Scott: Dalbin, I know we had a brief exchange over twitter about this, but I was nowhere near as upset as some people were over the comments Jamal Adams made about dying on the football field. He later clarified he wasn’t talking about CTE and didn’t literally mean he wanted to die for football, and his real meaning seemed to me to be more along the lines of “I love this game more than anything else in my life, so if it takes a few years off of my life, I’m ok with that.”
Granted, that is not what he actually said and I think that is the biggest problem with all of this: He has to learn to be more careful about how he uses his words. Not only is he a star athlete with people all over the country paying attention to him, he’s one of the centerpieces of a team in New York, and we all know how that goes when it comes to the media. If you say something careless in Kansas City or Jacksonville, it might not turn into a major story. Do it in New York and it is THE story for days.
But he’s 21 and he will learn. Shannon Sharpe and Ray Lewis both said they didn’t think Adams meant he literally wanted to die for football because obviously, the idea of “dying for football” is crazy. They both seemed to think it was just a case of a kid who has an unbridled passion for the sport getting carried away in the moment, much the way Sharpe himself says he would have 15 years ago. Time and some perspective tends to sort these things out.
So here’s my question: Is it wrong that even if I think he got carried away with his comments, I love the fire he showed? Also, is this all just masking a more difficult discussion which is the fact that football is insanely violent and while nobody should want to die for the game, the reality is the long term risk the game poses to an athlete’s health are a horrifying but somewhat unavoidable dark side of playing in the NFL?
Dalbin: Scott, I think the biggest thing for me is that there are players, legends of this game, that have been severely affected by CTE. Junior Seau, Jim McMahon, and countless others. Young talents have chosen to retire early instead of collecting paychecks because of the very real fear that they will not remember anything as they continue to age. CTE is, for all intents and purposes, football’s version of steroids in baseball in the sense that it is a cloud that is hanging over the entire league I feel. He could have definitely said it differently, and conveyed that same passion without using those words. A lot of people said that we all know some of these guys can die and we still watch, and that dismisses the nuance that comes with articles like these.
I worry about the sentiment, and with Morris Claiborne echoing similar albeit rougher sentiments, because I do not think it is healthy to look at this game as a life or death thing. The NFL’s owners will release you at the drop of a dime when you can no longer produce, and they will not care how much passion you showed for the game. I worry that Adams just got his first lesson in New York media, like you said, but I worry that his passion may lead to him hurting himself for a game that historically does not care for its players. As a young player, the biggest thing veterans tell you is to make sure you are financially set so you can take care of yourself and your family. You can’t do that if you’re dead.
He is 21 years old, so you hope he learns, but I think I have moved past the “giving these young guys a pass for verbal lapses” because he had to know better than to answer it that way. You’re in New York, not Baton Rouge, and it has now become the story. I mean, we are talking about it, you know? Do his comments net the same reaction if he’s in Arizona? Maybe not, although he is a top 10 pick and there is so much scrutiny on these young kids as is.
I think you can appreciate the fire without wanting to fan it, if that makes sense. Last year, Cam Newton was unfairly targeted all year. He took some shots last year that I have very rarely seen players get away with and, whether because he’s black or he’s cocky, fans brushed them off as “good clean hits.” This is a violent sport, but we cannot dismiss the very real dangers of the game because we are cheering it on. There is a hypocrisy to it. What role do you think the media plays on the pervertion of the game?
Scott: As you know, I don’t disagree with the vast majority of what you said. Obviously, the phrasing of the comments was reckless and tone deaf given what we now know about guys like Junior Seau, Dave Duerson, Kevin Turner, etc….. My only defense is that I don’t think he meant it the way it came out, as he indicated when questioned about it later. I don’t think he was trying to disrespect the legends who have suffered, and while I share your sentiments that he has to be more careful with his words, in the end, I think he was just a 21 year old kid who isn’t used to having to watch every word he says, and got overexcited in the moment. If he repeatedly does this, I will be right there with you, but I am willing to see if he can learn from this and mature, especially since I don’t think his intent was malicious.
