Monday, May 31, 2010

Happy Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day we honor the service of our soldiers who paid the ultimate price in the fight for both our security and our freedom. Thank you isn't a strong enough phrase to convey our appreciation. On a personal note I'm thankful that a good friend is on the way home safe and sound from a tour overseas and I pray for those still in harm's way. Happy Memorial Day!!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Praying For A Miracle: NY Superbowl Edition

I was on twitter last night minding my own business when I happened across this tweet by Chris Mortensen of ESPN:

Only legit argument against NY/NJ is that it's a QB/offense driven league & wind (not snow) is neutralizing element. That's life in NFL.

Now because it looks as if the Superbowl bid going to New York/New Jersey is a forgone conclusion I hadn't felt the need to weigh in on whether I thought it was a good idea or a bad idea, but since Mortensen is saying that there's only one legitimate argument against it I figured I would go ahead and give my two cents.

Its not a bad idea, its a turrible idea!

And yes I used my Charles Barkley voice.

Let me first begin by stating the obvious case against it. Its cold.

I'm going to repeat that.

It's COLD.

I grew up in Memphis under the illusion that I actually liked cold weather. See I had this philosophy that no matter how hot it got outside there were only so many clothes you could take off before you got in trouble. But if its cold you can always just put on more layers.

Sounds good right?

Yeah, that worked right up until I spent a year on the roster of the New York Jets. That philosopher worked for "Memphis cold", but New York cold laughed at my ass.

Right to my face.

I know that New York folks will now come at me calling me all kindsa punks for hating the cold weather. Well guess what? I'll be that. But what we all have to acknowledge is that it being oppressively cold outside does not make for a a great tourist experience.

And make no mistake about it, yeah there's a game played during Superbowl week but Superbowl is about a LOT more than just the game.

I realize there will be tons of things to do in terms of night life and there are certain very high profile tourist attractions you can visit indoors, but answer me this. What in hell are most average fans in town to "experience" a Superbowl going to do during the day?

See I know what they do during the day when the Superbowl is in San Diego or Miami, or Tampa or New Orleans. They go take the kids to the many football camps in and around the city. They go visit the NFL Experience. They walk around downtown star watching/drinking/networking etc. If there's a beach involved that's always a popular hangout during the day.

Who in hell is going to walk outside in New York or New Jersey in late January early February for anything other than an emergency?

For this Superbowl to work from a fan's perspective everybody involved will have to pray to Al Gore that global warming not only exists (believe me it does) but that it will also greatly accelerate just in time for it to be nice and toasty in New York and New Jersey in the winter of 2014 (believe me it won't).

Don't get me wrong, I realize and appreciate the stature New York has as a media mecca and one of the major cities of the world, not just the United States. But there is one thing that negates all of that.

Its going to be cold!

But understand this, it being cold is but just one problem I have with the Superbowl being in NY/NJ. Can't we keep it real for a minute? New York is and always will be a target for terrorists. Now I am not of the mind that we should live our lives in fear of these idiots and their warped religious ideology, but facts are facts. For what every reason they are almost singularly obsessed with attacking that city. Having a Superbowl there is almost like putting kobe steak in front of a pitbull. Now I have full faith in the both the NYC police force and our federal government to protect New York from an attempted terrorist attack during the Superbowl, but have you thought about the measures they will have to take in order to do so?

If you think you hated flying before, just wait until you try to fly in to JFK or La Guardia for Superbowl. Imagine the show of force they will necessarily have to have around all league sponsored events. Hell I wouldn't be surprised if they either totally or partially closed down Times Square for that matter.

And really, could you blame them?

Again this is just the reality of the situation. Oh and by the way all of that security is going to cost a LOT of money for all you arm chair deficit hawks out there. Freedom isn't free after all.

So those are two of the negative aspects of the decision from a fan's perspective, but what about the game. Is it true that the only on the field worry that is legitimate is that wind is a neutralizing element in a quarterback driven league?



That's maybe the most naive take I have ever seen from a guy who generally is actually pretty reasonable.

You know who the snow and cold and wind might effect more than the quarterback?


But it's not just that this game is inviting an outcome decided by a bad long snap, a poor hold, or a slip right as the kicker makes contact.

No, the weather conditions will affect all of the players.

When its cold its not only hard to throw the ball, its also hard to catch it. And then after catching it, its hard to keep hold of it. Ball security will be the biggest loser in this game. And remember that historically its not just cold you have to be worried about in NY/NJ in February. There's this stuff called snow, and its white and wet and it can cause all kinds of chaos on a football field.
Tuck rule anyone?
Oh and if it snows hard enough no amount of HD in the world will make watching the game an enjoyable experience.

Also you know what players have a hard time doing in the cold?


