Whatever your thoughts on sending porn via the internets -- even to consenting parties -- you have to wonder what the hell Zierlein was thinking. He's in a new job, playing for a first-year coach, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has showed in a very short time that he doesn't have much of a sense of humor about such things.
Personally, I don't have any real issue with Zierlein's intentions. I've had buddies forward me questionable stuff, I got a good chuckle, and moved on with my life. The difference, of course, is that my friends know enough to send salacious content to my non-work email, and more importantly, they know how to use e-mail.
I have no idea what kind of repercussions Zierlein might face, but I can't imagine it'll be much. ProFootballTalk.com writes that he tried several times (unsuccessfully) to recall the e-mail after he sent it to the NFL-ALL distribution list, and has since apologized. Yeah, it was stupid, but it's not like he brandished a firearm, beat the crap out of his girlfriend or failed a drug test (allegedly, of course).
You might be wondering how an NFL coach, who ostensibly has a keen understanding of very complex schemes, doesn't know how to use a computer. Well, let me tell you a story:
I went to graduate school at the University of Arizona in the late 1990s. One of my friends worked for the school and trained new students and employees on the university's computer system. Then-head football coach Dick Tomey and his assistants show up one day to learn what Larry Zierlein seemingly never did. As my friend discussed all the wonderful uses of the mouse, and how, like the wheel, it made life infinitely easier, he instructed his pupils to give it a test drive. Left-clicks, double-clicks, drag-and-drops, whatever. Tomey followed every instruction except one ... he had the mouse pressed up against the computer screen. Here's a guy in charge of a Division I football program, competing in one of the best conferences in the nation and he thought the mouse only worked when in contact with the monitor.
I'm guessing nobody worried about him sending e-mail porn. That he was fired in 2000 shouldn't really come as a surprise, though that doesn't bode well for Zierlein.
We'll probably never know who Zierlein's message was originally intended, but part of me hopes it's Richard Seigler. The other part of me hopes it's some kind of conspiracy theory. I fully expect Zierlein to be caught on hidden camera sending the e-mail, it later proves to be part of some elaborate sting orchestrated by a disgruntled ex-employee, and then, when Zierlein realizes he's been found out utters, (to paraphrase the great Marion Barry) "That [Russ Grimm] set me up!"
In other, less scandalous news, Joey's coming to town November 26. Reading the story makes me wonder how much the Steelers will miss Porter. Say what you want about his diminished skills -- and it's hard to refute that he slipped in 2006 as a pass rusher -- but his teammates looked up to him, he was a leader, and above all else, loyal.
This is the NFL, though, and there's no time for sentimentality. Ultimately, it's about the bottom line and the Steelers weren't interested in paying Porter what the Dolphins were in such a hurry to do. He understood that and I think Alan Faneca understands that too, though he has a funny way of showing it. Other than him drawing attention to his soon-to-be-expiring contract with all the subtlety of a Larry Zierlein e-mail, I don't have a problem with him raising the issue. I think it's funny, however, that all it took was a 15-minute interview to turn Faneca from quiet team leader to selfish professional athlete. And Porter, with his gracious remarks about his former team, goes from big-mouthed lout to "a locker room presence that will be sorely missed." I guess time and perspective are funny that way.
I don't necessarily agree with this perception, but to quote Bill Cowher, "It is what it is." Knowing that Faneca asked for a trade in February, I'm curious if this came up as part of the Ben Roethlisberger-Mike Tomlin dinner date Peter King described in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated:
"I was brutally honest," Roethlisberger recalls. "I told him a lot of guys on the team were unhappy that Russ [Grimm] or Wiz [Whisenhunt] hadn't gotten the job. I told him I thought he was behind the eight ball a little bit, and he was going to have to earn the guys' respect and trust. It was a little tense. The food came, and it just sat there for a minute because we were really into the conversation."The notion that the star quarterback and the new coach might be getting too chummy before the team even held its first practice didn't sit well with some Steelers fans. Neither did the idea of Roethlisberger serving as the team's de facto spokesman. I didn't think it was a big deal when I first read it and it still doesn't bother me. Fifteen of my first 20 years on this earth were spent playing organized sports, and me and my roommates even got the bright idea to coach Little League as 25-year-olds living in Boston.
I bring this up to illustrate why it is sometimes important to have one player serve as the spokesperson -- even if they are self-appointed -- for the rest of the team. Anyone who's played Little League knows the rules stipulate that everybody on the team gets to play a few innings. It's a good idea in theory, but when you have kids on your team who don't want to play -- their folks signed them up to get them out of the house -- well, weird stuff happens.
Late during one game, with the outcome all but determined, we put "Ray" in to play left field. Ray was probably one of the nicest kids on the team, and maybe the smartest. We all liked him, but he wasn't much of an athlete ... and he knew it. Because of that, Ray didn't want to be out there -- he was perfectly content to sit on the bench and monkey around with his buddies -- but rules are rules, and God forbid we violated one of them and had to forfeit a game we were sure to lose anyway (nothing like salt in the wound).
Whatever, Ray's out there in left field paying attention to everything except the game, and after we finally get three outs and the players make their way to the dugout, one of his teammates informs us that while in the outfield, Ray had decided to relieve himself. Instead of holding it like you might expect most nine- and ten-year-olds, Ray decided to multitask: he'd play left field and pee (Moises Alou woulda been proud, I'm sure). Luckily, Ray had the common decency to pee in his pants and saved us all the horror of the alternative.
The point, I guess, is that as the coach, I appreciated Ray's teammate sharing that little nugget. It didn't mean he was a tattletale, it meant that he was a concerned friend who told the coaches something Ray was too embarrassed to. We pulled Ray from the game, got him cleaned up, and everybody had a good laugh about it at the next practice. In my mind, Roethlisberger was just letting Tomlin know which players on the roster are battling incontinence. He's not doing it to be malicious, but just to avoid any potentially embarrassing situations down the road. Either that or he's ratting out his teammates. It's definitely one or the other.