Tough Guy Mentality

15 Nov

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This site has become primarily a baseball blog, but occasionally there are sports topics that are a little more universal. And sometimes they are worth talking about. After watching the Vikings game yesterday, and after listening to much of the annoying postgame discussions, I felt the need to write about a topic. As always, I don’t claim my opinion to be right (or wrong), and all are entitled to their own opinion, but I do think it is an interesting topic.

Playing Monday Morning Quarterback is fun in football (literally usually on Mondays) and baseball (any time a manager or GM makes a decisions). We all have thoughts on what could have or should have been done from play calls, to personnel decisions. Everyone has an opinion on what Vikings owner Zygi Wilf should do about the employment status of Brad Childress. Some question decision making of coordinators, quarterbacks and other players. Tom Brady is made out to be a great leader because he took his offense to task last night, yelling and carrying on at the team excessively. If Randy Moss or Terrell Owens or Chad Henne or Adrian Peterson were to do that, they would not get the same level of respect.

I always think it is a very slippery slope when people start to question a player’s effort level or their heart. We don’t know. Some players are more animated than others. Some players just look cooler than others. Some players wear their emotions on their sleeves. But for those of us sitting on our couches, eating chips and dip, chicken wings and downing beverages of some variety, who are we to judge?

And the Tough-Guy fans now have places like blogs, Facebook and even Twitter. It just amazes me what some Vikings “fans” felt comfortable and found it necessary to tell Bernard Berrian on Twitter after he came out of yesterday’s game with an injury. Here is a sampling:

  • “Sorry, it’s not your fault coach cut the best receiver on team, but in few yrs youll look back at yer career & regret sitting 2day”
  • “how about staying healthy I don’t question your effort but you haven’t been much of a factor last 2 years”
  • “I think I can speak for most Vikings Fans when we say we will not miss you next year…way to tough it out”
  • “Someone who is sick of you stealing Zygi’s $…Top 10 WR $ for maybe top 100 WR production, nice gig you got”
  • “Wow you really are mentally weak…can’t take a little criticism. Why don’t you tell us what was so funny on sidelines at the end”

Berrian took the time to respond to each of these and many more via Twitter. I imagine there were many others that he did not respond to. Berrian types, “4 the record don’t ever question my heart or toughness. Played plenty games injured. U just don’t hear bout it. N warmup had nothin 2 do w/it.”

It’s not just Berrian. There are people out there questioning Sidney Rice’s decision not to play in Week 10. Come on! He had hip surgery in August. Yes, he has been practicing with the team, but that doesn’t make him game ready. Some thought he was being selfish for deciding not to play. Others say that he was looking out for himself and not the team or his teammates. Have we not seen enough video or stories of former NFL players that can’t play with their kids because they can hardly walk? How many times do we need to see Earl Campbell try to walk to realize that long-term health should be considered much more often than it is in the NFL.

Side Note – Of course, many of the same people who have criticized Sidney Rice for not coming back this week are the same people that were calling Brett Favre selfish for playing a few weeks ago to keep his consecutive games streak intact.

There are fans that bashed Percy Harvin a year ago for not playing with migraines. “It’s just a headache” is a phrase I heard way too often last year. I have heard that phrase way too many times as it relates to the Twins Justin Morneau too. It’s just a concussion. Toughen up and play. To those people, as Corey Koskie how well that works.

The NFL is trying to curb the big, dangerous hits, and it says it’s trying to minimize the serious injuries. They are all good things. But the NFL coaches and coaching staffs and media and fans often have this “Football is all that matters” mentality. “Team” above all else. Don’t be selfish. Don’t think about yourself.

I hope you will never hear me tout such things. I’ve always been a football fan. I played in high school and followed college football back in the day too. But I guess maybe I’m not a ‘true’ football fan if I don’t believe in the ‘at all costs’ attitude. Geez, listening to high school coaches giving pep talks and looking around at people taking it all in as fact is scary. Football Coach talk is almost too much to take. So yeah, maybe I am soft. Maybe I’m just not as big of a fan as others. However, I will always back the individual player’s right to be safe and comfortable.

More important, I have no problem with a person looking out for their long-term future. I have no problem with NFL players trying to play for money. Their contracts are not guaranteed. They need to make money while they can. That doesn’t make them less of a team player. When they’re on the field with the team, it doesn’t mean that they’re only thinking dollar values and such. They can still be ready to play, emotional and excited to contribute without it being their entire life.

I also respect the player’s rights to make money. Why? It is their job!! I know nobody wants to realize that. Nobody wants the players to look at playing the game (football, baseball, basketball, etc.) as anything more than a game. No. It is their job. It is their source of income. It is their 401K. It is their health insurance. Yes, they are well compensated, and yet their window or earning potential is quite short.

So don’t tell me that Sidney Rice is a horrible teammate because he is going to give his surgically-repaired hip another week to recover. Don’t tell me that the only reason he did not play in Week 10 was because of his contract status. Don’t tell me that Justin Morneau should just toughen up and played in August.  Don’t tell me that Joe Mauer is soft because he only DHs in day game after night games, and occasionally gets a full day off when he isn’t catching. Don’t say things to me like, “Michael Cuddyer should have only missed three games instead of four games when his wife’s dad died.”