Some of the worst tackling games you will ever see happen in sub freezing temperatures. Again, this is a fact, not just conjecture. Imagine trying to tackle a physical back like Adrian Peterson or Frank Gore when its 15 degrees outside.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Speaking of which, the league whilst praying to our former Vice President had better also cross their fingers that two iconic teams play in that game. Hey if its a Cowboys/Steelers game, cool. If its the Patriots/Giants, its all good. If its the Vikings/Jets, no problem.

But what if its the Seahawks and the Panthers? Or how about the Titans and the Lions?

Man do you REALLY think you are going to see a bunch of Panther's fans in New York kicking it? Do you really think the Titans have that kind of following?

If one of the local teams gets in or one of those teams with big followings gets in then yeah you might get a sold out stadium of die hard fans willing to sit in the cold and cheer on their team to victory. If anybody else gets in they will have to hire people to sit in the stand like they do at the Oscars.

But I digress.

How about a more practical concern like.....logistics?

Where exactly are the two teams supposed to practice for two weeks? And please don't give me some cockamamie answer about practicing in a bubble. I've practiced in a bubble before and you ain't getting a lot done inside a bubble. NFL teams generally practice on two separate football fields, one for offense and one for defense. If you think a team is going to get the kind of preparation they need to play in the biggest game of their season if not for some of them their career practicing in a bubble I'm going to need you to pee in a cup.

So you're going to have two potentially woefully underprepared teams playing in probably much less than ideal conditions in the biggest game of the year not just for them but also for the league.


I know there are a bunch of coaches and GMs and owners coming out publicly to support the bid but really what else could they do at this point? If they know its going to happen why fight upstream just to invite scorn and ridicule? But understand this, if and when this game goes off and its an epic failure a lot of those same folks pumping it up in front of the cameras will be behind the scenes whispering "I told you so".

Now I will join everybody else in praying for a miracle that the game goes off without a hitch because I don't want to see the Superbowl fail in any year or in any city. But there are definitely a bunch of legitimate reason to not support this bid. To say that there aren't is to have a total disregard for reality and the facts on the ground. Sorry Mort but I can't drink that kool aid.

Friday, May 21, 2010

If You're Going To Call Someone Out, Go All The Way

I ran across a blog post about the Redskins that is probably not all that important in the grand scheme of things but I wanted to point out something interesting that happened inside of it.

The topic was Albert Haynesworth, or rather the topic was Rod Woodson and Solomon Wilcox calling Albert Haynesworth out on the NFL Network. Now this is pretty common place these days and I won't wade into the merits of those who think he is wrong for sitting out the offseason program and those who think he is well within his rights to do so. But I do want to examine something Wilcox said and then the blogger, Dan Steinberg's, fact check of it.

Solomon Wilcox made this claim:

"Can I just say this?" Wilcots requested. "Go back and play the soundbites at his press conference when he signed his contract. He said, 'I'm here to do whatever the Redskins need me to do to win.' Now they need him to play a zero technique, and he's kind of changing his game a little bit. But he did cash the check."

I could go all day arguing over whether Haynesworth taking the money means he should do whatever the team asks of him but instead Id like to focus on whether or not he actually said he would do "whatever the Redskins need me to do to win."

Steinberg took a look back at Haynesworth's presser and found these quotes.

"After talking to the coaches, I didn't talk about any money, I was talking to the coaches and seeing ˜How are you going to use me?' Regardless of the money, I wanted to see how they were going to use me, so I wouldn't just go someplace and be another guy. I wanted to be that same player, that dominant guy, and if you're going to use me that way, that's where I want to go....

"If you look at my game, I'm a player that goes straight forward. I'm a disruptive player, I take on the double-team, I free up other guys, and that's what I want to play like. I want to be able to attack my guy, make plays, and everybody to make plays off me. So that's what I want to do. I want to do the same thing I did in Tennessee, but now I'm surrounded by a star-studded cast in my defense here.

Now unless there is a part of Haynesworth's presser where he contradicted himself its pretty clear that from this section of what he said that how he would be used within the defense was a primary driver of where he would sign. Now Haynesworth could have just been blowing smoke, but what he said is what he said. It appears that Solomon Wilcox totally pulled that "whatever the Redskins need me to do" quote out of his ass and made it up out of whole cloth. Since Steinberg himself was the one performing the fact check on the quote I would have thought he would have used it to blast Wilcox and call him out. I was wrong.

Want to know what came after the quotes?

So that's at least part of what he said. Either way, Haynesworth's camp is sure losing this PR war.

Excuse me but uhmmm WHAT THE FUCK?!

