You are about to get tag-teamed. …
No, not that kind of tag-teamed, perv. There will be no trips to the Eiffel Tower today, though you can still parlez vous my balls.
Barrister in blue. Wild Card, who will start us off, in red.
Wild Card: Alright. Let’s get a few things out of the way before we kick off this hot little spitfire. I’m a Stevie Johnson FAN. I mean, I celebrate his whole collection. We go pretty far back, me and Stevie. I distinctly remember a trip to St John Fisher his rookie year wherein I forgot the free tickets, and so incensed was the person driving that he turned the car around circa the 490. After a venomous rant, followed by a heartfelt apology, I convinced him to turn the car back around circa Batavia, and we proceeded to go to the ticket office (folding table) and ask the attendant (some fuckin intern or some shit) “hey I left the tickets at home, but come oooonn, right?!” and in true form that fuckin intern or some shit provided us with four tickets to training camp. This trip down memory lane is brought to you by Keystone Light; the tall boys of which I was still drinking at this point of my life, and it coincided with SJ13’s rookie year. That day, I saw Stevie at training camp and watching him run a few routes and catch a few balls was enough for me: he was my newest in a long line of long-shot Wide Receivers that I would root for every year. (See: Armour, Justin; Roosevelt, Naaman). But something happened for the first time ever with Stevie: HE ACTUALLY FUCKIN MADE IT!! I GOT TO BUY HIS JERSEY AND EVERYTHING!!
Why was the opening paragraph necessary? It wasn’t. I guess I just want to disclaim that he really is my favorite fucking player and I’ll defend him no matter what he does right or wrong. That being said, I firmly believe that he rarely does anything wrong. This time is no different.
But moving on…. the news.
So Stevie Johnson was in a picture that was ultimately posted by the Buffalo Bills to celebrate his birthday. He was in a shirt that said “USS Fuhkmore."
Are you ok with this?
B: Is there a reason I shouldn’t be?
Shouldn’t the Bills be ashamed of themselves?
B: Because they are a terrible football franchise, yes, they totally should! Wait…. Was there another reason?
DUDE. It said "FUHKMORE." That's, like, bad.
B: Oh, I see where you’re going with this. If you feel an itch, there's sand in your vagina.
WC: So it said USS Fuhkmore on his shirt. Is that kinda dirty? Sure. If I had, say, a 10 year old kid, I’d probably rather he didn’t see that picture. But that doesn’t mean the picture should never have been taken. There’s a lot to consider here. First of all, I didn’t even realize what it said until I really strained my eyes to read it. So, how many people (especially kids) are going to have the attention to detail to notice it, and then read it? Second, this is the internet. If you’re a parent, and you’re letting your kid on twitter, you’re assuming a certain degree of risk that something like this (and probably much worse… like that deargodwhyussports dot com site - what filth!) is going to find its way into your kid’s retinas. It’s all about the forum. If he had worn that jacket to some kid’s event, then sure, I’d have a problem with it. But it looks to me like this was a picture taken relatively casually, with an inconspicuous bit of vulgarity attached. So it’s just like the Lion King or the Little Mermaid! And hey, despite Disney’s subliminal messaging I turned into a reasonably well-adjusted young adult! The weirdest shit I’m into these days is a little tickling of my butt hole as I climax (NOT BEFORE!) and that’s perfectly innocent fun.
B: I'd add, for the record, that if a member of the armed forces wants to say that this is an affront to their service because it's a faux military shirt with the hull number of the USS Eisenhower (or so i read on the internets), well, have at it. I didn't serve, mostly because I'm a pussy and an out-of-shape pussy at that. That said, I do respectfully urge you to let it go, though, if only because Stevie is exercising a freedom you served to protect and if I have to listen to someone cheer for the Redskins or watch a bunch of white people do a Tomahawk Chop, then I suppose it's all part of the same mixed bag of shit free people say that likely pisses someone off, somewhere. Hashtag America.
