Some of you may not know that in my private time, I run an advice column called Dear Uncle Nate where I listen to people’s problems and give well-thought, meaningful solutions. It’s a specialized column, because it seems that only NFL players and coaches write me questions. It’s obvious that my experience as a loud, unshowered blogger has impressed everyone. With great power comes great responsibility, so it’s time to throw away the loofa and answer some questions!
Dear Mr. Newton,
Congratulations on your win in Nashville this week. The Titans didn’t play well at all, and your Panthers played much better. Kudos to the Panthers.
This game happened to be my imaginary son’s first NFL experience. Yes, I turned the Panthers/Titans game on over the Saints/Redskins game for obvious reasons. I don’t want my son learning things that may harm his psyche, like the knowledge that Kirk Cousins actually can do well when going against an invisible defense.
Because of where we sat, we were able to see each play perfectly thanks to NFL television’s unprecedented production value. Our couch is also comfortable and I’ve trained my imaginary son to fetch me a beer which is not 9 dollars for a 12 oz cup. And we had great seats to watch your conduct in the 4th quarter. The chest puffs. The pelvic thrusts. The – hell, I know what it is because I’m not an out of touch mother: THE DABBING. We saw it all.
AND IT WAS AWESOME.I refuse to believe you don’t realize you are a role model. I need you in my life to show my imaginary child how to behave because I’ll undoubtedly be too busy trying to live my own life to do so.
And because you’re a role model, that’s why I’m so glad you did what you did. You realize football should be entertaining. And what’s more entertaining than displays of amazing skills and athleticism? Dancing after those displays.
My son sensed the change immediately – and started asking questions. Won’t he get celebrated for doing that? Is he trying to put on a show for the crowd? Do you think he knows he looks awesome?
I had clear answers for him: No, he’ll get vilified because the NFL has sucked fun out of its product. Yes, he’s trying to entertain the crowd. And yes, of course he knows he looks awesome.
Then my son and I looked at the cheerleaders instead and marveled at their boobs. I showed him the website where he could look at all of their pictures. I also showed him how to delete his search history.
I could tell my son was still thinking about it as I sent him to get me another beer. “I guess his mom is really proud of him,” he said. I agreed.
I don’t know about your family life, Mr. Newton, and I would never presume anything based on sneaky racist thinking. But I think I’m safe in saying thousands of kids watch you every week. You have amazing talent and really good dance moves. Fortunately, what you modeled for them this week was so fresh and so clean.
Is that what your coaches and mentors modeled for you, and if so, can I take lessons?
Someone Without a Stick Up Their Ass
So Rob Ryan is gone. Two years after his defense finished in the Top 5, his continuing failures and historically bad defenses have finally gotten him the axe in New Orleans. Most fans I know are pretty happy with the news, if only because they knew the defense was a major problem and are desperate for anything to change that.
But there’s another pocket of the fandom who is less enthusiastic about the firing. It’s not that they think Ryan is a fantastic coordinator. Their main argument is that the team has so many holes that addressing one issue won’t change the world. They’re right. But when they make this argument, they use a phrase that I can’t stand.
“It’s not only his fault the defense is so bad.”
Why do I hate this phrase? It’s technically right. Obviously it’s not only his fault.
But that’s why I hate it. I hate the phrase because it’s so fucking obvious.
A man sits at the edge of a cliff. His back is to the chasm, his body hunched forward. He clutches a small pick, his knuckles losing color as he works. He steadily drives the pick into the edge, his face blank, his eyes down. All that he is focused on is the work.
It started off innocently enough. Roger Goodell bungled Spygate. He “lost” the videotapes. He gave the Patriots a slap on the wrist. He pretty much said it was okay to cheat, but at the time it just seemed like he was duped. Big, powerful Belichick and Robert Kraft showed tiny, novice commissioner Roger Goodell who was really in charge. This is an owner’s league. Don’t try to fight for the players. Perhaps Goodell took that lesson a little too close to heart.
The man wipes sweat from his brow, but he keeps going. A few feet away, concerned villagers watch the man work. “Why is he seated on the cliff side of the fissure he’s making?” they whisper to one another. “He should be sitting at the other side. If he finally breaks that piece off…” their voices trail off. The only remaining sound is the pick, digging into the ground.
It became clear after some time that this wasn’t necessarily incompetence. If it was, he’d be gone by now. Goodell showed during Bountygate that public appearances are what matter. Black and white, good and evil, and evil is punished. Never mind the evil wasn’t categorically proven. Never mind the investigation was shoddy at best, intentionally bungled at worst. We want the public to know we do the right thing.
The crack is actually starting to materialize. The footing is still solid, but so is the line. The man doesn’t stop. He’s heard the whispers, of course. He knows that people think he’s wrong, that he’s dumb. He doesn’t care. Why would he? He’s running the show. He’s the one holding the pick. Why would anyone’s opinion matter?
Except when the NFL doesn’t want the public to know. Except when they mess up situations so badly that you almost feel bad for someone who beats women or children. (JK don’t feel bad for those dipshits). Somehow Goodell has listened to public opinion at some times and completely ignored it at others, all while consistently messing up enough to get his decisions appealed every single time. That’s the only part he always gets consistently: he loses his battles.
Confusion turns to anger and resentment. “What an idiot!” the villagers shout. They don’t try to whisper. They want him to know now. It isn’t just about the idiot who’s going to cut off a piece of the mountain, and himself with it. It’s the mountain itself. It was beautiful before he came along. It wasn’t perfect, but what is. But then he came along and steadily, almost imperceptibly, started putting cracks in it that anyone can see.
Jonathan Vilma. Greg Hardy. Anthony Hargrove. Adrian Peterson. Dashon Goldson. Ray Rice. Will Smith. Joshua McNary. Aqib Talib. Scott Fujita. Tom Brady. Ben Roethlisberger. Brandon Meriweather. Ndamukong Suh. Gregg Williams.
One villager in the back has been watching silently. Finally, he says, “If you really don’t agree with what he’s doing, why watch? Why stand here every day and watch him destroy something you love? He loves the attention. If you turn away, maybe he’ll stop. Maybe he’ll go away.” The other villagers throw fruit at him and continue to mourn their mountain.
The one-game suspension of Talib for purposefully and obviously poking Dwayne Allen in the eye is sad if only because we know what will happen. Talib plans to appeal. He’ll pretend it wasn’t intentional. And because this is how the NFL works, it will be overturned. Players who go toe to toe with Goodell win. But so does he.
With every swipe of the pick, the crack gets larger. People are waiting for the piece to tumble now. Some are doing it eagerly. They hunch with baited breath, praying for the rock to start to crumble. But no matter how many cracks he creates, the mountain is still standing. The man is still working.
Goodell has created an environment where he can do no right in the public eye. We all revile him and mock him for his decisions. But we still watch. We still pay. We still support. We still give him our power.
After what feels like decades, he’s still working. Previous swipes of the pick are erased by current ones. No one remembers how he got there. No one remembers the mountain before it was marred by cracks. And one by one, villagers finally start to turn away. Because after all this time, the mountain is no longer beautiful to look at. There are other things that require their attention.
One day, there will be a straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to the NFL. And it won’t be some devastating, unavoidable scandal. It will be something that simply shows what everyone has known for a few years now: Goodell can’t lead. And one day, eventually, that will be enough.
The man finally looks up. He observes his work, and then he looks up at the villagers. He only sees a few, and his eyes close. Sighing, he stands up and drops his pick. He takes one step backward, takes in the setting sun, and hurls himself off of the mountain. None of the villagers react.