Why go through the trouble of digging up the quotes to fact check Wilcox if you aren't going to point out that it refutes what Wilcox said? Especially when the words Wilcox attributed to Haynesworth seemed to only serve the purpose to try to make his refusal to give the Redskins new 3-4 scheme a try just that more egregious?

I can understand that maybe Steinberg was worried that by pushing back too hard he might be seen as defending Haynesworth but really it would just be him doing his job. If he is going to go through the trouble of fact checking Wilcox and in fact finding information that shows what Wilcox said was false, he can't then just back off and leave it to the reader to decide who was right and who was wrong. No matter if people are on Haynesworth's side or the Redskins' side of this argument some things are set out in black and white and if a member of the media lies or misspeaks its up to other members of the media to point that out. Just the same way that if Haynesworth lied about something pertaining to Solomon Wilcox or Rod Woodson I would expect the media to call him out as well. That, to me, is all a part of the job.

I just wish someone would start doing it...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

My Sit Down With Stylez G. White

(crossposted over at

Over the course of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 3-13 season last year there were only a few bright spots. Without a doubt, one of those bright spots was the play of defensive end Stylez G. White. In a season that most would want to totally forget, his ability to get after the quarterback was one of the few reasons the fans had to get up and cheer, especially on defense.

Of course Tampa Bay fans know the story of how the former number four pick in the draft, Gaines Adams may he rest in peace, was traded away which finally afforded White an opportunity to start after having racked up 13 sacks as a reserve the previous two seasons. But there are two things you probably didn't know. For one, the move came as much to a shock to White as it did to anyone.

"I was out man", he said, "and when I heard about it I had no idea. I would not think Gaines, may he rest in peace, he was gonna be traded. And when I heard about it I was kind of floored like what? Know what I mean? It was like, ok so now what are we doing? You know I'm like did we trade him for anybody? Did we get somebody else in? A whole bunch of things just ran through my mind. I was just really confused and afterwards I just have to wait and see what they're gonna do. Bring in a new guy? Am I gonna be the guy they go to? So it was a whole bunch of emotions that night."

But the second thing you probably didn't know was even more shocking. It turns out nobody actually sat down and talked to Stylez about what his role would be after the trade. When I asked him how they broke the news to him he said, "First they never told me anything. They never told me anything. Ok well I didn't really believe that I was going to start until the the day of. Like that Sunday."

In some ways I was shocked to hear that it was handled this way because I would have thought the coaching staff would have wanted to make the transition go as smoothly as possible especially after such a disastrous, winless, start to the season. but in many ways it made sense. By avoiding telling him he had the starting job nailed down perhaps it would keep the fire in his belly. And if it affected White he certainly didn't show it. He made the analogy that "it was like the first day I made the team. No one was like 'Hey Stylez, you made the team!' It was one of those things like know what I mean like alright we'll keep it moving. It was just one of those things you know."

One thing that was for certain after talking to him was that White was obviously affected by the disappointing way the season went. Having experienced the 6-10 season that first year under Coach Dungy I found myself nodding my head as he talked about his personal low point of last year. When he said, "The lowest point I had I think it was when we were 0-7 or something like that. It was was bad It was bad and I was like man. You don't even wanna go out. You don't even wanna go grocery shopping." I almost had a flashback myself. I can still vividly remember going out only when necessary and even then keeping my head down just in case a miracle might happen and somebody would recognize me as a Buccaneer. Losing always sucks, but especially when its in such a spectacular fashion.

So many fans don't really get just how much the game means to most players. For fans NFL football is something to watch on Sunday afternoons and Monday evenings. For them its their life and what they eat sleep and breath. The fact is as disappointed as we are as fans after a loss, just about all the players are more disappointed by a factor of a million. They are the ones who put in the work all week, every day in the hot sun and with the pressure of the world it seems upon them. And then you go through all that and you feel like that day will be the day when you get the monkey off your back and when it doesn't happen its terribly demoralizing. As Stylez himself put it "You know it was embarrassing. It was just embarrassing man. We couldn't generate a win. We couldn't stop anybody and people came in and I don't care how bad they were the week before they came in and you know pretty much like wiping their feet on us. It was pretty bad. It was very embarrassing. I'm sure the rest of the guys agree."

But in the midst of it all there was a calming force that kept the team together according to White. It wasn't because they were holding hands and singing kumbaya, and it wasn't because a lot of guys were playing for contracts. No, the calming force was in fact head coach Raheem Morris, something that should give Bucs fans some confidence going into this year.

