Saturday, September 24, 2016

Borrowing From Our Future Selves

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Washington’s 38-16 Week 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers was a comprehensive destruction of a franchise desperately trying to sow some semblance of a winning culture.  Pittsburgh treated Washington like a Southern Maryland spring thunderstorm treats a freshly planted garden full of vulnerable vegetable plants.  When the hail and gale force winds subsided, it was a total loss. 

Washington was outplayed, outcoached and outclassed as an organization.  Whatever momentum Washington had from last season’s playoff berth and whatever mojo QB Kirk Cousins had after his record-setting 2015-16 campaign was completely eviscerated after three brutal hours of physical and strategic domination (and the fog carried over this week against Dallas). 

The Black and Gold are contenders; the Burgundy and Gold are pretenders.  It’s that simple.
Washington was universally bad, but its defense was horrific.  Pittsburgh ran at will, created explosive plays in the passing game, neutered Washington’s pass rush and routinely uprooted the line of scrimmage and shoved it downfield. 

Watching the destruction, I longed for perspective from Sam Huff, Washington’s tough-as-nails Hall of Fame middle linebacker and one half of the long-time “Sonny (Jurgensen) and Sam” must-hear game day color commentary.  Huff would have shredded this defensive abomination and, in doing so, validated the frustration of irate fans. 

But Dr. Huff, having retired in 2013, was unavailable.  Huff did make news in the week following the game, but it had nothing to do with a tongue lashing of the defense.  Sadly, it seems the icon is suffering from dementia and an ongoing legal dispute between his caregiver and daughter garnered the unfortunate attention. 

For former NFL players and their families, Huff’s story has become all too familiar.  While prior generations unknowingly put their long-term health in peril, the disturbing facts are now indisputable: Football increases the risk of degenerative brain disease.  Huff didn’t know that; current players do and with this knowledge comes confusion.  Do you stop playing a game you love?  Avoid it altogether?  And if you’re an NFL player, do you truncate a lucrative and rewarding career? 

In short, how do you balance today’s risks against tomorrow’s consequences?

With early retirements more common, it’s clearly on players’ minds.  After a particularly harsh beating during the season opener against the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton was asked about long-term health concerns.  Here is the reigning MVP's response: “I’m worried about winning.  That’s it.  Winning.  Winning football games.  That’s why I’m here.  I’m not here to worry about retirement plans.  I’m not here to worry about pensions.  I’m not here to worry about workers comp.  I’m here to win football games.  Simple and plain.  This is a contact sport.  This is a physical sport.”

Part of me loves that response - LOVES IT.  Passionate.  Competitive.  All-in.  Another part of me, a new conscience-laden version, worries about Newton and his peers and their post-NFL life.  A 2014 NFL report indicated that 30% of NFL players will suffer from degenerative brain disease, making them twice as likely as the general public to be diagnosed - and many will be diagnosed at disturbingly young ages.  Huff is part of the 30%.  Will Newton be?  It is a difficult outcome to consider.

But life is a thrilling, hazard-infused odyssey.  Living in a risk-free bubble – a place with no fried foods, red meat or alcohol, where sexual pursuits are closely legislated and where everyone drives the speed limit - sure would be a drag.  And even then, there are unavoidable stressors – relationships, careers, parenthood, etc. – that can be clear and present dangers to human health. 

Hunter S. Thompson captured our earthly journey well when he said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride.’”


That about sums it up, indeed.  Of course how that quote is interpreted and applied – how an experience today is balanced against a potential consequence tomorrow - is unique to every person, pro football quarterback or not.

E.T. Phone Earth…Please

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

On 26 August, San Francisco 49ers backup QB Colin Kaepernick did what backup quarterbacks do: He took a seat.  Then all aitch-e-el-el broke loose. 

Kaepernick didn’t sit quietly with a cap and a clipboard.  To raise awareness of persistent racism, the uneven extension of Constitutional rights and, more specifically, the recent killings of minorities by law enforcement, Kaepernick sat loudly in silence while the Star Spangled Banner played.

