September 13, 2009

Mayo: The Heir Apparent: After watching Mayo leap over a guard to tackle a running back a yard from scrimmage, Vrabel drew his own conclusions. "It's almost not normal to move like he does," Vrabel said. "Nobody runs like that. He looks like a free safety out there." An awesome piece of sportswriting by Jackie McMullan.

posted by Venicemenace to football at 09:45 PM - 10 comments

Nice article, Venicemenace. There's a lot resting on that youngster's shoulders. I hope he'll prove equal to the dual challenge of developing his skills as a player and as a leader of a reconstituted defense.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:24 AM on September 14, 2009

And his main inspiration is Derrick Brooks - that is going to get a nod of approval from some folks here.

posted by beaverboard at 09:46 AM on September 14, 2009

From the first page:

Six weeks earlier against San Francisco, Mayo had torn up his left shoulder making a tackle. The injury not only lingered, it worsened every time he made contact with another football player, which was at least a couple dozen times a day.

Although he was in his first year in the NFL, Mayo knew what was expected. He played on, even though he couldn't raise his arm above his head, even when the pain was so intense he knew he needed surgery. All the while, there was no mention of his shoulder on the team's injury report.

He did not dwell on his status with his coaches, his teammates, and certainly not the media. The rookie understood his aches and pains were not for public consumption, nor were they an excuse for subpar play.

Another mm deeper on that shoulder injury and maybe his career is over, the Pats dump him and his non-guaranteed contract, he ends up addicted to oxycontin, living under a bridge and dies at age 50 -- after playing less than a year in the league. Sportswriters who create this sort of glorification of all that is wrong with the NFL then create expectations in the minds of the fans that anyone who doesn't risk permanent disability by playing through such injuries is "dogging it" or a bad team mate or something, which then allows management to dump any player at any time. Since any player can be dumped at any time, the incentive to play through injury is perpetuated.

So, well written or not, I don't respect this kind of sportswriting.

posted by rumple at 11:13 AM on September 14, 2009

You require sports writing to look out into the multi-verse and report on all possible outcomes for a given event? It'd kind of make sports boring: everybody wins!

posted by yerfatma at 11:35 AM on September 14, 2009

No, I'd prefer sportswriting to be less focused on cliche "play through pain" with its narrative of cheap heroism and do some more serious journalism into the consequences of injury to players, and, indeed, journalists complicity in creating the conditions by which players feel obligd to not take themselves out of "games" and hence risk further injuries.

posted by rumple at 11:47 AM on September 14, 2009

Yeah, rumple, everything sucks. Film at eleven.

(it's actually been done, but I think you'd rather soapbox)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 11:56 AM on September 14, 2009

Rumple, I don't think that McMullan's article was deficient because it failed to opine on the NFL culture of playing through pain. She presented the evidence and allowed you to draw your own conclusions. When she writes that "his aches and pains were not for public consumption," she is explaining the NFL world as it is, instead of penning an opinion piece about how it should be.

One of the reasons why I liked this article a lot was that the author subtly addressed the brutal culture of an NFL team and the tensions that often exist between coaches and players, veterans and rookies, a player's desire to excel and the physical torment that can often entail.

There is so much in this article for Patriots fans to chew on. The injury Mayo concealed last season is a window into the harsh world of the NFL, and a reminder that every star NFL player is one ill-fated play from going on IR. Instead of celebrating Belichick as a genius, this article presents him as a brutal taskmaster...a more nuanced view that's often missing in local sports coverage of our extremely successful coach. What of Mike Vrabel - was his trade to Kansas City a result of his tendency to openly contradict Belichick's decrees? The passing of the torch to Mayo - symbolized by the green dot on his helmet, but also the growing respect of the longtime veterans, who themselves are potentially made obsolete by the rise of the next defensive captain - is a poignant tale indeed.

And man, Rodney Harrison is going to be the most awesome media commentator ever.

posted by Venicemenace at 12:11 PM on September 14, 2009

lil_brown_bat, does "soapbox" mean "express an opinion"?

Just askin', cus it sounds like you prefer your sports journalism different than me. But if, as you say, evrything sucks then probably the film at eleven will also suck.

Venicemenace, I take your point, but I found it to be much more cliche than innovative: Act 1: Rookie pays through pain Act 2. Rookie gains grudging respect of some veterans Act 3. Veteran sticks up for rookie Act 4. Rookie sticks up to veteran Ac t 5. Rookie gets respect of skeptical veteran Act 5. Rookie replaces skeptical veteran.

But what you say about the nuanced way a Patriots fan might read it is interesting to me.

posted by rumple at 12:37 PM on September 14, 2009

lil_brown_bat, does "soapbox" mean "express an opinion"?

It's a digression, I'd say. YMMV. Carry on.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 02:37 PM on September 14, 2009

Looks like the "Heir Apparent" is injured in the 1st game of the season against the Bills. Hopefully it's not too serious, he looks to be a very good player.

posted by BornIcon at 09:24 PM on September 14, 2009

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