"I can tell you this from the inside it was a little chatter here and there. And when it was getting to a point where it was like ok blah blah blah you know that's when Raheem stepped in. He was like, 'well if y'all got problems why don't y'all talk about it. Don't go tell don't go whisper in somebody else ear, you come talk to em like a man.' And he was like 'if you have a problem with me he or anybody else on the team come talk to me about it. Don't be bitching about stuff. And whispering. If you got something to say say it. Period.' And I think everybody took you know took to that and everybody was like alright well maybe we need to help him out. You know maybe we need to relax. He said all of y'all who thinks that y'all might be pointing fingers I'm sure that y'all didn't have a great season either."

For me it was gratifying as a former Bucs player and as a fan to hear it from somebody actually inside the locker room just how instrumental Coach Morris was in keeping the team together and keeping them playing hard and for each other in the face of what had to be a very miserable season for all.

How miserable did it get on defense? Well at some point even the littlest things were moral builders. White told me, "Just to have a three and out. The first time we had a three and out was huge for us." That ladies and gentlemen tells the whole story because in the past getting a three and out was a given for our defense. Last year it was a relief.

Of course eventually the conversation turned to Jim Bates and his scheme. Stylez himself admitted that at least initially he was excited about the scheme because for the defensive ends there wasn't any talk about having to two gap or anything like that. For them the focus was going to be pass rushing which is, of course, right up his ally. But when I asked him what the problem in his opinion was of the scheme he had a pretty simple answer. It was too predictable.

"I think the fact that it was I think from an offensive perspective when you're talking about us playing its that we were so predictable that it was easier for people to gash us. That's how I felt about the situation." he said.

On the other hand White was also somewhat supportive of Bates as well though and he again made the point that perhaps we just didn't have the personnel to run his system, a fair point I would agree. I would say it comes down to what direction the team was going and how, when and or if they would ever actually have the players needed to make that scheme work.

I asked him what he felt like we needed to do going into this season to improve our defense and more specifically our run defense which ranked dead last in the NFL. He responded by referencing the team's draft picks in Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, and Myron Lewis along with the confidence everybody now has in Coach Morris and his scheme. But he also made reference to some old school tenants of football. He said, "We gotta be more consistent. We got to play more together ball. And we just have to be unselfish. I think mainly as coach would say we gotta be disciplined. Once we do that everything will take care of itself." I think if most teams on any level followed that advice, they would almost have to see some improvement.

And White has also taken a hard look in the mirror and even though he played at a high level last year he identified for me some areas he wants to improve this year. "Being quicker. Being quicker off the ball. Being more creative with my pass rush. That's just gonna help us win. Getting sacks and fumbles, making them turn the ball over. I wanted to become quicker so I got a little slimmer lost a little weight worked on my footwork. Being 30 about to be 31 this year I want to be more in shape and in better condition. And I think the rest will take care of itself because I believe I'm pretty good skillfully and just being in better condition allowing me to stay out there longer, go a little harder it will pay off."

White has taken up boxing in the offseason to help him improve in many of these areas and he believes his production will go up tremendously this year. His response to my question about his personal goals this year was anything but bashful. "I want to have more fumbles whether it be from running backs (or quarterbacks). Definitely want double digit sacks. Anywhere from ten to a thousand, I'll take it. I'm looking for double digit sacks I'm looking for us to win a lot more games than three. I'm looking for us to even go deep into the playoffs. And you know what, that's attainable. Its a pretty big goal but its attainable"

Stylez White knows that most people, from fans to pundits, would be skeptical of the Bucs making a playoff run this year. He himself admitted that its still not apparent what this team will be because of their youth, the roster turnover and the fact that they will have to rely on so many rookies, highly drafted or not. But as we spoke it was apparent that he would not be setting his sights lower just because others are. He is committed to helping to turn the team's fortunes around and you get the definite impression that he won't accept anything less.

He also gave a strong endorsement of defensive line coach Todd Wash, albeit in his signature tongue in cheek fashion:

"I don't like working with him cuz he makes me work hard (laughing)I'll tell you that in a heartbeat. I can not stand working for Wash. Wash makes you work so hard like were the only guys that be out there and he'll be like I'm going to tell you like this if were going to win its going to be because of us up front and I'm going to make y'all work harder than anybody on our defense so y'all can be that type of defense. And I'll be real with you, the only thing he wants is the best out of me. But he be killing me. Like coach take it easy man I'm 30 years old. (laughing)"

"He also wants us to know what kind of plays are being run so when were on the sidelines we can communicate better. Like if you have a run block. Instead of saying you had 2 guys on you well what kind of block was it? Was it a straight double team was it a rub block did they scoop you?. He needs those terms so we can communicate with him. He makes us a better more well rounded football player so when were talking we can communicate better. ....He makes us work hard and we need it. we definitely need it."

Considering we haven't heard a lot about Wash in the regular media outlets here in the Tampa Bay area, it was definitely reassuring, to me at least, to hear such a high opinion of him from one of his best charges.

