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Two weeks ago, I wrote about picking sides in the NFL lockout. The column took the form of a child in a divorce: Do you want to live with your mom (players) or your dad (owners)? What’s it going to be, huh? At the conclusion of the piece, things were left ambiguously. It’s a sticky situation. No one wins, really. The thought of the whole ordeal makes me sick…
(Quick Rant: I mean that in a literal sense. Since I wrote the column I’ve been out, on the DL, injured reserve, in the quiet room, or whatever other sports equivalent that means “out of commission” you could come up with. One could argue this column is my “Jordan Flu Game.”)
As a writer, I always try to look at things from a fan’s perspective. My rationale for this is simple, and can be explained in 2 points:
1. I was a fan first. Yeah, it sounds elementary (and is), but before I started criticizing players and taking this whole writing gig seriously, I was like Tiny Tim goading Scrooge, Rob Schneider yelling “You can do ittttt!” to Adam Sandler in The Waterboy, and a young Hayden Panettiere giving Denzel Washington coaching tips in Remember the Titans — all rolled into one super fan. Once you’ve seen things from that extreme you can never go back to being objective, no matter how much you try.
2. What are “experts” or “analysts” in professional sports? I mean really? What do talking heads on the radio, in columns (Yes, even this one.), or on TV know more than a fan? Think of the term “fan.” It’s short for “fanatic.” When you’re a fanatic of something, you tend to know a great deal about it, right? And if you don’t already possess that wealth of knowledge, the Internet is more than a sufficient database to educate yourself. So other than being objective, what does an analyst really bring to the table? Tom Jackson or Cris Carter do not really have that much more insight than you or I. Sports is not rocket science, it is not formulaic.
The issue with being a fan these days is that it is taxing. Back before the days of salary caps, selfish agents, TV contracts and to a greater extent the “24-hour-news-cycle-Internet-craved-Twitter-cell-phone-NOW!-NOW!!-NOWWWW!!” information yearning world in 2011, things were much easier. You followed your teams and their personnel moves, while watching the guys you already had develop their skills.
Now? Things are much more complicated. If Brandon Tate gets mangled, drives drunk, and gets arrested – we’ll find out the details within hours of his breathalyzer test.
The natural follow up question is, “Is this a good thing?” The cop-out answer (which you knew was coming) is “Yes…and No.”
The Good: Go on Twitter days before the trading deadline of any of the major sports. The gossip is unparalleled, the immediacy of the information of any transaction is instantaneous, and the “Oh-My-Gawwwdd-I-Can’t-Believe-We-Just-Traded-Perk” type moments are as lucid as can be.
(This is mainly because as you are sorting through your opinions on the matter, another fan is already tweeting their analysis on the deal. You’re interested in the cumulative reaction. The pulse of the fan-base actively gages how you should feel. Which in-of-itself is childish, since news of the trade broke 5 minutes beforehand. The anticipation feels like you are at an actual game, though. If the trade is perceived as a coup, the fan-base tweets jovially in unison. This is hardly palatable to logical reasoning. The good comes with the bad. Twitter is reactionary by nature and any real credible anaylsis develops over time. I digress.)
The Bad: The rest of this column…
I recall the day the Patriots made the deal getting a 2nd round draft pick for Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel. I was in the office, on a Saturday, and found out from a co-worker. He was upset, “I can’t believe that’s all we got!” Around the same time, Reggie Bush and Kim Kardashian broke up (the first time), I remember telling that same co-worker the news. He replied, almost angrily, “Who cares?”
This sets up the three levels of fandom:
1. Casual Cam – You watch the games, maybe some analysis and that’s about it.
2. Vested Victor – You watch the games, listen to sports radio, read columns, analyze offseason moves (the draft; free agency) and dedicate an hour of your night to a talking head show (ie PTI).
3. All-In Abe – You do everything big Vic from above does, except to the nth degree. You also keep tabs on the social aspect of these players. You know Rashad McCants dated the ugly Kardashian sister. Just like you know Nathan Horton is married to a Playboy bunny. You’re either in 17 fantasy football leagues, or diametrically opposed to the concept of fantasy football because of some odd moral high groud you cite that creates a conflict of interest. You are enthralled, you debate Brady vs. Manning like politicians debate “Don’t ask, Don’t tell.”
