Tuesday, January 31, 2006

R-E-S-P-E-C-T


Watch enough football, and you realize that the cliches, catch-phrases and jargon of the game are as unavoidable as a Karl Rove talking point debriefing at a K Street power lunch. Giving 110%, playing smashmouth football, establishing the run, allowing an up-or-down vote, etc. Novelist and ESPN Page 2 contributer Chuck Closterman, covering the Super Bowl media blitz this week wrote the following as part of his blog today...

As I write this, Pittsburgh is a four-point favorite to win Super Bowl XL. As you might have heard, the Steeler players are nonetheless viewing this prediction as a sign of disrespect. On the surface, this makes the Steelers sound about as reasonable as a guy who considers his girlfriend monotonous because all she ever wants to do is perform oral sex. However, Hines Ward spent part of Media Day explaining how being the favored in this game is (covertly) a criticism of his franchise... Ward believes the Steelers will win in a major upset that the world is not recognizing; as such, the Steelers have been disrespected in advance.

As far as I can tell, there is not one player on either of these teams (or in the totality of the NFL) who has gotten the correct amount of respect. Sometimes guys are underrated, and sometimes guys are overlooked -- but nobody has ever been respected accurately.

I keep hoping somebody like Antwaan Randle El will blow everybody's mind and say something along the lines of, "Well, we've had our ups and downs this season, but I sense that the rest of the league respects us an average amount. I feel comfortable with the level of our public esteem." Sadly, this never happens.

Earlier this week, someone told Jerome Bettis that certain Seattle players questioned whether he was truly 255 pounds. Bettis said, "They don't believe we are a good football team, either." Now, does Bettis truly perceive this as reality? I can't believe that he does. And I realize the conventional wisdom is that jocks use disrespect as a "motivating factor," but that can't be true, either; real people simply aren't stupid enough to trick themselves into insecurity every single week for five consecutive months.

I suspect athletes complain about disrespect for the same reason bank-tellers tell you to have a nice day: It just (a.) kills time and (b.) sounds normal, mostly because no one is ever listening.

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