Controversial Star Greg Hardy: God, The Cowboys And Beyond The Headline Porn

You are under no obligation to like controversial Cowboys pass-rusher Greg Hardy. But if you’re going to listen to him, you might as well bother to also actually hear him.

You are under no obligation to enjoy Greg Hardy’s clever press-conference persona and his dominant on-field history. Nor are you obligated to despise him because of his involvement in a May 2014 domestic-violence incident that he addressed in a Tuesday media session mostly with witty deflection and by-rote responses of “God bless you.’’

                                        

“I pretty much feel like ‘The Kraken,’’ Hardy said as he returns to NFL action this week following a suspension. “With a lot of the sea-creature style. Same ol’ G-Hardy. … This has been the most awesome period of my life: I’m a Dallas Cowboy.’'

Contrition? You saw little, at least when the TV cameras whirred at his Valley Ranch locker. But he did not, as has been written, “avoid every question by turning it back to football.’’ Not “every question.’' When I asked him if he understands the moral dilemma for an audience that might not feel quite right about rooting for him … he understood.

"You get God, right?’’ he responded. "It’s an all-inclusive thing? You know what I mean?''

I think I do.

This is a definitely bright and probably complicated man who has decided that what he’ll wear on his sleeve is not emotions stemming from his allegedly heinous off-field act but rather, his sack totals … and his God, even at the risk of being accused of using faith as a shield. He’s also decided that as he rebuilds his career as an All-Pro pass-rusher who lost a season and untold millions by foolishly and dangerously crossing a criminally behavioral line, his undeniably charming personality is a valuable weapon.

Yes. I mentioned a “weapon.’’ As did Hardy … much to the fake-horror and headline-porn-hungry media is quick to note.

When I asked him about the ramp-up process after having missed the last 19 regular-season games, Hardy responded by saying he’s “full of excitement and full of juice ... I hope I come out guns blazin’.'' 

https://twitter.com/clarencehilljr/status/651535410246488064

As my friend Clarence Hill is trying to remind us: Guns were involved in Hardy's arrest. As a result, should Hardy, for the rest of his life, avoid sports metaphors that mention guns? Sportswriters deal with this on a regular basis. Is it OK to call a deep pass a “bomb’’? To call a pass-rush a “blitz’’? To call a loss a “disaster’’?

                                 

How about women? Can Greg Hardy ever talk about women, as when he answered my question about whether opposing the Patriots’ Tom Brady this week makes his Dallas debut anymore special, he replied: “I love seeing Tom Brady. He’s cool … Have you seen his wife? I hope she comes to the game. I hope her sister comes to the game, all her friends.’’

Hardy later joked to me that his Pro Bowl votes go to players with the most attractive spouses, all the better for him to hang out with the beautiful people when they all gather at season’s end in Honolulu.

(Sidebar: I have a deep respect for the work of the great Christine Brennan, but in her Hardy column she grotesquely twists my comparison of Brady and Blake Bortles into a veiled accusation of sexism and journalistic inexperience. Obviously, the actual identity of Bortles and his sweetheart isn’t the point of my Brady-related question to Hardy. It's immaterial whether "Player X'' -- here in my reference, a quarterback of a team that in terms of success is the antithesis of Brady's -- is married, divorced, engaged or single. Hardy's statement is about being excited to play the Patriots because the QB is married to an attractive woman. My counter is that even if his debut was against a lesser team with a lesser QB, that QB probably also has an attractive sweetheart ... and therefore it's not really about the quality of the opponent or about his view of that opponent's QB's mate ... it's about a high level of anticipation no matter the upcoming opposing team.

And Ms. Brennan’s “I remember the days’’ of old-school journalism is misguided, as we are of the same general “vintage’’ and my humble newspaper career began in 1982, one year after her awarding-winning career.

Ms. Brennan was cordial enough to visit with me today to express her view that it is NEVER journalistically appropriate to discuss someone's looks in any context, even when the context is actually about explaining to Hardy that looks AREN'T important. She and I will continue to respectfully disagree on this. ... and I will respectfully point out that being human, Ms. Brennan is holding herself to a standard that she cannot possibly meet.)

Is Hardy funny? Yes. Is it fair for the media to cherry-pick these statements, to bend them out of context, and to headline-porn the remarks (and in my case, the questions) into intentionally deceitful 140-character summations? No. Should Hardy be more sensitive in his phraseology? In his shoes, I hope I would've been less defiant and more contrite, yes, while I will also note that we in the media rip some newsmakers for saying nothing (this weekend’s two coaches, Dallas’ Jason Garrett and New England’s Bill Belichick, are Masters of Seeming Emptiness) and then quickly turn on a newsmaker who, like Hardy, is a must-listen because he might just say … anything. Consider ...

a) Hardy on how good it feels to be a new dad: “Almost as good as it feels to be a Cowboy.’'

b) Hardy on his 12-game Cowboys contractual future: “I hope it lasts 12 more years!''

c) Hardy on what he’s learned about himself through this ordeal: “That I’m a really good pass rusher when I put my mind to it. I’m really good at that.”

So … are we to conclude that he a) hates parenthood, b) is guaranteed to re-sign with Dallas after this season and c) harbors a truly unapologetic heart and an unreflective mind?!

Pretending  to know that based on snippets from a 10-minute meeting with the media is foolish. Not nearly as foolish as the monstrous thing Hardy stands accused of doing in May 2014 … but foolish nevertheless.

I’ve written before about my willingness, as a fan and consumer of sports and art and products, to "separate the art from the artist.’’ I am aware that John Lennon was an admitted habitual abuser of women. So now that you know that, can you no longer listen to “The Beatles’’? 

I abhor what Greg Hardy was involved in. But I accept that a football team has chosen to employ him. ... something that all sports teams on all levels do, in varies ways.

Ex-Cowboys star Randy White has no issues with Hardy being in Dallas. My friend Dale Hansen does. I accept both views. They, like you, are the fan. The consumer. The listener. And if you wish, you should listen to this Hardy reflection, apparently unheard and largely buried beneath both the justifiable anger and the click-grabbing theatrics:

                                   

"I will say that I’m evolving,’’ Hardy said. "It comes from the guys around me. I feel like I’m listening more. I’m taking more advice from the leadership and the head guys and the head coach and even the administration. Just the way I take the advice and the way I apply it, that’s what’s changed.”

You are no obligation to believe him. But if you’re going to listen to Greg Hardy, you might as well bother to also actually hear him.


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