I know, those of us baseball fans would pay to play in the big leagues, or we would sign with a team for peanuts or sunflower seeds because we love the game so much. My guess is 99% of professional athletes love the sport they are playing and give their best. And we don’t know who that other 1% is, so claiming that someone quits, or doesn’t care, or didn’t try, my opinion is that it just is not fair or true. Unfortunately the Vikings struggles in this Vikings State make for some really ugly discussions, really ugly things said. Several of the Vikings players, including Berrian, Bryant McKinnie, Greg Lewis, Adrian Peterson and more, are on Twitter and take the time to respond to their fans. I’m impressed that Berrian took the comments and showed good restraint in his responses.

I know there are a lot of fans who really get attached to each game and can’t get past losses. They say their fandom is love and passion and that they want to see a championship, Super Bowl or World Series. People think I am a lesser fan because I was over the Twins playoff loss to the Yankees within 24 hours, while some still have not moved on. There are literally Vikings fans that will not be themselves for a couple of days. I want the Twins to win a World Series. I would love to see that again. I would love to see the Vikings get to ,and eventually win, a Super Bowl. But if they don’t, it doe not effect my fandom in the least.

Maybe I am soft. Maybe I’m not diehard enough for some fans. That’s fine. Team is very important, and teams win and lose together. Teamwork is important. I would argue that family and long-term health are much more important. Maybe I’m wrong?

What do you think?


8 Responses to “Tough Guy Mentality”

  1. Andrew November 15, 2010 at 1:40 am #

    We don’t know the extent of someone’s injury. We call someone selfish even though many of us would do the same thing. So then why do we act like we are experts if all our information is being given to us in 10-second snippets on TV or in a short article over the Internet?

    Comparing Berrian and Rice not playing to Favre playing through an injury is a good point, Seth. I’d also like to add that not everyone has the same tolerance for pain. Brad Radke pitched through a torn labrum, while some guys wouldn’t even pitch through a blister on the finger.

    Adding to Radke, he was viewed as a warrior not only for pitching through his shoulder problems (remember that he claimed that he couldn’t even lift his arm to comb his hair when he wasn’t pitching), but because he was able to have some moderate success. If he had struggled in 2006, fans would have called for him to quit and go on the DL.

    I think what would be most helpful is if these people just started using some common sense. Maybe everyone just needs a few days of body soreness for them to understand what it’s like.

  2. TheMix November 15, 2010 at 3:13 am #

    I think I want to start a slow clap in your honor. Seriously great post….for exactly the reasons you listed I’m starting to dislike football more and more. I just don’t like the way the players are treated. They certainly aren’t educated as much as they should be about the toll the playing can have on their bodies after their careers and the NFL doesn’t protect their players nearly as much as they should.

    You’re about as diehard as it gets in my mind. An eternal optimist that keeps and even keel and tells things like they are, but is willing to consider different opinions. That’s true diehard.

  3. mike wants wins November 15, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    This is the ugly side of fans caring about the team winning. The pretty side is that these guys get to make millions of dollars per year. The ugly side is that those same fans WANT THEM TO WIN, and so get all emotional when they don’t.

  4. mike wants wins November 15, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    Btw, this one should be on the STrib, Seth. Well done.

  5. Bartleby November 15, 2010 at 11:34 am #

    Well, “fan” is short for “fanatic”, and a fanatic is “a person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause.” By that definition, I’m not sure you’re a fan at all.

    What’s interesting to me is how eagerly fans proclaim their “extreme, unreasoning” enthusiasm for a team, as if being extreme and unreasoning about the outcome of a sporting event is a good thing. I’d argue that it’s not a good thing at all. Fanaticism in religion or politics warps perspectives and values. So too does fanaticism in sports. Thus you have Vikings fanatics going after Berrian via Twitter. And you have jersey-wearing fans parading around with the name of a narcissistic, philandering creep on their backs. It’s only an “extreme, unreasoning” enthusiasm for the Vikings that has the locals cheering for the likes of a Brett Favre. Put him in another uniform and no doubt these same fans would regard his behavior and character with the same critical eye they regard the behaviors and characters of Tiger Woods and Larry Craig and others whose private indiscretions went public.

    You “got over” the Twins loss to the Yankees in 24 hours. I’d say that’s still 23 hours and 59 minutes too long to “overcome” an event that the mature intellect will not regard as anything more than an entertainment diversion, but still: You’re no diehard, and that’s to your credit. Keep your perspective, and keep up the excellent work.

  6. JimCrikket November 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Hard to disagree with your points, Seth, especially when fans really have no clue as to what the injury situation is. That said, just based on the sketchy information we’ve been provided with regard to Berrian, I’m having trouble giving him the benefit of the doubt. He says it had nothing to do with how he felt in warm-up. OK, fine. But if that’s the case, why would he wait until so close to game time to declare himself unable to perform? That delay left the Vikings one roster spot short for the game.

    I’m all for giving players the benefit of the doubt. But are you really going to ignore subtle indications that some players may be thinking, “I don’t want to save this coach’s job… in fact, maybe I can do something to expedite his departure.”?

    Nobody should advocate having a player play when injured. But I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t necessarily give all players a free-pass on the topic. Unfortunately, unless the player is as obvious about his lack of effort as Randy Moss is, it’s impossible for the average fan to distinguish between a player who’s legitimately hurt and one who has other motives for not showing up. As a result, some get painted with that broad brush.

  7. Greg November 15, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

    RE: “I know there are a lot of fans who really get attached to each game and can’t get past losses… Maybe I am soft. Maybe I’m not diehard enough for some fans.”

    You’re definitely soft. You were over the loss to the Yankees in 24 hours? I’m still not over Staubach to Pearson in 1975.

    That said, I completely agree with the stuff you said about Berrian. I don’t know why he even reads that crap morons post.

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