Quick Snap: Jay Cutler the Quitter?

Why is “quitting” a bad thing?

People quit smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol.  That is when quitting is celebrated.  Yet, Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler quits playing in the NFC Championship Game and that type of quitting is ridiculed.

Let’s me clear — Cutler quit.  And Maurice Jones-Drew, among others, are accurate in accessing that Cutler quit.  But MJD also quit.  That does not make it a bad thing.

Jones-Drew missed the final two games of the regular season, a point that Bears fans and Cutler supporters are quick to point out.  This is crucial because the Jaguars were still in the playoff hunt.  But Pocket Hercules played all season with an injury and eventually the pain was too much.  Yes, MJD quit.  But he quit because of injury and there is no shame in that.

There is this mythical belief that football players are supposed to play through injury.  As though they are impervious to pain.  But think about how often you have skipped work or school simply because you have a slight headache.  Some people tap out at the slightest pain, but in reality it is more of an “excuse” to get out of doing something.  The headache becomes the excuse where you cannot go on, even if it is a slight headache.

Now, magnify that pain.  Imagine having something like rheumatoid arthritis and trying to get through the pain.  Certainly some days you feel okay, but other days it is not easy.  In fact, you can hardly get out of bed.  Perhaps your facial expression suggests that you are fine, but you know that you are hurting.  Some people have higher tolerances to pain and get past those bad R.A. days; but many cannot.

Humans can only take so much pain.  But somehow, we expect athletes to overcome that threshold and “fight through it.”  Stories of fingers being chopped off and shoulders popped back into place and players with bum ankles and knees hobbling down field adorn football mythology.  It is somehow “manly” to fight through pain.  That is how the “old school” players did it.

Yeah…and what is the level of brain damage among football players?  Brain damage is real manly!  Or how many athletes walk with a limp because of bad knees?  Limping is quite manly!  Hell, read the book Open and discover how much pain Andre Aggasi suffers in his back…and that’s from fucking tennis; not football!!!  Back pains — the true measure of a man!

Point is that we do not know how much pain Cutler was really in.  Doctors can diagnose a sprained knee, but the individual is the one that knows how much pain s/he is in.  Given the position that Cutler plays, stability and flexibility in the knee is crucial.  Sure, he could stand on the sideline.  Speaking from experience, I could stand with a sprained knee; I could stand with an injured hamstring.  But could I run?  No.

It is not like Cutler was hiding on the bench sulking in his own misery (a la LaDainian Tomlinson).  He was at least supporting his team.

Jones-Drew is right; Cutler did quit.  But he quit because of an injury; not because he was saying “no mas.”  It was not because of his performance (remember, this cat was sacked nine times in one game…and only a concussion forced him out of the game; not performance).  He is not Roberto Duran.

Quitting because of injury is not cowardly.  It is smart.  Yes, we celebrate players who play through injury.  Those players are also stupid because they risk long-term injury.  The lifespan of football players is short, and players must protect themselves first and foremost.  Football is a violent sport, an element that we as fans celebrate.  The risk of injury is great and players know this.  And while I doubt this thought had very little to do with Cutler not returning to the game, certainly it is something to consider.

People like to ponder “what ifs.”  What if Cutler returned from the injury and led the Bears to victory and the Super Bowl?  Everyone would have celebrated him as a “warrior” and a hero; just another line of hard-working Chicago athletes who overcome pain to help the collective.  He is the man!!!

But what if Cutler entered the game and completely blew out his knee?  What if, because of re-entering the game and attempting to be “the man” that he suffered a career-ending injury to that knee, never again playing for the Bears?  How manly would that be?


Quick Snap: LeBron James Plays Just Another Game in Cleveland

Tonight, the Miami Heat square off against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a battle of mediocrity.

Sorry…wrong word.  Of media-crazy!

Obviously this game will NOT be about just the Cavs and the Heat.  This will about LEBRON JAMES and his return to cleveland.

I have a feeling of what the reaction will be like, and it will sound something like a Chick-Fil-A commercial.  But what is the appropriate response.

At first, I thought it would be awesome if no one showed up for the game.  Have the fans not show up and abandon James.  But that would actually punish the Cavs.  The better response would be fans showing up for all 41 Cleveland home games in full force regardless of the team’s record.  It would show that the city of Cleveland is behind its team and not an individual.  Sell out the Quicken Loans Arena every home game and stand behind the team, unlike what James did.

So far, Cleveland fans have done that as through nine games the Cavs had the highest average home attendance (20,562), which is at 100 percent capacity (tied for sixth).  So bravo to the city of Cleveland.

But I am not sure that is the best way to stick it to LeBron James, who honestly will never truly “care” about what Cleveland fans do.

I think the best thing for those fans to do is, when James is announced, to stand and applaud him.  Remember the positive things that James did for the team.  He took helped lead Cleveland to the NBA Finals.  He brought attention to a down-trodden team.

So stand and applaud him before the game.  Such a move would be classy.  And given that many around the country hold James’s move to Miami as a classless move (at least the way he did it; not the move itself), the response would be a stark contract to The King’s classless move.