Our talk then turned to the two defensive linemen the Bucs spent their first two draft picks on in McCoy and Price and I wanted to know how he felt he could help those guys. His reply was very interesting because he used himself as an example and I thought he made a good point.

For those who don't know or had forgotten, Stylez had a very circuitous route to the NFL. He was initially drafted by the Houston Texans but after that he spent time on at least 5 other teams', including the Buccaneers', practice squad. He spent some time in NFL Europe and he spent two years playing Arena Football one of which he was the defensive player of the year and broke the league sack record with 15. But for him it wasn't about guys taking him under their wing. For him it was about watching some of the great ones he was fortunate to be around and then asking them a bunch of questions to help himself get better.

"When I came in in 2002 I saw how Simeon (Rice) worked and I would ask him questions. I saw how (Warren) Sapp worked and I asked him questions And they were all really good about helping out. I remember Sapp telling me that when you're pass rushing you only want to deal with half of a body. He told me all you want to deal with is half a body because I know for sure my whole body will beat your half body. He told me that and that's what I learned from him."

"So I ask and go from there. What should I do? Can I do it this way? What about that way? So if I have any advice for the young guys I guess its to ask questions."

I know that many of us, myself included, tend to over use the notion of older players "mentoring" the younger guys, but as White pointed out, many times those guys have to be willing to ask for help. A closed mouth doesn't get fed after all.

Even to this day Stylez continues to try to improve his own game by studying the moves of other great pass rushers past and present. He singled out Michael Strahan as a guy he really pays attention to because Strahan was a technician rather than a guy who relied heavily on just athletic ability or brute strength. The point he made was that you can teach a guy how to use great technique and be a successful pass rusher but you can't necessarily teach a guy to run as fast as a guy like Dwight Freeney and then spin all over the place.

On a side note I asked him about using a spin move more this year, something that I really endorse for him, and after a little hesitance initially from him and a little prodding from me he gave me this classic quote.

"If its going to help me get sacks I'm on it. If I gotta breakdance to get sacks or more pressures I'll do it."

One of Coach Morris' tweaks to the defense after he took over was adding some 3-4 schemes to help get pressure in definite passing situations. Stylez is that rare defensive end who is perhaps just as good rushing the passer on one side as he is the other and he really seemed to take to rushing the passer from a stand up position so I asked him about whether or not he was looking forward to doing more of that kind of thing this year.

"You know what, it was fun. It was fun. I like my hand in the ground though. I'll tell you that much, but it was fun. I'm looking forward to it this year. Its a different aspect of the game."

Of course if he can show the versatility to stand up and rush the passer as well as playing a traditional 4-3 defensive end spot that will likely make him a more attractive target for other teams in free agency next year. With the Bucs opting not to resign him at this point I asked him about the pressure of playing for a new contract and if Tampa was going to be his first choice if he ends up hitting free agency at the end of the season. His answers were in my opinion exactly what most fans would want to hear from one of their favorite players.

"At this point I think I have a lot of pressure on myself but this is what I'm doing. All I'm going to try to do is control what I can control. Being in shape, like I said I think I'm pretty good skillfully. Being quicker, honing my skills more."

"Its pressure but its football. I'd rather have it. I'd rather have it where the game is on the line it be on me."

As for resigning with Tampa being a priority he told me, "There's no question about that. This is where I want to be. Is this where I want my career to end? Yes. No question about that. Definitely. But again I can't worry about things I can't control. I'll just try to put myself in the best situation I can. And if its not here it will be unfortunate but it won't be here. I understand that its a business."

Considering all the current hoopla about Lebron James and where he may land as a free agent its refreshing to my ears to hear a guy express that strong a sentiment about staying with a team that first provided him an opportunity. Selfishly I hope that if he goes out and has the type of season he has predicted and which I think he has the potential to have, the Buccaneers will step up and do the right thing.

At the end of our discussion the conversation turned to legacy and what he wanted his legacy to be both on and off the field here in Tampa. Both answers give a glimpse into the strong character of the man as much as the player.

I referenced an interview up on where Stylez said he wanted to make the Pro Bowl and win Defensive Player Of The Year when asking him about his legacy on the field. But instead of pointing to an award he said what he really wanted is to be remembered as a great teammate. Whether making a lot of plays or even if he gets passed up on the depth chart due to injury or another guy just being better than him, he wants everyone to remember that he first and foremost he wanted to help all his teammates and he wanted to see his team do well regardless of his own personal achievements.

