Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Modern Athlete

I love Jason Taylor. I really do. He's consistently been our best defensive player for the better part of this decade and has carried himself with class while a member of this horrible team. However, I can't help but wonder where the stereotype of football players as tough guys has gone.

I watch NFL Films and see guys fighting in the muddy trenches, playing with broken necks and torn muscles. Deacon Jones slapping offensive lineman on the head on the way to the QB. People missing teeth. The old-school football of the 60s is a glorious thing. Tough guys who don't screw around and who don't bitch and moan about playing time or signing bonuses.

Now you see guys like JT on TV, on dancing competitions. Showing up on People's 100 Most Beautiful People. Advertising skin lotion products (Nivea). No offense to Jason, who has made the most of his good looks and celebrity to ensure himself a future after football, but my, how the times have changed. I can see why Parcells hasn't necessarily warmed up to him yet, considering he is missing workouts to be dancing on TV.

This isn't an attack on Jason, nor a defense of Parcells' cold demeanor. It's just interesting to me to see this stuff going on all the time and it's not even viewed as a problem. Modern athletes are doing stuff that the manly men of the 50s and 60s wouldn't dream of wasting their time with. I wonder if this is a good or a bad thing. I haven't decided yet. I for one would make the most of my career, like many athletes are doing today. Then again, there is something special about players who don't fool around, mean business, and play football with a passion so deep that nothing else matters in the world. They'll play hurt, and do so for pennies in comparison to today's pampered athletes.

Does that make modern athletes soft or indifferent towards their profession? I don't think so. There are still guys like Marvin Harrison or Zach Thomas who obsess over their jobs and rarely if ever appear outside of the football spectrum. There are guys like Chad Johnson who love promoting themselves to the point you wonder if they ever bother to study film (though I believe in Chad's case, he does both). But there are also guys like Peyton Manning, who will study more film than any other QB in the NFL, but still appears in countless commercials. Guys who get the best of both worlds. Guys like Jason Taylor.

I guess it just depends on your own personal preferences. I would love to have a team full of guys who play with broken bones and noses, who don't give a damn about endorsements. But I can't help but admit that if I were in their positions, I would exploit my position on the team so as to ensure my financial security well into the future. What do you guys think?

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