In a post-game interview with NFL Media, Kaepernick explained his anthem protest: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.  To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

The initial reaction to Kaepernick’s act - mostly unproductive, misplaced outraged – was predictable.  He was called un-America and told to leave the country.  His jersey was burned.  Former NFL QB Matt Hasselbeck lauded the end of his career as a starting quarterback.  Resident NASCAR hot-head Tony Stewart urged him to learn the facts before “running his dumb_ss mouth” and called him a “#idiot”. 

Former NFL safety Rodney Harrison produced this best-of-the-worst reactions: “I tell you this, I’m a black man.  And Colin Kaepernick, he’s not black.  He cannot understand what I face and what other young black people face, or people of color face on a every single day basis.” 

For the record, Kaepernick’s father is black and his mother is white.  To his credit, Harrison apologized profusely for his ignorance.

These impulsive reactions are indicative of an increasingly polarized society, one that is easily offended, quick to react and slow to listen and contemplate different perspectives.  Whether it’s a majority of people or just a loud, obnoxious minority that drowns out measured, objective thought, issues are increasingly classified in either black or white, yes or no, left or right terms.  Regardless of the political issue, scant shades of gray exist or can be developed through constructive debate.  No wonder Congress – representatives of the electorate – is so divided.    

Knowing this, maybe that’s why Kaepernick played the anthem card.  A few weeks ago, NBA stars Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and LeBron James collectively addressed this same issue during the ESPY Awards.  Despite the star power, the message lacked staying power.  But Kaepernick’s protest boiled blood.  While the words expressed by those NBA stars were important, the approach was too polite.  History indicates that social change is often only achieved through intense agitation.  Kaepernick agitated us and demanded an outcome all Americans should desire: equality and improved relations between communities and law enforcement.   

Whatever you think of Kaepernick’s protest, his vilification should raise concerns.  We are a nation founded on discord - it is as much a part of our fabric as the anthem itself.  The Second Amendment is vehemently defended.  The Thirteenth, Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments were secured, in part, by passionately using the same First Amendment rights Kaepernick exercised this past August.  Yet Kaepernick was personally attacked for his peaceful – albeit intentionally inflammatory - public protest.  And this while the state of Texas has been flirting with succession – the ultimate defiance of our American union - for a decade.    

This excerpt from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letters from a Birmingham Jail” is inscribed on the north wall of the MLK Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.  We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” 

Dr. King’s quote captures Kaepernick’s fundamental point: We have a problem that cannot be ignored.  We must address this American imperfection – this disconnect between reality and the promises of our Declaration and Constitution - and collectively work toward a common solution. 

That only happens if the message is received by open minds.  Maybe we need something other-worldly to remind us of our shared human cause.  Scientists did receive a strong extraterrestrial signal last week.  E.T., if that was you calling, your timing was impeccable.   

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Perfect 10 and an Absolute Zero

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

My daughter’s convinced that watching sports is a waste of time.  She lectures me about it and often uses it to rebut my suggestion that she’s neglecting her homework assignments while absorbed in her electronic devices and social life – an apparently far more noble pursuit than following competitive athletics.  In her mind, what’s good for dad is good for daughter, despite the gross imbalance of leisure time afforded by her middle-school life and my adult-with-multiple-kids life. 

But she’s 13, so there’s no winning the argument.  Frankly, I don’t need to; I just need to win the moment.  To do so, I recite a refrain my dad used on me: Do as I say, not as I do.  Once I layer on the threat of confiscating her precious electronics – the ones her parents procured and pay to keep connected to the outside world – for a frightening length of time (you know, like an hour), she reluctantly, if not silently, complies.  Deep down she knows I’m right.  I think.  I hope.

When she gets older, I’ll explain why I watch sports.  It’s still about the obvious: passionately rooting my teams to victory.  But at age 43, it’s not entirely about the results.  Sports are therapy now.  They are an old friend and a retreat to a comfortable place.  I watch seeking tangible examples of human excellence, elite performances under intense pressure, individuals overcoming adversity and teams reaching heights beyond what their collective talent would predict.  Despite being affixed to the couch with a remote, not a pick axe, in my hand, I am a desperate miner searching for golden nuggets of inspirational fuel for my journey and for moments when life fails to deal me aces and faces.      