And then, cheer like mad for the Cavaliers to win the game.  Don’t boo James every time he touches the ball.  But cheer for the Cavs.  Let Cleveland be the focus of fan energy; not a player who is no longer on the team.

To me, that would be the ultimate jab at LeBron.  Show that he is appreciated, but that the city has moved on and will stand behind the Cavaliers as they move on without James’s services.  After all, Cleveland is only three games back of Miami.  Cleveland may not be doing as well as they did when James was a part of the team, but he is not doing so hot without Cleveland either.

Certainly, we have to expect that Miami will improve.  But for one night, Cleveland can show that they are better than James and his Evil Empire in South Florida.

So applaud LeBron James for what he has done.  And hopefully by the time the game ends, Cleveland can be cheering for Mo Williams leading the Cavs to victory (behind a triple-double).


Quick Snap: Cameron Newton Decision

The NCAA determined that Auburn quarterback Cameron Newton is eligible to play.  That is good news for the Auburn “family” and really good news for college football as Newton is the best player in the FBS and deserves to play.

Or is it a good thing?  The NCAA report notes that…

Based on the information available to the reinstatement staff at this time, we do not have sufficient evidence that Cam Newton or anyone from Auburn was aware of this activity, which led to his reinstatement. From a student-athlete reinstatement perspective, Auburn University met its obligation under NCAA bylaw 14.11.1. Under this threshold, the student-athlete has not participated while ineligible.

Um, okay.  That Newton can play is fine.  I have no problem with that.  But the wording used here is puzzling.  “At this time” is always a puzzling phrase.  Does this mean that the NCAA suspects that more information will surface?  That there is not “sufficient evidence” is certainly legalspeak, but also leaves open the possibility that Newton did know that he was being shopped and there evidence was simply weak.

But it is clear that NCAA violations occurred.  How?  The NCAA stated as much.

The NCAA concluded on Monday that a violation of amateurism rules occurred, therefore Auburn University declared the student-athlete ineligible yesterday [Tuesday] for violations of NCAA amateurism rules.

So violations did occur, but the only “punishment” that Newton received was essentially a one day penalty of being deemed “ineligible”?!  Really?

Look, I understand that once a violation by an athlete has been proven that the individual is immediately deemed ineligible.  There is then a reinstatement process that takes place.  But for that process to be completed so quickly is bizarre.  And why would Newton, who was suddenly deemed ineligible, not deemed ineligible for any games that he played?  It is a curious situation for which I only seek clarification; not damnation.

Additionally, will Auburn be punished?  Not likely as apparently the NCAA’s investigation did not find that Auburn paid anyone for Newton’s services.  That is fine, too.  But I am curious how Auburn “satisfied” NCAA Bylaw 14.01.1 (emphasis added):

Institutional Responsibility. An institution shall not permit a student-athlete to represent it in intercollegiate athletics competition unless the student-athlete meets all applicable eligibility requirements, and the institution has certified the student-athlete’s eligibility. A violation of this bylaw in which the institution fails to certify the student-athlete’s eligibility prior to allowing him or her to represent the institution in intercollegiate competition shall be considered an institutional violation per Constitution 2.8.1; however, such a violation shall not affect the student-athlete’s eligibility, provided all the necessary information to certify the student-athlete’s eligibility was available to the institution and the student-athlete otherwise would have been eligible for competition.

Well, technically he did not meet all applicable eligibility requirements — whether he knew it or not — and was allowed to represent Auburn.  Furthermore, did Auburn really certify his eligibility?  The findings of the NCAA seem to indicate that he was not eligible even if the violations were unknown to him.  Violating amateur status resulted in automatic ineligibility; thus if Auburn could not confirm 100 percent his amateur status, then how did they clear this particular bylaw?  Again…only asking…not condemning.

Cameron Newton is going to play — and he will likely play well — in the SEC title game.  At this point, that is something that cannot be question.  Maybe he did really know what was going on, but it is innoncent until proven guilty; not the other way around.  And in this case, his innocence was upheld.  He can play.  Get over it.

But the thing that worries me is not Newton or Auburn.  It is the door that these findings open.  What is to stop future shopping of high school athletes by their father or proxies and if caught the athlete claiming that he (or she) had no idea what was going on?  Remember Albert Means?  He was shopped around and the results was punishment for Alabama, not Means.  Means was still allowed to play…he just did so at Memphis rather than Alabama.

What does the case of Newton and Means show us?  Simply that the individual can get away with it while the school is the one that receives the punishment.  Neither Newton nor Means were unable to play.  They were not (directly) punished.  There are few consequences for the athlete and with this decision, will we see more cases where athletes simply “did not know” what was happening?

It is like the tragedy of the commons, where the individual benefits while the group bears the burden.  Only, it is the tragedy of the NCAA, where athletes (or their representatives) benefit at the expense of the individual team.

The NCAA will never make sense — an institution that will punish schools subjectively, where in some cases current athletes pay the price for the wrongdoings of past players and in other cases claim that they do not want to punish the current players.  This is an institution that allows some athletes to play professional baseball and then return to college to play football, but would not allow former Colorado wide receiver Jeremy Bloom to maintain his eligibility because he was a professional skier (and competing for the United States!).

Oh well.  War Cameron Eagle, i guess.