I think most people outside the bubble of my immediate family would consider us to be a pretty cynical unit. I’m aware that Chuck Klosterman once argued in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs that anyone who calls themself “cynical” isn’t actually cynical — saying “true cynics would never classify themselves as such, because it would mean their view of the world is unjustly negative” — I’m just saying I don’t know a better way of describing it.
It’s possible that my family and I are all suckers, willing to believe anything and easy to take advantage of. I find that hard to believe, but surely there are people out there who would think that. The only reason I say so is because I am absolutely convinced that the majority of the population are suckers, that they are willing to believe anything, and that they are easy to take advantage of. That’s just my perspective, of course.
My foundation is with sports, obviously. I played them when I was young, and when I got older and realized I wasn’t good enough to compete longterm I focused exclusively on following sports — which I’d done since some of my earliest memories. That’s my bag. Some people are into music, others are into movies, others like me are into sports. Everyone is good at something and providing contrarian sports takes is what I’m good at. I pay enough attention to know what the talking heads are saying, so then I know what most people are thinking, and then I typically just go against that.
Anyway, one of the benefits to following sports is that you get to see press conferences. You get to see head coaches and players after games that they win or lose, and the same blueprint is always followed. The winning coach credits his players, saying they defeated a really tough opponent and they were really fortunate to do so. The losing coach typically blames himself, credits the opposing coach and opposing players, and gives a bunch of canned bullshit cliches. There’s no need to go into any specifics because everyone who watches sports understands this dynamic.
Press conferences are filters. They are not reality. The unfiltered reality is what we don’t — and will never be able to — see. If the losing coach was being honest, he would be mother fucking his own players, the opposing players, the officials, and everything else. If the winning coach was being honest, he would admit that he had the superior game plan, that the other team never had a chance, and that he’s going to do the same thing next week against his next opponent.
We never see that type of honesty in professional sports, because no coach and no organization wants to grab headlines like that. There’s an unspoken rule that you are supposed to win with grace, and lose with class. It’s a boring paradigm, but it’s been in place ever since I was old enough to follow.
Sports were my foray into seeing and understanding bullshit when I saw it, but it’s amazing how applicable it is in the world of politics and anything, really. There is always one version that’s public, and a hidden reality that, again, we will never see. Both political parties are guilty of this, but you see it exaggerated more in the Democratic Party when they say things like “we believe everyone should have access to healthcare.” Yet when the rubber meets the road almost none of them are willing to say they believe in Medicare For All. “Access” is merely a euphemism for “those with means will be fine, those without will have to pay out of pocket.”
I mean, everyone also has access to a two million dollar Bugatti. But does that mean everyone can go get one?
The only reason I say any of this — which is to say I’m saying anything at all — is because the Cleveland Browns just gave 5 years and $125 million to defensive end Myles Garrett. The next time he steps on a football field he will be the highest paid defensive player in the history of the sport.
Who is Myles Garrett, anyway? Well the last time you saw him play he was using a helmet as a weapon against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and in-the-near-future insurance salesman, Mason Rudolph. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, so here it is:
Garrett is no doubt one of the best defensive players in the NFL, and for a player of his skill level it isn’t at all surprising that he would warrant a contract worth $25 million average annual value. I would want him to play for my team, and you would want him to play for yours. That’s aside from everything you saw in the embedded video, and it’s besides the fact that he was suspended for the remainder of last season.
The reason I’m writing this article is because I was listening to the Straight Outta Vegas with R.J. Bell podcast on my ride home from work tonight, and he asked the question: What offense in the NFL is beyond the pale, where a franchise would spurn a player with talent, and not want him to play on their team? We see all the time the willingness for teams to sign guys who have had domestic violence issues in the past. The podcast went so far as to mention O.J. Simpson, that had he been vindicated of his crime while still in the prime of his career, is there any doubt a team would have given him a contract?
There isn’t any doubt. We know the answer to that question. Based on history, the NFL is willing to let anything slide — given that the player isn’t in prison — so long as that player can help the team win. Myles Garrett happens to be a young buck. He happens to be in the prime of his career. It’s hard to imagine the Browns, or anyone, not being willing to give him top dollar for his services.
The day after it happened my family and I talked at decent length about the Garrett/Rudolph situation — since talking about sports is something we are wont to do — and we all more or less agreed: Once my mom asked the obvious question of is Myles Garrett ever going to play again, us boys were unanimous. Of course he was going to play again. If the Browns did the unthinkable and released him, there would be 31 teams contacting Garrett’s agent within 15 minutes.
The fact that Cleveland signed him to the largest extension for a defensive player in NFL history, and at the absolute earliest possible time (given he was about to enter the 4th year of his rookie contract), is less of a shock than an affirmation of what we already knew. That is, it doesn’t matter what you are doing. It doesn’t matter what you have done. So long as you can perform and add value to an NFL franchise, someone is going to sign you. That’s not necessarily the way of the world anymore, but it’s certainly true in the most meritocratic sport.
The Straight Outta Vegas podcast guys did fail in one aspect, though. While they were correct that neither on the field or off the field issues matter in the eyes of the NFL — not when it comes to domestic abuse, drunk driving, dog fighting, drug charges, or literally pummeling a guy over the head with a helmet — they did omit the most obvious recent example of a player NFL teams aren’t comfortable signing: Colin Kaepernick. You remember, that guy who protested police brutality.
I’ve written about that on here at length multiple times so I don’t need to go over it again, but it is pretty telling the threshold NFL teams have for what is and is not acceptable. They can spew all manner of bullshit about how he was no longer a productive quarterback (which doesn’t make sense given the garbage starting and backup QBs in the league every year), or they can say he would be a distraction in the locker room (even though the year he got so much attention for protesting he was voted by his own teammates for an award for leadership), but again, this is an article about bullshit and how we should know better. We hear what teams tell us, and the talking points the media repeats. The truth, as always, is kept behind closed doors. Rich white owners don’t want a black guy speaking up for the oppressed.
So when we talk about players who have issues, we first must understand what “issues” really are. If you are A Guy, you can carry all the baggage you want and a team will find a roster spot for you. If you are just another guy, then those same issues turn into the justification for why you are no longer in the league. I think the NFL can do better than employing players who beat their girlfriends and wives, but you could probably talk me into rehabilitating players who’ve had drug offenses or DUI’s. (After all, I’ve had both drug offenses and a DUI in my life, so who would I be to say people aren’t entitled to second chances?)
I draw the line with domestic abuse, and if I ran the world I probably wouldn’t be giving record-setting contracts to players who could have killed someone on a football field. It does say something about me, though, that knowing Myles Garrett would play again I would definitely want him playing for the Chiefs. But that’s simply accepting the idea that the NFL doesn’t care about any of that stuff.
I’ll wrap this up before I drone on for another 1,500 words about Colin Kaepernick and how unfair it is that he (probably) won’t play again, but at this point I kind of don’t want him back. I think his message is a lot stronger knowing he sacrificed everything in the prime of his career for what he believed in, rather than, say, he signs with some fledgling franchise and plays out the next few years as a backup.
The point is, the NFL is full of shit and I can’t get enough of it. And if you want to improve your skills in detecting bullshit, there are many worse places to start than tuning in to a random NFL press conference to hear all the most important people talk without ever saying anything.