Sports consistently fill my tank.  The Rio Games alone offered up Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Simone Manuel, Paul George and Kristin Armstrong (a fellow 43-year-old in slightly better shape than this writer) to rekindle the fire in our guts.  Sports are, however, nothing if not a cross section of society, so with the good comes the bad.  Watch enough sports, or even a little, and you will encounter unimaginable egos, rampant narcissism, cheaters and perpetrators of a myriad of crimes.

Oh, and don’t forget liars.

Remember when Ryan Lochte, a 13-time medal winner, was just the second most decorated male swimmer in Olympic history?  Wasn’t it great seeing the 32-year-old veteran winning gold with rival and long-time teammate Michael Phelps one last time? 

It was a storybook ending until Lochte went boorish frat boy, got hammered and destroyed property at a Rio gas station.  Then, for some reason known only to that ego-laden, self-serving space between his ears, Lochte concocted a fictitious account of the event that put his teammates at risk, dimmed the well-earned spotlight of other Olympians, embarrassed his country and laid waste to his reputation.
Lochte claimed he and three teammates had been robbed at gunpoint by a man dressed as a police officer.  In reality, he and his boys damaged property and urinated on the premises because, you know, they thought they could.  The truth, as it usually does in the information age, eventually surfaced which prompted Lochte to play the drunk/immature card and latently apologize for the “over-exaggerated” account of the night’s events. 

Lochte didn’t “over-exaggerate”.  He lied.  And this from a guy who was born on the exact day – 3 August 1984 – that Mary Lou Retton stuck her “Perfect 10” vault to win the women’s all-around gymnastics gold at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.  Who could have guessed the day that produced American perfection would produce an absolute zero 32 years later?

But I want to thank Lochte.  Seriously.  At some point I’ll be having a conversation with my kids and I’ll need evidence to illustrate the importance of respectfully diffusing a bad situation, being forthright and truthful and recognizing that a person’s reputation, while forged by countless acts, can be undone by a single error. 


Lochte will be perfect for those moments.  Maybe he’ll even help my daughter understand why I watch sports and realize it’s hardly a waste of time.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Negativity Bias and a Timely Tangent

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Olympians from country after country, including an inspiring team of refugees, strode proudly into a cheering arena.  NBA stars, well-known Olympians and anonymous athletes from all around the globe wore the same huge, infectious and uninhibited smiles. 

The Parade of Nations during the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics last Thursday night was spectacular.  The organic joy and global comradery was a welcomed tonic.  If the moment grabbed you, it should have.  Frankly, it should have grabbed us all.  Our minds are under constant attack by real and important media bombardments of racial division, complex political struggles and worldwide terrorism.  This necessary but brutal truth threatens our faith in our species, our common humanity and the humble desire we all share: to live in peace and to cultivate a world for our children that is a little more decent than the one we navigated.  

To keep the gale force winds of corruption, violence and evil from extinguishing our flickering hope candles, it is important to remind ourselves that the vast majority of earthlings can’t fathom belittling, disrespecting, discriminating against or terrorizing another human based on differences in gender, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin or any other differentiating factor.  We want to live.  We want to love.  We just want to be. 

Most of us, that is, but not all of us.

The minority who do not, the peddlers of darkness who purposely cultivate fear and anxiety, often dominant the headlines.  The media has the responsibility to report, of course, but the human psyche and the economics of limited space and endless consumer options heavily influence the message.  Hate, horrific acts and apocalyptic declarations get eyes on papers and (more importantly now) entice clicks.  Shock and awe sells.  That’s why weather-dependent programs lust for any and every atmospheric disturbance and name storms (and embellish the impact) with anything over a 48-hour life expectancy. 

This is all evidence of what the psychology community would call the negativity bias - the human tendency to remember and to be impacted more significantly by negative than positive events.  Fighting this innate urge and maintaining a glass half full outlook while disturbing events are reported from sea to shining sea and all over the world is, quite literally, a mental wrestling match. 
Every time the compulsive negativity is restrained after processing the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary School, Aurora, Colorado, Virginia Tech, Charleston, South Carolina, the Navy Yard and Baltimore, Maryland, there are more incomprehensible insults to our optimism.

