Time to take a stand

People, the time has come for pro football players to stand up for themselves and their fellow athletes. I will explain.

 

I was talking to Jerry Ostroski two years ago about an article I had written on Shout!'s Internet web site that said football was not any more complicated than  "one big, fat ass pushing another big, fat ass out of the way so some more in-shape guy can hand off to another more in-shape guy or pass to another more in-shape guy and move the damn ball so he can score six points."

Ostroski took egregious offense to my obvious reference to a lineman as a "big, fat ass" and said that it really bothered him because linemen have no way of defending themselves against descriptions such as that in the media.

Looking back, I suppose my description was offensive, but in fairness, many linemen are large, overweight people. Sure, they work out like most football players, but some have bellies like many Americans – bellies that spill over the brims of their pants, making me wonder sometimes about their status as premier athletes.

I remember Doug Flutie once said something to me that was similar to Ostroski's objection. Flutie lamented his perception that players have little chance to get a fair shake in the media because they aren't directly involved in the media – instead they usually rely on third parties to disseminate their thoughts and feelings to the public. Certainly, the players speak, but reporters and editors cut up and interpret their speech for their own use.

Let me explain how I got into this with Flutie.

Three Bills linemen approached and accused me of calling them "old men," as in "a trio of old men in a diner kibitzing about politics," which I actually did write.

But I meant that respectfully, giving Marcus Spriggs, Jamie Nails and Robert Hicks credit for showing up at their lockers on media day when many of their teammates ducked out because they didn't want to answer questions about what was going wrong with the 2000 season.

The three players sat at their lockers nearly every week. If no one talked to them, they'd pleasantly talk among themselves, in no real hurry to go anywhere, as if they were "a trio of old men in a diner kibitzing about politics."

I felt that was refreshing to see.

Next thing I know, I was disrespecting them.

Spriggs said to me, "You think we're a bunch of old men."

Worse than that, Hicks said to me, "You think all we do is talk about politics." [It was right around the Nov. 2000 presidential election, I mean, who could blame them for talking politics?]

When Flutie overheard this, accompanied by the angry tones of their voices, he thought they were blasting me because I supposedly had blasted them in Shout!. Consequently, Flutie joined them, basically asking me rhetorically, what gave me the right to critique them at their occupation? He then said something about wanting to start his own newspaper that would critique media that cover football.

I just couldn't believe how idiotic this all was sounding, so I walked away.

Today, however, I often think about Ostroski and Flutie's assertion that pro athletes sometimes are defenseless in the media. Admittedly, I find Flutie's newspaper idea intriguing because then players would have their own medium to fight back against what they see as the media's injustices toward them.

And after I watched this band of 20-year-olds, Good Charlotte, in concert on MTV, I find Flutie's idea even more intriguing and more essential. I agree that players are defenseless to a certain extent and they should fight media with their own media. After all, they appear to be getting blasted from all angles.

Look at this.

In Good Charlotte's concert, the band played a song entitled "Little Things," which started with these interesting thoughts: "Yeah, this song is dedicated to every kid who ever got picked last in gym class … This is for you … To every kid who never had a date to no school dance … This is for you … To everyone who's ever been called a freak …"

Obviously, those words are a direct attack on athletes everywhere who, because of their tremendous physical abilities, often do hold the highest position in the social strata than, say, someone who gets picked last in gym class or never has a date to any of the school dances or is often called a freak.

When I walk into the Bills' locker room, I'm fully aware that most of these players were once former highly touted high school athletes themselves – many probably pampered all of their lives with sick amounts of attention given to them by their communities, coaches, teachers, parents, girls and other students. Undoubtedly, they thought pretty highly of themselves, probably even to the point of looking down on their fellow man.

Well, evidently, their fellow man is sick of it.

So the Good Charlottes of the world are taking their revenge when they become successful professional musicians, writing about the alienation they felt when athletes ruled the universe. Now they're really fighting back – unfairly, as Ostroski and Flutie might charge, because the brotherhood of athletes can't fight them with the same methods. Just as athletes don't have their own newspapers, they also don't have songs in the Billboard top-200 or videos on MTV – unless they were the Chicago Bears, who recorded the rock and roll classic "Super Bowl Shuffle" back in '85.

But I think that must change. Athletes must fight fire with fire in order to survive this latest offensive to the social strata. Currently, athletes, particularly pro athletes, find themselves stuck in the unfamiliar position of being alienated by the very people they ruled over back in the day. The shoe is on the other foot.

That's why someone like Flutie, part football player, part gifted musician, has a direct responsibility to fight this alienation on behalf of his brethren. These injustices can't stand any longer.

Here's part of a song I wrote on behalf of the pro football players. This is for the public domain, so if you're a pro football player, feel free to record it: "This song is dedicated to every pro football player who is tired of all the freaks out there signing big record contracts, becoming richer than them, getting more hot women than them and being on ‘MTV Cribs' every week with their 17 Bentleys and 13 mansions in every corner of the globe, when in the beginning, it was the athletes who were the ones totally ahead of the freaks in terms of the social strata, not only because they were bigger and stronger and more coordinated, but because they were picked first in dodge ball from kindergarten through 12th grade, and now, to have this  big switch in terms of social strata, well, it's so totally unfair that it's a disgrace to the human condition … This is for you."

Man, that is so well said, I don't think I have to say anything else, except, if you're a pro football player, don't say I never did anything for you.

Mike Doser stays up nights thinking of this stuff.


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