Off the field White has his own foundation named the "Better Us Foundation" which has a Shining Stars Program designed to "keep youth off the streets and provide for a safe, healthy social life." Stylez has partnered up with the Boys and Girls Club and sits on their Board of Directors. You can hear in his voice just how important to him this venture is to him and how committed he is to making a difference in the lives of these young men and women. He wants to learn all that he can from the Boys and Girls Club which has been a remarkable institution for decades and apply those lessons to his own foundation and try to leave that same kind of mark in the world.

As impressed as I already was with Stylez White as a player before the interview, my respect only grew for him as the conversation went on. He says the kinds of things that would make any serious football fan want to pull for him and see him do well. Of course talk is cheap in the NFL and so it remains to be seen just how well he and his team will do this year. But as for me while I may remain skeptical about a deep run into the playoffs I have to admit talking to the guy made me at least consider it which is more than I had previously done. And that's saying something.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Who Is Going To Be Our Backup QB And What Does It Mean?

My good friends over at JoeBucsFan posted about an article on ostensibly about Jevan Snead's chances of sticking with the team but also with some interesting comments about Josh Johnson. Now as I was reading the article a different thought came to mind and so I put it in the comments section. I kinda feel like I got carried away but also made some good points so I decided to put it up here as a post unto itself. Check it out.

Most of yall know that one of the things I rail against is the media just mindlessly regurgitating team talking points without ever examining them. Nothing has pissed me off more than how the team was able to get away with trashing Antonio Bryant in an effort to obscure the fact that the primary reason they didn’t resign him had to do with money. Not route running or being a diva, but money. And the media enabled it without every taking a skeptical stance towards the evolving arguments the Bucs had against resigning Bryant.

Well one talking point of course has been that the Bucs have plenty of money and can and will spend as they see fit. They say they aren’t spending money now because supposedly there were no good free agents available. Well that’s all fine and good but what proof of that is there?

Not much.

Several positions where we have a need there were young productive players available via free agency and we never even got in the game.

But even if you buy that I feel and felt like there is one major position that would really tell the tale on where we are financially. I tweeted to the TBO reporters in response to one of their tweets about our probable/possible interest in Marc Bulger that if the Bucs did not sign a veteran QB to backup Freeman this year it would be the surest sign that money is an issue. They never responded but I stand by that.

Unless you have Peyton Manning or Brett Favre as your QB, guys that never missed a game during their career, you had better have a good vet backing your starter. And I say that being a fan of Josh Johnson. The truth is none of us know how durable Freeman will be let alone if he might falter this year. Not having a guy behind him that has wins in the NFL under their belt is a recipe for disaster. And truthfully I don’t necessarily buy that he needs a baby sitter/mentor, but he DOES need a guy who has been there and done that who can step in if needed and can also push him work ethic wise and film room wise. We still have time yet but if we don’t sign anybody to fill that role before the season the media should NEVER repeat the talking point that the Bucs can spend money as they please ever again.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Calling Bullshit On The Dez Bryant Story Explanation

I kept telling myself I wouldn't post about this subject but it kept bothering me.

I kept hoping someone else would make the points I would have made but it never happened or at least I never saw it.

So after more than a week of putting it off here is my take on the Dez Bryant/Jeff Ireland story.
The leaked Dolphin's story about how the conversation went was bullshit.

The End.

Oh wait, you were expecting more than that?

Ok well lets take it from the top.

The story starts about a week before the draft when Michael Silver writes a story about Dez Bryant. The story is supposed to be about how people have the wrong impression about Bryant since he was suspended for lying about a lunch he had at Deion Sanders' house and because of his rough upbringing. But somewhere along the way Bryant gave a glimpse into how crazy things had gotten for him through the draft evaluation process.

The media criticism has been frustrating, but some of the probing from prospective employers has been downright offensive to Bryant. During one visit, the receiver sat in the office of a franchise’s high-level executive and was asked a shocking question.

“They asked me if my mom’s a prostitute,” Bryant says, an account that was confirmed by Wells, who attended the meeting. “No, my mom is not a prostitute. I got mad – really mad – but I didn’t show it. I got a lot of questions like that: Does she still do drugs? I sat and answered all of them.”

At the time that I read this article I immediately said to myself and others that there is no way to justify asking a man if his mom is a prostitute.

I still stand by that.

See its a nice clinical and sterilized way of saying it when you say "Is your Mom a prostitute" but the translation is still the same. "Did your Mom fuck for money?"

Try asking a random person either of those questions today and see where that gets you.

I can't speak for everyone but for me and the people I grew up with and hang with to this day there are certain lines you don't cross. And this isn't about being "gangsta" or "hood". One of my best friends is a Vice President at a bank but if you say something disrespectful about his mother he's going to lay hands on you and I am no different. It is what it is.

Now maybe the story ends right there if Silver never posts a follow up item on the situation. After all not that many people were up in arms after the initial column so my bet is that it would have blown over.