Orlando.  Paris.  Dallas.  Nice.  Baton Rouge.  Turkey…

So yeah, every now and then, we need something like the Olympics, the opening ceremony and the Parade of Nations to combat the negative bias and remind ourselves of decency and spirit that still exists in the world and its most sophisticated inhabitants.  Obviously there’s much to criticize about these Rio Games – Zika, Russian doping issues, bacteria-filled waterways and the poor infrastructure that was slapped together just-in-time (or not-quite-in-time).  There is also the environmental stain left behind at past Olympic venues and the perpetual corruption of the International Olympic Committee. 

I get it.  I’m not blind to it.  Frankly, I started this piece with the intent of criticizing the choice of fellow Marylander Michael Phelps - he of two DUI arrests, a 2014 suspension from USA Swimming and documented marijuana use – as the flag bearer for the United States Olympic team.  There were better choices – literally hundreds of them.  Phelps, in his fifth Olympics, didn’t need the additional attention and despite his 22 Olympic medals (the most ever), he didn’t deserve to be the symbol for the United States Olympic team.  His swimming talent has raised Old Glory many times; his performance out of the pool didn’t warrant him raising it ahead of the Rio Games.  


But then the overwhelming beauty of the Parade of Nations – thousands of athletes from around the world celebrating their countries, themselves and global athletic competition – overwhelmed my negativity bias of Phelps, hijacked this article sent it in a far more important direction.  I’m thankful for the tangent.  Now there’s something I never said in geometry class.

Unlikely Prudence

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Washington QB Kirk Cousins pocketed $2.7M total during his first four years in the NFL.  This coming season alone, Cousins will earn $19.953M on a one-year franchise tag. 

Despite the unimaginable raise, the prevailing suggestion, given the lucrative quarterback marketplace, is that Cousins should be insulted by the team’s disrespect of his talent. 

His accomplishments are inarguable: In 2015, the final year of his rookie contract, Cousins led Washington to a division title, set a single-season franchise record for passing yards and provided a definitive exit from the disastrous Robert Griffin III era.  And for all this, Cousins got “rewarded” with a prove-it-again deal.  Preposterous.  Washington should have showered Cousins with a long-term contract and football riches reserved only for elite quarterbacks.  Instead, the organization slapped Cousins with the one-year franchise tag and ultimately failed to reach a multi-year contract extension by the July 15 deadline.

Washington did Captain Kirk dirty.

That’s the rhetoric being spewed by many media spin doctors.  The reality is there’s nothing to see here.  Two entities assessed a professional situation and made individual business decisions.  The world will continue to rotate.  Cousins will work hard and, barring injury, start at quarterback this fall.  Washington coaches will work intensely to ensure his and the team’s success.  Should Cousins thrive in 2016, the process will repeat itself again: Cousins will either play under the franchise tag at an increased 2017 salary of $24M or sign a long-term contract. 

While it is rare for franchised players to actually play out the one-year contract and almost unprecedented for quarterbacks to do so, this scenario makes perfect sense for both Washington and Cousins considering the root of the impasse: a volatile quarterback market.  This offseason, Andrew Luck set the bar after signing a six-year, $140M contract with Indianapolis.  Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler, an average signal-caller, inked a four-year, $72M deal with Houston that includes $37M in guarantees. 

Where does Cousins fall on the Luck-Osweiler continuum?  Well, it’s hard to say, hence the stalemate.  The dollars that Luck received provoked Cousins to bet on himself and another big season; conversely, the guaranteed money being commanded by quarterbacks and Cousins’s relatively shallow resume (he’s just 11-14 as a starter), gave Washington justifiable pause.
Nobody blinked during negotiations – so here we are.

Given Washington’s compliment of offensive weapons, its shaky running game and modest defensive talent, it is probable that Cousins will throw often and compile impressive numbers.  It is also probable that with each big statistical outing – victorious or not – Washington’s front office will be ripped for failing to lock up its quarterback. 

Fair enough.  Such debate moves the needle.  But not overpaying to reach a long-term deal was absolutely the right move.  With a salary cap of $155.3M and a 53-man roster to fill, if a team pays elite quarterback money, it must ensure it will receive elite quarterback play - and even if it does, the inequitable allocation of financial resources produces uneven results. 

