The NFL, in many ways, isn't all that different from the CIA or the Mafia. Information gets out on a "need to know" basis, and for roughly 100 percent of cases, it's deemed you don't need to know. It's covert stuff. Move along. There's nothing to see here.
One of the reasons the NFL draws that comparison is that the product it sells quite successfully is the movement of human beings. Players come. Players go. But along the fine line between "family" and "it's not personal, it's only business" there are some things that can make it a little personal.
Despite the military connection, Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors program is personal. The non-profit organization was created specifically to raise money to build or modify homes for the men and women of the United States military that were irreparably injured in the line of duty to their country and its ideals. It doesn't have the marketing arm of the United Way or the organizational voguish of the Crescent Moon Foundation. It was a charity discovered in Allen's heart and brought to fruition by an inner circle of is closest friends.
Had Allen not opted to bring that first conversation to reality, nobody would have known. No one would have held it against him if he had opted to simply cash his paychecks and not "give back." That's not a condition of employment. With Jared Allen, it was a duty he felt.
On Tuesday, Allen, by his own admission, checked the ESPN bottom-screen crawl to see if he had been traded. A week from today, Allen will host his annual Helping Heroes Gala – a high-end fundraiser at the Depot Renaissance Hotel in downtown Minneapolis.
Had Allen been traded, who knows if the gala would have gone on? The gala was scheduled for Nov. 8 because the Vikings have a Thursday night game against the Artist Potentially Formerly Known As the Redskins. Allen and "his people" scheduled a humanitarian-beyond-the-norm event the day after he has gone into athletic battle twice in five days. Friday is going to be tough for Allen and his teammates as they recover from their "battles." Friday night, he'll host to an event that will benefit people who likely have yet to meet him – but will forever be impacted by his guardian angel efforts. That's who he is. He even got a fresh haircut, resulting into a discussion of how long and luxurious Jesus' "salad" was – The Ultimate Mullet. Not kidding. That's Jared Unplugged.
To make a long story short – too late – had Allen been traded Tuesday, the "it's not personal, it's only business" part of the NFL mantra would have been personal. Not for the Vikings. Business is business. Not even for Allen – he knew the nomadic existence he was signing on for when he came to the NFL. As thousands of players have repeated, "It is what it is." Where it gets personal is that, on Nov. 8, a lot of money is going to be raised that is going to help people who paid more of a price than they bargained for in service of their country. In some ways, their own government has failed them.
That's where Allen stepped in five years ago. He saw an inequity and sought to fix it – one family at a time. As the numbers increase, the "rock-in-a-still-pond" concentric circles of possibilities get wider. Three homes this year. Five next year. Nine the year after that.
Will it fill the gap completely for wounded warriors in need of assistance? No. It's a drop in the rainstorm. But, it's a flashpoint that can get others charitably active. The circles get wider if the rock is big enough.
In the multi-billion-dollar juggernaut the NFL has become, there are still grass-roots "just because I want to" initiatives that bring home the value of having the NFL in Minnesota. Of the homes that Allen has raised money to help construct or modify for injured vets, Minnesota has been a focal point of those selected. Had Allen never come to the Vikings, those families would not have benefitted.
You can put a price on a lot of things. A gallon of gas … wait for it. The cost of a ticket for a fan proudly wearing a No. 69 jersey. The cost of Allen's 2013 contract. The value other teams placed on Allen. They all have "business" pros and cons. For those in attendance at next Friday's gala, significant money will be raised. Had Allen been traded, that likely wouldn't have happened.
Philanthropy comes in all sorts. A week from tonight, a lot of money will be raised on behalf of people that, to date, have never met Jared Allen. Had he been traded, it wouldn't have happened. It would have been a missed opportunity. He wasn't. They will. Their lives will be better as the result.
Granted, it's only business. But, when it comes to changing lives unilaterally, it does get personal. It's a good thing Allen is still a Viking – for reasons beyond the obvious.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Holler: Allen stays, wounded warriors benefit
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