But he did and it didn't.

Here is how Silver "outed" the unnamed executive who asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute:

Last Wednesday, the night before he was selected 24th overall by the Cowboys, former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant(notes) told me that during one of his predraft visits, a high-level executive of one NFL franchise had asked him if his mother, Angela, was a prostitute.

“No, my mom is not a prostitute,” said Bryant, whose background – including his mother’s lifestyle and past legal troubles – was under great scrutiny prior to the draft. “I got mad – really mad – but I didn’t show it.”

The offender was Ireland, who on Monday declined to comment on the matter. Harvey Greene, the Dolphins’ senior vice president of media relations, said, “It’s our organizational policy that we don’t discuss publicly the process we use to evaluate potential draft choices.”

That’s a wise idea given the demeaning, offensive and possibly actionable evaluation process that was used to assess Bryant’s fitness to catch passes for Miami, a franchise which apparently holds nothing sacred in such contexts.

Pretty strong words from Silver there. But to emphasize a point it was SILVER who wrote this followup of his own volition and it was his words not Bryant's in this column calling out Jeff Ireland of the Miami Dolphins. For all I know Dez Bryant may have used a lot stronger words to describe Ireland, Lord knows I probably would have. But whether he would have or not is moot because he didn't, Silver did.

The firestorm after this revelation was righteous. And by righteous I mean it was of great magnitude AND it was warranted. There are just some things that are out of bounds and asking if a guy's Mom is a ho is pretty close to the top of that list.

Ireland, for his part, obviously recognized he was wrong. How do I know this? Because he called Dez Bryant and apologized. That's what guilty people do last time I checked. And so ends the story...

Not quite.

You see power tends to back power and when it comes to professional sports one entity of power are the team owners and their front offices. Another entity of power is the media. And man do they work hand in hand at times.

It was sickening for me to watch several ESPN pundits on TV and many talk radio hosts stretch the limits of common sense looking for any excuse under the sun whereby asking this guy if his mom was turning tricks was kosher. Oh they would always start their trips down fantasy lane "condemning" the question but ultimately they were still trying to justify it.

So two prominent excuses came to the forefront. One was that Ireland was playing pop psychologist and wanted to see a "reaction". The other was that he was asking because some how some way if Bryant's mother was getting paid to screw random dudes that was going to affect him playing football and seeing as how they were going to pay him a lot of money they had a "right" to know beforehand.

But remember, these excuses are all being formulated AFTER Ireland had already apologized.

I won't even address the later excuse because its bullshit. As for the "reaction" excuse, my question will always be what would be the "correct" reaction to somebody asking you that question? Football is a violent game and while many stupid people kept trying to make this about whether or not Dez Bryant would get a personal foul called because he hit somebody on the field about his Mom, nothing would probably be further from the truth. I played 7 years in the NFL and while I don't claim to know everything about everything, I can tell you that in those 7 years I never, not once, heard a guy on a football field say something about someone's Mom.

Wanna know why?

Because football or no football most of the guys you see flying around on Sunday will go apeshit if you talk about their Mom no matter what the circumstance. Maybe it won't be a personal foul and maybe it won't be a full fledged fight but at some point the offender is going to pay for that kind of disrespect. There are lines that simply don't get crossed as I said before, and that's one of them. Even on the football field.

And besides that, what kind of dispassionate robot is it that GMs could possibly want that if you talk about there Mom they won't show any emotion? I can tell you this much, if a guy doesn't get pissed and emotional when someone calls his mother a slut I don't really want that guy on my team.

But I digress.

The story still couldn't have ended right then and there but there were some apologists who just wouldn't be dissuaded. Specifically Marcellus Wiley took to the airwaves almost all day one day last week to defend Ireland by way of invoking Bill Parcells. In the newest of excuses for asking Dez Bryant if his Mom was a street walker incredibly Wiley proffered that maybe they were asking, brace yourself, for his own good.


See because Bill Parcells has been on an anti drug crusade since Lawrence Taylor almost wrecked his life, evidently Jeff Ireland had just taken the baton and went a little further to make sure none of the guys were going to be plagued with having whores for mothers.

Or some such.

Interestingly enough over the course of the day and on several different shows his argument evolved until that evening he took to twitter almost bursting with excitement. You see he knew something we didn't know and when we found out WOOOO WEEEE we were all going to be floored by how smart he was and how dumb we were to be outraged.

Or some such.

This great "secret" was revealed so to speak the next day by a Sports Illustrated writer:

Two sources familiar with the situation contend that Ireland's question was nothing more than the logical follow-up to comments Bryant had made about his family. According to the sources, Ireland began the meeting by asking Bryant, 21, about his upbringing and his relationship with his siblings. Then he asked what Bryant's father did for a living when Bryant was growing up. The following exchange allegedly ensued:

"My dad was a pimp."

