the people that know Richard Sherman. I care that his coach, other teams’ coaches and reporters who cover the Seahawks respect him. I care that he apologized (even though he didn’t have to). I care about his actions. Richard Sherman, by all accounts, seems like a good guy who yelled loudly and passionately on national TV after a crazy game in a crazier sport.

If you disagree, fine. You’re entitled to that. Just know our ability to hate people for any reason we see fit is becoming destructively obnoxious at this point.

But for everyone rushing to his defense, stop using Stanford and his grades as an escape clause. Defending gray areas with even grayer matter isn’t helping. Saying Richard Sherman is a good person (and not a thug) solely because he attended Stanford and got good grades is unfair to Richard Sherman and to everyone else.

Where you attend college (and how well you did on a bunch of obsolete tests) should never factor into the equation when it comes to holding people accountable for their actions. Academic absolution only works for a select group of people. Besides, if you haven’t noticed, it isn’t working in Sherman’s case anyway.

There are probably many different shades to Richard Sherman and his academic degree is a very small part of who he is. I’m sure he’s proud of those other parts. I say that not because I know who Richard Sherman is (or what Stanford is like) but because he’s a human being and I’m a human being and we most likely share the infinite complexities of human existence.

Breaking Bad: Football’s Power Overdose

(Warning: contains Breaking Bad spoilers)

When I was in the sixth grade, I attempted to sign up for football and started crying instead. One of the coaches saw me and told me football wasn’t about judgement or being strong. It was about “heart” and “believing in yourself.” He was a liar, but I’m glad I listened. I signed up, played defensive end and wide receiver, recovered a fumble, broke a bone, and was nicknamed “Legend.”

I quit two years later, mostly because I discovered running. I have really long legs and it’s just easier in life to run away from things. I was joking about Legend. He existed, somewhere — most likely in Santa Barbara for his sexual hot-tub prowess — but not me, not then, not football. But I’ll always be grateful for that coach who helped out a crying kid and didn’t tab him $15,000 for the Vegas bro-trip.

It’s a pretty powerful thing, football. Check out a map of the United States according to the highest paid public employees. Forty-one states claim a sports coach — a whopping 30 of those are football coaches. We care a lot about it. More than libraries, obviously.

There is that other thing, though, that comes with great power — the thing football doesn’t seem to know much about.  Instead of embracing its great responsibility, football has collapsed inward and upon itself. The result is an overwhelmingly powerful black hole.

By now, we’re sick of hearing about Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito, anything to do with CTE and concussions, sexual assault and Jameis Winston, or homophobia and ex-Viking punters. We’ve been exposed to every reaction possible, from stubborn denial and anger to hopeless pleas for institutional change.

Last fall, when the Martin/Incognito Bullygate went down, someone went all Nostradamus on us and said, “all hell is going to break loose.” Smart guy. Here’s the thing — hadn’t hell already broken loose?

There’s that book, League of Denial, after all, which is about football-related brain injuries and the NFL discrediting scientists and claiming the concussion issue in football, “was one of those pack journalism issues, frankly.”

Here’s the truth: Football broke bad a long time ago.

This isn’t Walter White deciding to cook meth. It’s him killing Mike. Picture Adrian Peterson dying beside a river with Roger Goodell mumbling about how all those hits just didn’t seem so bad at the time. “Shut up Roger,” says Adrian. “Let me die in peace.”

Chris Kluwe is football’s latest sacrificial lamb, a punter who was allegedly booted off the Vikings squad for being opinionated about human beings deserving basic civil liberties. He even aligned his situation with poor Tim Tebow’s, saying “Because he (Tebow) brings this other stuff with him, just like I bring my other stuff with me, teams look at it like, ‘We don’t want it. We don’t want players speaking out. We don’t want players doing anything other than football.’

It’s a good point. After the obligatory, “we don’t condone discrimination in any way and will investigate this immediately” statement by the Vikings, speaking out truthfully seems more relevant than ever. The obligatory “we had no idea this was going on” quote has become the de facto “we clearly knew about this and we know you probably know this, so whatever, here’s a lame statement about how we didn’t know about this” NFL guilty plea.

What will most likely follow is the firing of someone, perhaps the glorification of Kluwe, the denunciation of the Vikings, or the fourth coming of Richard Timothy Tebow. The thing is, none of that really matters. Not in the grand scheme of things. This is – and always has been – about the establishment.

Who do you think the Vikings answer to? The Catholic Church? Football is an incredibly profitable machine that has a whole bunch of cogs. It’s not rocket science. Kluwe < Vikings < NFL. The thing is, why are we punishing the low men on the totem pole? Go after the coaches and the organizations all you want, but if a kid goes into his first day of organized school and punches every other kid in the face, is it right to hold the parents completely unaccountable?

All these “transgressions” amount to is football never having to answer for anything. Football – as a whole – gets off scot-free every time. Yet somehow, that’s always overlooked in our (and the media’s) rush to get on the proverbial moral high horse.

Sadly, this isn’t just a professional issue either, as the lack of responsibility can get downright educational. I’m no law expert, but it seems very obvious (and experts agree) that Florida law enforcement completely bungled what should have been an incredibly serious investigation that involved Jameis Winston and the alleged sexual assault of a young female.

Look, there was something sad about watching that National Championship game. Especially the way it ended. It’s sad because there is no such thing as black and white and it’s not like handling sexual assault cases atrociously and ignoring victims is an isolated incident in college football.

I don’t know what happened with Jameis Winston and that girl. Everyone deserves to be treated as innocent until proven otherwise, but the thing is, football – professional and collegiate – really is a black hole when it comes to the evaluation of truth. You can speculate all you want about what happened, but you’d never know the truth until you became a part of the system. Once you’re in, however, there would be no way for you to report back on anything. Nothing escapes football. Not light, not gravity. Certainly not truth.

That’s what is so disappointing — that truth and justice in football will always be warped and clouded by the powers that be.

Some of this is on us, of course. Football is very dear to us and we turn blind eyes when things get ugly. But we have to take some responsibility. We have to stop dragging the red herrings  — Richie Incognito, the Kluwe-haters, the Minnesota Vikings, even Jameis Winston — to the gallows. Because as long as we punish the cogs and not the machine, football will never be threatened because we will have failed to shine our moral flashlights on its rotten core.

Everything is always a product of a bigger environment. There is always a higher power. It needs to answer for something too. Ironically, for all the fuss about the Redskins, there’s something else football stole from Native Americans — tribal sovereignty.

Football is a sport, not a sovereign nation. A judge recently rejected the NFL’s $765 million settlement of concussion claims. It’s a small step in the right direction, sure, but still — is it any wonder $765 million wasn’t enough?

Football needs to be held held accountable, but more importantly, it needs to take some responsibility. And not just financially. The sport I played in sixth grade seemed to be about knocking people down and helping them back up. Not kicking their skull in.

So it’s up to you, football. Your move.