The Internet has spawned websites like The Big Leadand Deadspin, that have made millions of dollars off reporting and speaking flippantly about the personal lives of professional athletes. With exception to the unavoidable major stories (IE Brett Farve, and his Green Bay Packer), one can either chose to embrace this new world while taking your fandom to a new place or resign your allegiance to whatever happens between the lines.
Me? I’m an All-In Abe. I eat this stuff up. It’s in my wheelhouse. That’s why when news of Kim Kardashian having an affair with Patriots practice squad stalwart Bret Lockett came out, I immediately jumped on the story.
Kardashian – who has a sex tape with rapper Ray-J, dated Cowboys WR Miles Austin and Saints RB Reggie Bush in the same calendar year – is engaged to New Jersey Nets forward, Kris Humphries. Lockett came out to TMZ about the affair, and is adamant the adultery took place. On the other hand Kardashian, who dons an engagement ring rumored to be worth $2.5 million, is now suing the Patriots practice-teamer.
(Side Note: I swear none of that last paragraph was made up. This all developed over the last two days. Fun fact about Bret Lockett: He hosts his own youth football camp. Who would pay to go to this? He’s a perpetual practice-teamer. This would be like me hosting a seminar on how to write for ESPN)
The truth is we should’ve seen this coming. After all, this is just one of MANY, MANY post-lockout stories that oddly resemble a C+ reality TV show. Hank Baskett managed to stay in our lives by marrying another E! reality TV star, Kendra Wilkinson. That relationship peaked much like Baskett’s shining moment in the Super Bowl, when he reacted like he was shot in the leg while going after an onside kick. Mark Sanchez, who lives in a city crawling with single women, decided to settle down with a 17-year-old. Meanwhile, Sanchez’s backup Mark Brunell managed to go bankrupt after an investment in fast-food restaurant chain Whataburger went awry.
There were other red flags. Jay Cutler and the Chicago Bears season ended embroiled in controversy. Cutler was accused of being “soft” after he sustained a mild injury in the NFC Championship game, and sat the second half. That’s a different debate for a different day. THE REAL STORY IN POST-LOCKOUT NFL WORLD is Cutler proposing to the star of the now defunct hit MTV show The Hills and infamous partier, Kristin Cavalarri. Somewhere, Phillip Rivers is yelling, “You suck Jay!”
Big Ben, fortunately, wasn’t on the prowl this offseason, but Steel-city wasn’t left starved for stupidity. Rashard Mendenhall, who had a critical fumble in last year’s Super Bowl, decided to let the American public know that we shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. A good lesson, for sure. It’s too bad he was trying to apply the fable to having sympathy towards a mass-murderer, Osama Bin Laden.
Fluky investments? Three players getting with one woman in the same calendar year, while another player from a different sport pops the big question to said woman? Statutory rape (depending on what state you’re in)? You’re telling me we couldn’t have compiled these plot lines into a show called, Playmakers: The Lockout Edition? I’m watching that show.
One can presume, with a strong degree of certitude, Lockett’s name will be admist the tabloids for the next few months. But his transgressions fail to reach the scope of one Mr. TMZ Tom Brady (my new name for the Patriots superstar). TMZ Tom has been involved in a number of head scratching events such as endorsing male-uggs, crying during the Brady 6 documentary, dancing in Rio, and finally showing off his spirit fingers in Mexico. The sure-fire HOFer could probably have his own spin-off show.
The final dimmension to this alternate NFL universe we find ourseleves taking residence in is that even actual news wreaks of a reality TV plot. For example, Logan Mankins making comments that he is now open to negotiating a long-term deal with the Patriots after he helped escalate a massive soap opera last season in his contract talks. Or, all of these “secret meetings” reportedly going on between owners and the NFLPA about ending the lockout.
I closed my aforementioned “picking sides” column comparing the uncertainty of the lockout to having your car in the shop and not knowing when the repairs will be finished. Well, it is almost as if as the car is being worked on, Xzibit and his crew broke into the shop and decided, “We need to mix this *issh up, time to Pimp My Ride.”