Guest MMQB: Chris Kluwe on life cycle of an NFL player, Hall changes
SOMEWHERE, Internetville -- Good news, everyone! Apparently Peter King is on vacation (the lazy bum), and for some reason he decided I would be an excellent choice to fill in for him on MMQB. He chose poorly. Normally I would decline, since I have to remain super-duper-hyper focused on punting 27 hours a day, but fortunately we're in the dead month of the NFL year and I don't really have a lot going on right now (other than focusing). Unfortunately, SI won't let me say ****, ****, *******, or ******** **** ********, so it looks like I'll have to behave.
Where to start, where to start ...
Let's start with the life cycle of the common athleta Americae vensica (that's Latin for "Google translate").
When you initially enter the league, as a wide-eyed rookie with no idea of what goes on in the churning maelstrom called "the National Football League," that first year is amazingly chaotic, especially if you're an undrafted free agent with no guarantee of making the team, as I was in 2005. Your OTA days are spent trying to learn the names of the 89 other guys around you, figuring out where the meeting rooms are, navigating the veteran hierarchy, and making sure you're out to practice on time. Once practice is over, you get to explore a brand new city for a couple hours before returning to the hotel room you'll be living out of for the next month or two (if you're lucky, it has a fridge). After a week or so, you scrape together some money to split a rental car with a couple of the other undrafted rookies, because the walls of your hotel room get that much closer every day. Eventually, OTAs end, and you head home for the month of July, head still spinning, and try to stay in shape.
August rolls around and you're back for training camp, which is mostly a blur; two-a-days and film study fill almost every waking minute (yes, even for punters). If you're lucky enough to survive the roster cuts and make the 53-man roster, you go find a place to live -- generally a rental apartment or a townhouse because you don't know if you're going to last the entire year. Some guys make it, some don't, and just because you're one of the 53 at the start of the regular season doesn't mean you'll be there at the end. Injuries can happen to anyone, and as a college player who's used to playing 12 games a year, the jump to 20-plus (don't forget those lovely preseason games and playoffs!) can make the last half of the season feel like an endless grind. Your body wears down, it gets harder to bounce back each week, and you can't even use the excuse of being old like the veterans.
Nevertheless, eventually that first year ends.
Once you finish your rookie whirlwind, you start to get a feel for the rhythm of the NFL, the ebb and flow of offseason workouts and in-season practices, Sundays on and Tuesdays off. You get a feel for the new place you live, the new friends you meet. The next OTA isn't quite as intimidating, training camp is a little bit shorter, the season a little bit faster. The years pass.
If you're lucky, you sign an extension with your team and stick around the community you've come to know, attend birthdays and barbecues and bachelor parties. You make a life, maybe start a family, upgrade to a house with room for a dog (or two) and possibly a kid (or two). You start thinking about schools, about long-term plans with the friends you've made in your new environment, about the events you're committed to and the causes you're supporting, and you start talking to your agent about negotiating another extension.
Then you get cut and you're a rookie all over again, because it's the NFL.
Hope There's Room in the New Addition
Some of you may have seen an impassioned plea I wrote for a rival website about how basically Peter King and the other voting members of the Hall of Fame are failing to do their jobs properly because there are no punters or specialists in the Hall (along with only one pure kicker). It had some naughty words in it, as is my wont, so be careful reading it at work (I know you're supposed to be filing TPS reports right now, you slacker).
My vote of choice goes to Ray Guy because he redefined the position of punter in the NFL, but there are plenty of other deserving candidates who are going to have a tough time getting into the Hall under the current selection criteria (Steve Tasker is one, Reggie Roby another; Jeff Feagles, Jason Hanson and Adam Vinatieri will be as soon as they're eligible).
"How do you put in a punter when you only have five slots and so many other deserving players?" That's how the reasoning that keeps perpetuating this problem goes.
Actually, there's a simple fix for that. Change the selection criteria.
Right now, the Hall of Fame is a straight up horse-trading session (truth in advertising: I've never been in the voting process, but it's not hard to read between the lines). Some voters have their guys, and other voters have their other guys. So when 46 people are in a room trying to narrow down a list of 25 candidates to five Hall of Famers, there's going to be dealing between the voters to get guys in, especially since an 80 percent majority vote is required. (Side note, that's also why we need filibuster reform. /soapbox)
So here's how we fix it! (Hall of Fame voting, not Congress. What, you think I'm a miracle worker?)
Change the selection criteria to: Two to four offensive players, two to four defensive players, and zero to one specialists/administrators.
That's it. Nice and simple. The Hall can keep the 80 percent majority horse-wrangling alive and well, it can keep the cut-down from 25 to 15, but now it has the option to include the players who might otherwise be overlooked simply because all the slots fill up too fast in that final cut-down from 15 to five. Notice that I'm not even putting a minimum requirement on specialists -- if the voters really think there's no qualified candidate, they don't have to vote one in. However, I think there are a lot of voters who simply can't reconcile putting in a Ray Guy or a Jason Hanson over a Jim Marshall or a Randy Moss, even though Ray (and Steve and Reggie and Adam) made just as much of an impact at their respective positions.
To me, and I think to a lot of other people, that's what a Hall of Fame is all about: Players who impact the game at their position at such a high level that everyone notices. I believe those players deserve a chance to be recognized, regardless of what position the impact was made at.
Shameless Self-Promotional Note of the Week
I'm in a band. We're called Tripping Icarus. We play loud music. You probably won't like it. I also wrote a book, called Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies. It comes out tomorrow. It has swearing. You probably won't like it.
