Don't hate the playa, hate his mom.
After Tuesday's outing
of Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland, written by my hero and
good friend Mike Silver, Ireland was quickly doing the backtrack bossa
dropping apologies faster than Jimmy Clausen's draft stock.
As reported, former Oklahoma State wide receiver (and, at the time,
shoo-in first rounder) Dez Bryant was asked by Ireland during a predraft
visit if his mother was a prostitute, alluding to her background of
legal issues and lifestyle choices.
But instead of leaping across the desk to choke a fool, Dez pushed past the comment and finished the interview. Had Ireland been sitting across from Warren Sapp I think it's safe to assume he'd be sipping his South Beach Mai Tai intravenously.
The NFL, not unlike Hollywood, is an industry predominantly run by twenty-something talent - millionaires in Maseratis - with too much money to worry and too much fame to care. This is in stark contrast to the rest of their peer group, many of whom are cramming for finals, applying to law school, or posing for senior pictures.
Younger, stronger, healthier. Cheered by
audiences worldwide. Autographs and sponsorships and the press hanging
on your every word... It's good to be the star! (Or have it on your helmet.)
Queue Camera B: a shot of all the guys that paid them, watching from the sidelines. Guys like Jeff Ireland.
Look, I have nothing against Jeff. He was always cordial to me, even if he wasn't around much. And when I got released by Dallas in the Fall of '07 he pulled me into his office to compliment me on the work I had put in. I'd already been stopped by the security guard at the Cowboy's Valley Ranch entrance and knew I was going home, but rarely did released players get to talk to anyone, let alone the GM, so I appreciated his efforts.
Me as a Cowboy in 2007. RIP.
Then he dropped the bomb: "Stay ready." I slowly looked up from my shoes. Stay ready???
He said he couldn't go into specifics but
that there were front office talks to bring me back in seven days, for
the start of the regular season. I was optimistically stunned. So why
was I going home now? "Numbers."
Sighhhhh. Ain't it always...
I bolted from his office and bounded down the hall to the equipment room to tell the ball boys already boxing up my locker not to ship it home for another week. "I might be back sooner than later," I chortled. "So keep my stuff in the corner if you don't mind."
Three weeks later and I was still in
California, spending Sundays at home, training in a backup pair of holey
cleats. It wasn't until my agent rang Jeff and demanded he apologize
(aha! not a first!) that I got that call from Ireland. It was also the last.
And the rest is history.
At the end of the day, Jeff, like all his fellow GM's, is a businessman.
I don't blame him for that. But there's no denying that those with the
"power" to provide such wealth and
opportunity in ANY industry are often (often, not always) consumed with
fear and insecurities of their own. Which is why I believe it's quite
easy for ego and arrogance to swell to such an immense size that the only
response in the face of such obvious potential should be one of
belittlement, manipulation and control.
Which is exactly what I believe Jeff Ireland's questioning of Dez Bryant to be about.
Not about football. Not about work ethic. Not about a competitor's thought process or what he has endured or the strength of his character. In an age in which professional athletes are showered with praise, fame, and dolla billzzz this type of power struggle is bound to draw out the worst demons.
Fans like this make all the staff hecka jealous.
Anywhere outside the confines of his warm office and Ireland probably would have been slugged in the neck. Thanks to Silver, at least he's reaping what he sowed. But imagine how many similar stories of "business" go untold throughout the league as players clam up in the hopes of returned phone calls, tryout opportunities, or contracts.
It's LONG past time for professional coaches and front office staff to rid themselves of drill sergeant passive aggression that preys on homophobia, sexism, and a score of additional insults. Rather, why not construct a foundation of respect, integrity, and consistent regulations that allow the athletes they hire and train to perform without concern for anything but their on-field obligations?
Ireland was all "I got away with it!" Mike Silver was all...
In the wake of the decade's 24-hour eyewitness news extravaganza, it's often difficult to remember that as commercialized as The Athlete has become these are still young men and women with mothers and fathers and futures. For all the off-field exploits of players like Pac-Man, Big Ben, and B-Marsh that perhaps 20 years ago may have gone unheard of, fortunately there still exists men like Dez Bryant today who are respectful and professional enough not to balk at such pathetic predations.
Unfortunately, this Ireland example is just a tiny grain in a handful of related stories, 99.9% of which we'll probably never hear about.
Tyler Fredrickson was a punter and placekicker for the California Golden Bears from 99-03 and then went on to play four years in the NFL with Seattle, Denver, Dallas, Washington & Oakland. He's currently in the Peter Stark Producing Program at the University of Southern California while working in film development. He also consumes Spielberg and Star Wars probably more than his allotted daily allowance should permit along with loving his 360. And wine. He drinks like a horse. Not really.
But not really.
Email him at: [email protected]