If you follow ITL on Twitter, you’ve been reading about the numerous hirings and firings by NFL teams over the past week-plus. It’s as much a part of this season in the NFL as swimsuits are to summer.
First, a quick aside for a pet peeve of mine: I hate it when I read a story from the sports media with the ‘it’s all just a game’ premise. You most often see this when a player’s child is stricken with a serious illness, or when a team soldiers on in the face of great regional turmoil/natural disaster, or whatever. First, it’s a lame, lazy premise. Second, all the people working in this ‘game’ depend on it to provide food, shelter, college expenses, etc., not just to themselves but to their families (and often extended families). Most often, their stay in this ‘game’ is also short, very short.
OK, I think I’m over my rant now.
Anyway, over the past 8-10 days, I’ve done a lot of writing about scouts who have been pushed out as new GMs have taken over, or for whatever reason. One of them, about a day after I posted his dismissal, sent me an email that said this:
“I saw where you posted the other day that I may be heading to (an NFL city). Not only is that inaccurate, but I was also trying to keep it quiet while I transitioned to another job. Other reporters reached out to me and had no problem holding the story. I understand you have a job to do, but please at least make sure all of the facts are right. Thank you.”
No. 1, getting emails/calls/texts like this is part of the business. No. 2, this is about as even-handed, courteous and respectful as these communiques get. No. 3, I’m very sensitive to what it means when someone loses his job. In many (most?) cases, it’s the last NFL job a person has. I understand all of this (which is why the ‘just a game’ stories really dig into me).
I responded by explaining that my speculation, which I believed credible, was well-meaning. I also thanked him for his even tone. My response read, in part:
“If we ever get to know each other – I know several of your friends – you will see that I’m not a bad guy. . . I’m always going to try to put a positive spin on transactions in this business because I, for one, know how hard it is. I don’t consider myself a journalist. I consider myself a football guy. There’s a big difference in my mind.
“My cell is on every email that goes out (including this one) so if you still feel I haven’t heard you out properly, you may call and let me know. Good luck in your next venture and I hope your time out is short.”
He responded with this:
“Thank you for the clarification and response. Look forward to meeting you at some point. Take care.”
So here’s my point. This business, every business, is about wins and losses. That’s perhaps more true on the field than off, but there are still real-world consequences to what’s happening. Some people treat football, and sports in general, as mere entertainment and folly. Well, to some degree that’s true, but it’s much larger than that. I encourage you, as you go forward in this game, to treat others with the same respect you give the game itself. I promise it will pay dividends.