Fan Noise - "A Helping Hand"

Body language and non-verbal clues are more telling than what a person is telling you with his mouth. In other words, actions speak louder than words.

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about, and observing, for quite some time, and after all of the hi-jinks that we’ve seen the past month, now is the time to bring it up. Certainly don’t have a divisional playoff game to write about this week.

It first struck me last year. I don’t recall the first time I noticed it. I certainly don’t remember the game, or the circumstances surrounding it. But once I noticed it, I started to look for it every offensive play, for every game.

How many times, after Shaun Alexander ran with the ball and was tackled, did a team mate come up to him, and offer a helping hand to get up off the ground?

It’s such a little thing. You see team mates pulling each other up all the time. Heck, you see opposing team mates helping your own team mates, and even occasionally patting their buttocks with a “good job” feel to it. Guys will jabber at each other with smiles on their face as they saunter back to the line of scrimmage, obviously enjoying the rivalry, or good play. Maybe a little good hearted smack talk. Fellow professionals appreciating the other’s skill.

Happens all the time. When Matt Hasselbeck gets sacked, Robbie Tobeck is one of the first ones to go over and help Matt back onto his feet – and quite possibly getting a bit of an earful for the line protection breaking down. But Robbie and Matt are such good friends, they will do anything they can to help each other.

But, when Shaun is down on the ground, it’s a rare thing to see anyone give him a hand. It’s so bad, sometimes the referees help him up. Or he gets up himself. But it’s a rare, rare sight to see any Seahawk player make the effort.

I don’t recall anyone ever mentioning it, but I bet there are folks out there that have noticed it as well. Maybe not enough to consciously remark on it. But they noticed it.

It especially piqued my interest after reading quotes by his team mates at the start of the season mentioning how Shaun had come in this year dedicated to mending fences. He thought (probably correctly) that his team mates felt he was too wrapped up in himself, that he was aloof and egocentric. That perhaps things were misconstrued – after all, Shaun thinks of himself as a nice guy. Most people think of themselves differently from reality. So, Shaun apologized, and promised he was going to be a better person, to dedicate himself to helping the team, to be a better team player, to work hard, and earn everyone’s respect.

After reading those comments, I recalled my observations the year before, and vowed I’d spend the time watching not just the plays, but also what happens after the whistle blows. To see if this sudden outpouring of love and togetherness would change things on the field.

To my surprise, it didn’t seem to have much of an effect. And as the season wore on, it became more and more obvious – at least to me. Oh sure, occasionally, he’d get that proffered hand, but as game after game was played, it occurred less and less.

Then the final game of the regular season, and the infamous “Stabbed in the back” comments.

Helping hand? Forgetaboutit.

While the team appeared ambivalent about the whole thing, at least publicly, both their body language during their playoff loss against the Rams as well as comments made by both Grant Wistrom and Trent Dilfer questioning “certain unnamed players” who were selfish and more concerned about personal stats than team accomplishments, it all became crystal clear.

I don’t think there is anyone within the Seahawks locker room that enjoys Shaun Alexander as a team mate. Their on-field body language was a mirror of their true feelings about their running back.

Shaun doesn’t care about the team. He doesn’t care about his team mates – except for the fact that they are there to help him achieve his own personal goals. Shaun is self-serving, and self-centered, looking out for his own financial future and well being.

In the movie “Major League”, Corbin Bernsen’s character, Roger Dorn, was too worried about his own self worth, and financial future, to give everything he could to help his team. He wasn’t willing to risk personal injury “for a bunch of stiffs”. His attitude – there was life after baseball, and his current occupation was simply a stepping stone for product endorsements and superficial ownership of material things.

Wow, the movies can sometimes mirror reality.

A lot of people knock Shaun’s lack of pass rush blocking ability. I don’t think it’s a lack of ability, I think it’s a lack of heart. Not willing to risk injury that could potentially ruin his financial future.

One common complaint people have about Shaun is that he will fall down at even a hint of being hit. That he didn’t hit the holes hard, that he didn’t fight for the extra yards. While Shaun made major strides this year in correcting this perception, you have to wonder if it was all simply to again further his future worth – willing to expend a teeny bit of effort for one season to set himself up for his big payoff bonanza in March.

Now, for the disclaimer before the Shaun Alexander fans out there (and there are legions of them, especially alumni of the Crimson Tide) blow up in rage – I like Shaun, as a player. He obvious talents don’t need to be restated – his season ending statistics speak for themselves. I also respect his community involvement, and his faith.

But, it’s not important what I think, or what the fans think, or even his family thinks. The only real important group is his teammates. Shaun’s family is quite happy with Shaun Alexander, the God loving, church going family man who just so happens to have more money than they could ever need, and is going to earn even more. For the fans – well, they aren’t going to write his paychecks. I certainly am not. I don’t have to work with Shaun. But there are a handful of players on an NFL roster that rest their future on the team’s collective success, and to get that Super Bowl ring, everyone needs to “get it”, to put their own personal agenda’s aside to work together towards a common goal.

Unlike the movie Major League, it’s too late. There won’t be any miracle change of heart. The efforts Shaun did at the beginning of the year wasn’t enough to erase the year’s before. And when it most counted – when the Team finally accomplished something they had set out to do – win the Division – Shaun’s true colors finally were on display in all their green tinted Technicolor glory.

Shaun shouldn’t be back, despite his obvious skills. All the individual talent in the world won’t get this team to the promised land.

Glenn Geiss writes the Fan Noise column for Seahawks.NET every week. Feel free to send him feedback at Top Stories