Some of the best quarterbacks in the league – Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Russell Wilson – won Super Bowls on below-market contracts.  After slipping on their rings and scoring big deals, more Super Bowls didn’t always follow.  Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco is the most obvious example of the elite quarterback financial trap: After winning the Super Bowl in 2013, Flacco signed a six-year, $121M contract.  The Ravens have managed just one winning season since.  But he’s not alone: In 2012, two years after winning the Super Bowl, New Orleans signed Brees to a five-year, $100M contract.  In the four subsequent seasons, their record is 32-32.

Considering its decades of instability at the most important position in team sports, Washington should feel fortunate to have Cousins.  And the hunch is a long-term deal gets done next summer.  But there was no reason to rush to pay a relatively unproven asset this year.  Every team – athletic or otherwise - needs its quarterback, but individual positions don’t sustain success and win championships, teams do.  Washington’s prudent handling of the Cousins negotiations was true to this formula. 


Did I just use “Washington” and “prudent” in the same sentence?   

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Platform for Change

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Recent sports headlines have been dominated by an all-star NBA forward from Maryland.  No, not the ‘Skins fan from Prince George’s County.  Oh he’s gotten plenty of run after snubbing the Wizards, crushing dreams in Oklahoma City and inking a deal with the Golden State Warriors, the NBA’s first non-LeBron-James Evil Empire in years.  Pause The Kevin Durant Chronicles for a moment; a former resident of Baltimore, the land of orange, purple and Natty Boh, stirred up far more important publicity last week.

I’m not a fan of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.  Yes, he’s a big-time scorer who can flat out drain the orange.  But he’s an obligatory defender, his effort is questionable and there’s no evidence that he makes his teammates better.  One dimensional.  Generally overrated.  Not my cup of tea. 

That’s Anthony the player.  But Anthony the man and unexpected political activist?  That guy has my attention.  That guy has my respect.  In an overwhelmingly sad week that saw police shoot and kill Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and Micah Johnson kill five officers in Dallas, Anthony took to social media to express his outrage.  Here are his paraphrased thoughts (the post is worth reading in its entirety):

“We need to steer our anger in the right direction…towards the system.  Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work…we need to come together more than anything at this time.  We need each other.  I’m calling on my fellow athletes to step up and take charge.  There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore.  THE TIME IS NOW.  DEMAND CHANGE.”

When confronted with domestic or international turmoil, I often turn to Fareed Zakaria’s book “The Post-American World” for solace.  In it, Zakaria argues that, by historical comparison, we occupy a peaceful world, one whose cultural and economic interconnectivity largely mitigates dangerous political discord and ill-intended personal or national ambition.  The evidence is convincing: We’ve achieved unprecedented levels of trade and economic prosperity; cultural barriers are reduced by travel and information exchange, and; large scale war between superpowers, the kind that results in massive casualties and global instability, doesn’t exist. 

Still, with alarmingly frequent terrorist attacks and senseless killings, it is difficult to remain hopeful in humanity’s grand earthly coexistence, despite Zakaria’s logical, fact-based counterpoints.  Human nature as it is, it seems that stereotypes will corrupt the small-minded, greed will infect the ambitious and religious zealotry will distort the worship of a god into an instrument of pure evil. 

The tendency for decent, loving and well-intended individuals is to respond to social calamity by controlling what they can – personal attitudes and actions and the world view of youths they influence – and steadfastly remaining part of the solution.  The development of strategies that promote the world’s safety, progressive international relationships and the infrastructure for social fellowship and equality is deferred to a nation’s leaders, a term often synonymous with politicians.      
Given the scope of today’s challenges, that is mostly an understandable and defensible reaction.  For what happened in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas during America’s Independence week, it isn’t enough.  The world has a common opponent who is terrorizing free, peaceful people around the globe.  Yet here we are in America, the allegedly most diverse, open and tolerant nation in the world, struggling with senseless internal violence.  We have to demand better of ourselves, resist shameful stereotypes and appreciate and promote our common humanity. 


