By Jason Keidel
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Most of us don't care how much money athletes or their bosses, the puppets or puppeteers, earn. We see it in the abstract, fictional deals in a financial orbit we can't see. But now we're supposed to cry because some very well-heeled coaches and general managers have been fired.
I'm sick of the sanctimonious celebrities and media types who bemoaned "Black Monday," addressing us in solemn monotone about the inequities and iniquity of NFL business. Ruthless owners fired coaches and general managers, otherwise noble men, leaving them jobless -- and quite possibly homeless! -- just for doing their jobs.
Really? Does Chan Gailey care when you lose your $30,000-per-year gig, that you were living check-to-check before massive layoffs? Does Mike Tannenbaum care that you can't afford the COBRA premiums to keep your kids with health insurance? You're supposed to feel sorry for the former Jets GM and the millions he's due from his GUARANTEED contract with the Jets?
How about the hundreds of young men whom men like Tannenbaum cut without blinking? Kids working low-wage jobs, who have been playing football since Pop Warner and have dreamed of an NFL uniform since infancy, fall through the anonymous cracks of big business.
These young men, who literally bleed for the chance to work for Tannenbaum, are routinely fired on sweaty summer nights. They are met by some stone-faced intern in a dorm room, asked to leave posthaste, to stuff their personal belongings into a garbage bag, hand over the playbook and are given a one-way ticket back home, back to mediocrity, to the blue-collar rigors of failed dreams.
Then you had Tannenbaum's concession speech, a rambling reminder of why he was fired in the first place. He referred to "history" and "tradition" and that the Jets are just a bunch of uncrowned champions.
Bill Parcells famously asserted that you are what your record says you are. By that metric, Tannenbaum was a perilously pedestrian 57-55 as the GM of the Jets. And if there were such a glowing nucleus in place he would now be planning for the playoffs and then the draft, not polishing his resume.
Enough from these elitists who patronize us with a moment of silence for their dismissed brethren. This nauseating chorus just italicizes the chasm between those who fly in Learjets around the world and those of us who live in it.
So often we hear useless adjectives like "classy" or "noble" to describe the departed. In reality, classy is often a euphemism for failure, a man who loses way too often for his profession's palate. Lovie Smith is generally regarded as a good man. He was also given nine years to win a Super Bowl and didn't. He was also paid millions of dollars to lose. As were Gailey, Romeo Crennel, Ken Whisenhunt and Norv Turner. And Andy Reid? He was given 14 years and finished 4-12 this year, bludgeoned in his final game by the hated Giants.
Will Coach Reid call when you can't make your Con Ed payments? That's rhetorical, of course. And the rhetoric, this duplicitous, glorified group hug for rich men is sickening.
The average NFL career is about three years, depending on the study you quote. You don't hear about the poor stiff who bounces from team to team -- to Arena, Canadian and European leagues to chase his childhood dream -- who pinballs between cities, leagues, countries and continents only to get whacked with some regurgitated, corporate preamble: "We really like you, son, but we're going in another direction."
Speaking of failed millionaires, where's Rex Ryan? The most verbose coach in the NFL is M.I.A. You can't be out front in good times and then hide behind vague gag orders in bad times.
Woody Johnson's biggest mistake was not firing both men. Ryan and Tannenbaum were the same organizational organism, sharing a corporate and athletic ethos that looked so promising three years ago. Now they're the first Jets tandem to post consecutive non-winning seasons since Rich Kotite.
So now the shampoo heir's hair is standing. But just like all his myopic moves since buying the Jets, his decision to dismiss the general manager is only half right.
Now some young, gelded GM will wade into anarchy. What accomplished executive will run a team when the owner has already blessed the current head coach and is stuck with a three-headed gargoyle at quarterback?
Frankly, they all deserve each other. But you, the fans who pay their freight, deserve better. I feel sorry for you, not some pampered brotherhood that some call the football cognoscenti.
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