"What did your mom do [for a living]?"

"She worked for my dad."

"Your mom was a prostitute?"

"No, she wasn't a prostitute."

Well that explains it!

Wait, what?

There are two problems with this passage which I will get to in a minute but I want to address something else first. This "story" spread around the sports pundit world like wildfire and the reaction was both disappointing and amazing. The general response was "Oh well now that you put it that way.." As if this "context" made all the sense in the world. I can't count how many times different pundits used the phrase "he opened the door" when discussing this alleged conversation after this was leaked.

Really? Now its Dez Bryant's fault that Jeff Ireland asked if his Mom was a prostitute.

I had private conversations with a few journalists that still weren't buying the bullshit but they seemed to be drowned out by the rest. Power had spoken and power said Ireland was off the hook.

Well wait just a got damned minute.

Its funny because Marcellus Wiley kept asserting that nobody was using "critical thinking" when looking at this situation but it appears that that charge is more applicable to himself and the media.

Lets go back to the leaked story. First of all nobody put their name on it. Don't you think that's odd? I mean this is a huge story and the unnamed sources contend that Bryant is lying or at least not telling the "full context" of what happened. Why should we rely on unnamed sources instead of having Jeff Ireland come out and speak on the record about it? Something he only did when he acknowledged that he called Dez Bryant to apologize. Evidently he was apologizing to Bryant because Bryant made him ask such an inappropriate question.

Mind you Bryant came out on the record and in front of cameras and said the story was a lie. Oh wait, see nobody can believe anything Dez Bryant says because after all he DID lie to the NCAA which led to his suspension.

At least that's how the media framed this discrepancy. See unnamed sources and GMs who I am sure lied to the media for weeks about who they would be targeting in the draft, as well as lying on a regular basis about injury reports and whether a coach will be fired or not, those are the credible people. The guy who we know lied once because he was scared he would lose his eligibility (which ultimately happened anyway)he's the "bad" guy not to be believed. Its worth noting however that Bryant himself spoke on his mother openly and honestly before the draft to Jean-Jaques Taylor. But hey why let facts get in the way, right?

Ok but what about the "context"? Or rather what happened next?

Here is the question that I have been waiting on somebody to ask but I haven't seen it so far. If we are to believe that this really was the way the conversation went then how did it end?

Putting aside for a moment the fact that the context doesn't line up neatly in any of the boxes the people trying to make excuses for Ireland had constructed, even if he was just being nosey or just tactless, there's a line missing there. Lets recap it again.

Dez Bryant says his Dad is a pimp and his Mom works for him. Jeff Ireland asks if she was a prostitute. Bryant says no.

And that's it? Really? They just move on to whether Bryant prefers dogs or cats?


Try to have that conversation with a friend of yours. Then try your best NOT to apologize for asking that question. Its frikkin impossible.

Even if you "accidentally" ask somebody if their Mom is a ho, once they say no she's not then the apologies come flowing. "Oh man I didn't mean anything by it, I just thought, well you know". Or something close to that at least. What kind of guy asks somebody if their Mom is a prostitute, hears a guy say no, and then shrugs it off and keeps it moving?

And how do we know Ireland didn't apologize at that time? Well if he had I probably wouldn't be writing this long ass post right now because it would have been squashed and Ireland wouldn't have needed to apologize a second time.

Which brings me back to my initial thought on the matter. There simply isn't a context where asking a guy if his Mom is a prostitute is acceptable. At least not one where you don't either lose some teeth or apologize, one of the two if not both.

Now at this point I could go into how doubly wrong it is for someone in Ireland's position to ask that question of a potential draftee who is an obvious position of weakness but I think that aspect has been talked about already. Instead I want to focus on how wrong it is for the media to become the mouth piece for Ireland and the Miami Dolphins.

How is it that these various outlets going strictly off of unnamed sources declared the issue closed even though the Dolphins wouldn't confirm the account, and especially when Dez Bryant disputed those sources on the record? How is it that you had so many arguments from sports pundits that sounded almost exactly identical in trying to cover for Ireland? How is it that just as soon as Dez's mother spoke out and said she wanted an apology as well the media started taking shots at her and digging into her criminal history?
Have you no shame?!

There is something perilously wrong when the media is so concerned with keeping access or in some situations just too dumb to realize they are being used, that they start fighting for power instead of standing up to it. And really that's my primary motivation for writing this post. There is no way a rational person can stand back from this situation and come up with a justification for Jeff Ireland asking Dez Bryant if his mother was or is a whore. You just can't. But after more than a week that's exactly what many in sports media have done.

And I for one am appalled.