That is part of Anthony’s point.  The added layer is that while sports is a fun, joyous reprieve from the ugliness of everyday life, there comes a time when it should be more.  Anthony’s fed up and willing to use his NBA platform to be a change agent; he’s challenging colleagues to do the same.  We should all applaud his courageous activism and stand behind him, Knicks fan or not.  Otherwise we’re just individuals left rereading books or returning to other familiar outlets to soothe the pain of the latest crisis and retain hope in our flawed species.  For me, Anthony’s crusade is well-time; I need more than Zakaria’s wisdom to maintain faith in this world.     

Work v. Playtime

As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

The last week or so has been a struggle.  I’ve watched Australian Rules Football, random College World Series games and “Without Bias”, a 2009 ESPN documentary on the death of former Maryland Basketball star Len Bias, three times.  I’ve even trolled the internet like a pathetic TMZ junkie for 
Johnny Manziel chatter.  Is a 2 a.m. table tennis tournament next? 

The problem: I’m a sports addict without an adequate fix.  I need whiskey shots, but the only elixir available is Coors Light.  I’m pounding Silver Bullets but they just don’t deliver the desired effect.  Maybe I need to go “Old School”, channel my inner Frank the Tank and deploy a beer bong. 
I should have a compensatory protocol; this happens every year.  See, the moment the Fightin’ LeBron’s defeated the Golden State Warriors and exercised Cleveland’s demons, sports fans were tossed into a cold, harsh world with only one active major sport (MLB).  No frozen pucks or slap shots.  No touchdowns or daily fantasy football binges.  No more three point bombs.  This is how Aussie football ends up on one’s television.  I even caught myself reading about Great Britain’s departure from the European Union.  #Brexit!  Help…

Finding inspiration in these depressed athletic times is difficult, but a Norseman - by trade, anyway - managed to do so.  When asked during a recent ESPN interview about his remaining NFL shelf life, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, 31, offered an interesting reply.  “Training camp, going through the grind, OTAs and all that – that will definitely be a deciding factor.  Physically, body-wise, I’ll be good.  It’s just mentally…it’s so repetitive that it’s more suited toward the young guys…it gets kind of boring.”

For the average person who trudges into work five days a week for 40 years just to keep the utilities on and some connection to the middle class, Peterson’s comments sound like pouty, million-dollar-athlete syndrome.  Oh yeah, it’s torturous to throw some weights around daily, casually run mock football plays in shorts and spend a little time with coaches in the film room.  Poor Adrian Peterson.  How does he survive the toil?  He’s a working man’s hero. 

Pausing the sail down the river of sarcasm, a fair consideration of Peterson’s soundbite must acknowledge two points.  First, while Peterson might not be the best mentor for fathers, he is among the NFL’s hardest workers, having once rushed for 2,000 yards less than a year after reconstructive knee surgery.  He is a symbol of the year-round commitment to fitness the game requires and the death of the pot-bellied era of Sonny Jurgensen.  Second, and more significantly, football, as compared to other sports, demands arduous preparation.  Offseason programs begin in April.  Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are in May.  Training camps start in July.  Preseason games are played in August.  The regular season runs from September through December and includes obsessive strategizing between games.  And for what?  Sixteen games at three hours apiece - 48 hours of glory.  And the best of the best only play half (offense or defense).  That’s a lot of work for very little playtime and a far cry from the 162 MLB games and 82 NBA and NHL games per year.  No wonder there’s so much exuberance and passion on Sundays – it’s playtime!

In that context, Peterson’s point is understandable.  Football demands a lot of squeezing for very little juice.  Looking to real life for comps, I suppose it’s similar to the maturation of a complex weapon system, a process that takes years and climaxes with a few test events.  Or a presentation that takes weeks to develop, research and practice for a single, two-hour delivery.  Or maybe it’s even like writing, a process the great Red Smith described in these terms: “Writing is easy.  Just sit in front of a typewriter, open up a vein and bleed.” 


Heading into his tenth NFL season, I get Peterson’s boredom with the grind.  Am I sympathetic?  What with a metaphorical vein open and an early morning alarm for another 20 years?  No, not hardly.  Pro football’s still a comparatively good gig, even if gamedays are rare treats.