Oh Fruited Plains
I drove my car back from Minnesota to California the other day (if you're interested, the descent into madness is on my Twitter feed), and it got me to thinking: Everyone should take a road trip across the U.S. at some point in order to get a sense of just how big this planet that we live on is, and how diverse this country that we live in is. From the lush summer greenery of Minnesota to the flat croplands of Nebraska to the soaring peaks of Colorado to the serene majesty of Utah, there's so much out there you can miss if you don't go looking (and those four are barely scratching the surface). It would do a lot of people a lot of good to realize that the world isn't just the 25 square miles surrounding their house. Broaden your horizons. You might find something new. You might even like it!
Or, your car might break down, and then you get kidnapped and turned into a skinsuit. That's also a thing. It doesn't happen too often though, so try not to let it deter you.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
I've also been doing a lot of traveling in airplanes lately, speaking at schools and whatnot, and my essential companion is a Nintendo 3DS, along with a good set of headphones. The 3DS is the perfect size and heft to bludgeon the person in front of me when they lean their seat back into my knees, and then the headphone cord can be used to quickly garrote their stunned body. Executed properly, this technique will save you countless hours of aggravation on plane trips, especially if you happen to be 6-foot-5 or taller and don't like wasting money on first class.
Bonus points for using the line from Commando when the flight attendant innocently asks if your friend would like a complimentary beverage.
Drink of the Week
I'm not a beer person, so I can't really recommend some type of triple-aged Bavarian wheatgrass alfalfa cream ale that I'm sure induces mouthgasms on a regular basis. Apologies. Instead, I present to you my Drink of the Week, The Sidecar, prepared exactly as I do at home in my Beverage Consumption Vomitorium (it's under our stairs, so I'm technically accurate).
• Some whiskey (Jack Daniels is groovy)
• Some Cointreau
• Slightly less sweet and sour
Put it in a glass and drink. Repeat as necessary -- responsibly. DO NOT DRIVE.
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
The NSA is building a giant spy facility in Utah so it can read all your sexting emails. This facility definitely violates parts of the Bill of Rights that protect your right to cyberhump "bigbuttz420xxx" in private (though probably not in that exact language), but most people don't seem to care anymore. So it goes.
Tweets of the Week I
"Can you even imagine what Paula Deen's depressed pig-out day looks like?"
-- @BMcCarthy32, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Brandon McCarthy.
I just did, and now I don't think I can look at food for a week. Thanks Brandon.
Tweet of the Week II
"The perennially hyped name 'Super Moon' insults the legacy of Superman, Super Volcanos, Supernovae, and even Super Mario."
-- @neiltyson, renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Preach on, Neil. Preach on. I, personally, didn't even see a single werewolf transformation during this so-called "Super Moon." I'm beginning to think that sometimes people hype things out of proportion to what they actually mean.
Tweet of the Week III
"How is that Miami's ball?"
-- @SI_PeterKing, aka Peter King, watching the NBA finals.
YOU ARE ONLY SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT FOOTBALL PETER WHAT ARE YOU DOING RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE.
Ten Things I Think I Think I Know I Think I Know I Think
1. I think that this part is going to be tangentially about football, if at all, because there are so many other things in life than sports. I know people don't want to hear that, and just want to zone out, but if all you worry about is sports then you're going to miss out on a lot of great things in this world (as well as a lot of crappy things that need fixing). It's extremely possible to both follow sports and also be knowledgeable about the current state of the world, just like it's extremely possible to both play sports and have interests outside your job. Anyone who thinks someone should focus on their job 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is certifiably insane and should not be in charge of making any decisions ever. Sorry. I'm sure you'll get over it.
B. I think that to do anything well, however, you have to put in the time and practice. So many people think they can just show up and do something, and immediately be great at it. NOPE. The three and a half hours you see on Sunday shows you nothing of the time spent in the years leading up this point in a player's life. Remember that the next time your favorite receiver drops a pass, or a linebacker misses a tackle. Odds are, they've put in literally thousands of hours of their lives to get to where they are now, and they're probably more upset about it than you are. Relax.
TRES. I think some people skate by on natural talent as long as they can, and never realize they should have put the time in to get better. You can yell at those people, but gently. We should discourage laziness, but there's no need to get overtly hostile about it.
IV. I think most people are lazy swearers. There's an art to good swearing, a flow, and most folks never take the time to learn. Sometimes a quick four-letter burst is appropriate, but if you actually educate yourself, you can have a lot more fun. So start practicing.
five. I think the editor might have censored that previous entry in between the time I submitted it and it actually got posted to the site. (Editor's Note: Yup!)
522/87. I think good editors are a lot like good coaches and good teachers. They take the hidden roughness lurking inside of us and polish it until it shines, make us greater than we ever thought we could be, and frequently aren't recognized for their efforts. Go hug an editor. (Editor's Note: Yup!)
Se7en. I think bad editors, coaches and teachers can piss right off and get squashed by an incontinent camel, because all they do is grind you down with incessant screaming and bullying until there's nothing left but dust. Eff those people.
octo. I think bullying is a serious problem in the culture of athletics, and we need to be doing more to prevent it from happening. It's very easy to scar a child for life, and if we want a healthy society we need to stamp out bullying wherever possible. Kids, if you see someone being a bully, whether they're an adult or another child, say something. Adults, do something about it.
.......... I think some people may not realize when they're bullying someone. Here's a hint -- if you wouldn't like someone doing to you what you're doing to them, you're being a bully. Grow up and develop some empathy.
x. I think you should get back to work before your boss fires you. You have three cats and a slightly used silicone toy at home to provide for, and you know they'll never survive out on the streets. THINK OF YOUR CHILDREN.