I think he meant it the way Lewis and Sharpe did, in that he loves the game and if he ends up paying a heavy price for that in the end, he feels the trade off is worth it. Many people don’t feel that way, and like you said, that’s why some guys – like Chris Borland – decided to retire. It is also the same reason some parents won’t even let their children play football. Speaking for myself, my stepson is a fantastic athlete but his mother will never ever let him play football because she is terrified of what it will do to him. That’s 100% reasonable and I do not blame anybody for having that mindset or for trying to play for a few years, make your money, and then get out with as much of your health in tact as you can.
That said, we have to be honest about this in that while most football players aren’t necessarily going to die because of football, permanent brain damage and many other terrible long term health problems are a very real possibility for many who play professional football. Simply put, 6’6 260 pound men colliding with each other repeatedly is just a recipe for disaster. We have always known this, but it has become more clear over the past few years with the CTE info becoming more well-known.
I know exactly what you mean about not adding to the fire. As much as I love seeing a guy make a big hit, it always makes me incredibly uncomfortable to watch a defenseless player get hammered, especially a helmet to helmet. I honestly cringe when I hear stuff like “You can’t even touch these guys anymore, they may as well wear dresses.” I accept that football can never be safe, but I see no reason why it is bad to take steps to at least make it somewhat safer.
As far as the media, they obviously fueled the Adams fire by going crazy with the quote, but as far as the game overall, they’ve been living off of the violent aspect of it for years. I mean, you see shows of “biggest hits” and the like, but I’m pretty sure we’ve never seen an hour dedicated to running great WR routes. In fairness, I think it is because the public has an innate desire for violence and always has, but the media absolutely goes out of its way to satiate that desire.
Dalbin: Whoooo, this is where I would include multiple fire emojis. My question to you is, what if he does not learn from it? What if this is the first of many missteps for the Jets first round pick? Darron Lee struggled with some off the field issues last year. Does Mike Maccagnan have a blind spot for players that seem to find themselves in situations that are easily avoidable?
Ray Lewis and Shannon Sharpe are on opposite ends of the spectrum in regards to the Colin Kaepernick situation, but it is interesting to see them in agreement on this. Ray was a fiery leader of an all-time defense, but he has been in the news for more negative than positive since transitioning to the media. What are your thoughts on his, and other media’s, comments about Odell Beckham, Jr.? The media has such a strong voice, and it applies to both how Adams’s comments were covered and the coverage of CTE in general.
When will the media be held accountable for their role in both the promotion of the violent aspects of the game, the lack fo awareness of CTE, and their coverage of Beckham and other players? It feels like some media members have axes to grind, and that comes off when you see just how big Adams’s comments got (the media rides the Jets) or how they cover Beckham.
I think the media has found a way to generate revenue by being sensationalist in nature. I think the landscape is changing to more visual content, which will hopefully eliminate the need to push these visceral reactions to mundane things. Look at the coverage to Jamal Adams’s comments, and compare them to the lack of coverage that Eli Manning potentially being involved in a racketeering scheme has garnered. Think about that: a rookie safety’s comments get more attention than a Super Bowl winning QB’s potential crime?
There’s something off there. Eli seemingly gets a pass because his owner gets a pass. Tom Brady, and I dislike him personally, was dragged through the mud and suspended for four games for reportedly asking his equipment guys to let air out of the ball. That was the story for the NFL for an entire year, because Robert Kraft seemingly doesn’t get a pass, but Daniel Snyder planting stories about Scot McCloughlin’s battle with substance use gets swept under the rug? That owner versus owner versus player mentality is why I really enjoyed Martellius Bennett’s comments to Adams about how he may die for this game, but those owners won’t die for him. That culture of us versus them, and it trickles down to the media, the NFL contributes to it, because some owners seem to only care about money, right?
It’s why you see the NFL receive a big check from the Department of Defense to be patriotic, or how they get a ton of money to wear pink for the month of October in order to preserve their non-profit tax status. The media has just perverted what the NFL has shown them they care about. That’s the bottom line.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com