I want some respect!
In this column I am hesitant to pick a winner as I am frightened it will be misconstrued as a sign of my lack of respect for the team I see losing. So instead, let me expound on one of the great linguistic dilemmas facing the NFL.
There is a great running joke early in the film “The Princess Bride.” The villainous Vizzini, played with gusto by Wallace Shawn, continuously uses the world inconceivable to express dismay when his best-laid plans go awry. After five or six utterances of the word inconceivable, Vizzini’s henchman Inigo, played by Mandy Patinkin, turns to him and says, “You keep on using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
I feel just like Inigo Montoya whenever I hear a professional football player use the word respect. Football players use respect incorrectly almost as often as Tom Cruise misinterpreted the word glib on the Today Show last summer. Respect is very big right now because apparently nobody in football gets enough of it. The Pittsburgh Steelers are playing the respect card as in, “We get no respect from the media and fans.”
Steelers not respected?
The Steelers are just the latest in a long line of teams, the Bucs included, that loves to throw around how they lack respect. Seeing as how respect means to be shown deference and esteem, the Steelers are probably correct in that they are not shown respect. But that is because the football field is not where esteem and deference are earned. Respect like that is earned by actions much more important than the mundane tasks of football.
But I don’t think this is the respect that the Steelers and other players are talking about. Instead, they want affirmation of their accomplishments. That request is reasonable and I commend the Steelers for being the first #6 seed to make the Super Bowl. But Pittsburgh, much like the rest of the NFL, has confused affirmation with respect and it is driving me batty because they are contributing to a culture that lacks understanding of what it truly means to be respected. Conversely, this incorrect understanding of respect has led to innocent actions being viewed as means of disrespect.
Apparently in today’s vocabulary-challenged NFL there are two primary ways in which a lack of respect may manifest itself.
One has to do with prognostication. If my team is not chosen to win a game it just means that we are not respected.
The logic of this argument is simple. We were not picked to win a game so therefore we are not respected.
To which I reply, BULL EXCREMENT!
Just because a team is not picked to win a game does not mean the team is not respected. I am not an expert, but I pick teams to win every week. Does that mean I hold their values as human beings higher than those of the team I picked to lose? Heck no, I just think they’re going to win a mere football game.
This view of respect is pure ego defense. My team was not picked to win a game and since in this day and age no one can simply be better than us, it has to be because we are not respected.
Another way in which “disrespecting” occurs is in the strategies the other team uses. Pittsburgh claimed that Indianapolis did not respect them because the Colts didn’t change strategies from the regular season. The Steelers argument went that because the Colts thought they could throw the ball, it meant the Colts didn’t respect the Steelers’ defense. Once again, MALE BOVINE GASEOUS EMANATION!!
Colts not giving respect?
The Colts thought they could win by throwing the ball, because the Colts have won numerous games throwing the ball. How the Indy personnel felt about the worthiness of the Steelers as men didn’t enter into it. Somehow I don’t think Tony Dungy told Peyton Manning, “Peyton, throw the ball a lot because Pittsburgh is a team of inferior human beings.”
The Steelers won the game and for that reason I am more than willing to affirm their place as a better football team. But please, no one showed disrespect by picking the Colts and no one on the Colts showed disrespect by choosing to throw the ball.
By the way, had the Colts run the ball and beaten the Steelers, would the Steelers have somehow felt better about losing but being respected as a defense? Or would they have complained that the Colts didn’t respect their run defense?
There is a third way respect is measured in the NFL today and that is though player salaries. Since my space is limited I will address that topic in the future during the free-agency period. Rest assured, there will be many instances of a player talking about a lack of respect from management because they want to pay him 4 million a season instead of 5 million.
I think everyone in the NFL would be very well served if the players and coaches went home, listened to a little Aretha Franklin and honestly thought of what respect means. You now know what it means to me.