B: Fuck, I don’t know…. Wait. Shit, am I a bad role-model? Fucking hell, I might be. … Stevie, on the other hand is a pro athlete, got himself into the league draft position be damned, is our best receiver in forever, actually likes being a Buffalo Bill (WEIRD), and has an individual sense of style both on and off the field. If you need to explain this to your son who you want to pretend will never learn the word “fuck” and will always talk like an angel and who will always be too stupid to not yell fuck in the middle of a church service or wake or school or whatever, then – and I’m quoting Chris Smith from Fartvoice here and I basically HATE Chris Smith (at least on the internet) but he’s right – tell him adults can say and do shit that kids can’t and thems are the breaks. I’d probably also suggest you making fun of your son’s tiny dick while you’re at it because that's funny... unless you, too, have a tiny dick, which in the event you’re worried about what to tell your kid about harmless curse words, you probably do. You and your small, puritan dick should shut the fuck up.
WC: Bad role-modeling? Yup. Do I care? Nope. There’s a fine line between saying players should be role models and saying that players have to be role models. The former is fine. The latter is downright dangerous. This distinction is what really drives me up the wall about the mild humdrum of controversy surrounding Stevie Johnson. “Character issues.” It’s the Fleur-de-lis branding of an NFL player and it’s basically permanent. Now Stevie has that label too. And why? Because he wore an undershirt that said “Why so serious?” on it. For that they put the iron in the fire and pressed it to his skin: character issues.
I challenge anyone to find me something fundamentally wrong about he did. Fundamentally - that means don’t just say “well it’s a penalty.”
Now, if you find yourself disagreeing with me, I’m curious: have you thought to yourself “well, that’s just not how you play the game. You SHOULD just score the touchdown and hand the ball to the Ref. You did your job. That you get paid for. You don’t see me running around waving my shirt in the air when I really nail an e-mail or bring in a client!”
Oh, sir or madam how perfectly you make my point. You’re correct. This IS Stevie’s job. His job. Just like your job. Your livelihood. And is it really fair to tie a person’s livelihood to how normal they behave? If you showed up at work with a bad tie, and then you got fined, and penalized, or maybe even fired, would that be fair?
Now you might retort: well what if I showed up in a tie that said “fuck” on it? Can’t I get fired for that? And again I present you the line between should and have to. Should you show up to court in a tie with Christmas trees on it in July? No. You should show up dressed conservatively. But you don’t have to. On the other hand, you have to show up to work in ties that don’t have profanity on it. The difference is that the former is in bad taste while the latter is offensive to people.
Stevie’s why so serious shirt? He merely shouldn’t have worn it. It’s cocky. It’s flaunting. It’s a bad idea not because someone could be offended, but because if you do cocky shit during the game and then you lose, you look like an idiot. Plus your cocky shit might light a fire under your opponent’s ass, and then you lose. And this leads us to our next question:
While we're talking about Stevie, should we have a problem with Stevie’s celebrations?
WC: The answer is no, and I contend that the only reason to answer ‘yes’ is again the ‘because it’s a penalty.’ But it’s a fucking stupid penalty. What problem does the NFL have with celebrations? What’s wrong with it? What damage does it do to the game? Or the fans? Or the teams? NONE! The answer is NONE! In fact it makes the game more interesting. It’s more exciting when your team scores, and it’s a bigger bummer when the other team scores. It makes you hate showboating assholes and it fuels rivalries. It creates drama. That’s a good thing.
Is that what the NFL is trying to do? No, I don’t think so. But the message, I think, is undeniable: be more like us. If you want to play in this league, then you’re going to have to surrender a little bit of your identity. We wouldn’t want any of our old, white viewers to disapprove of your antics.
Well, that’s fucked up. And I’m not just thinking of athletes.
Actually, I’m thinking of me. I’m thinking of me about a year and a half ago when I had to go through my facebook account - my private facebook account - and scrub it clean of any evidence of impropriety. Because I wanted an internship. An unpaid internship. That’s right - I did it for the privilege to work for fucking free, and it took me ALL. DAY.
So I ask you this: what good is the First Amendment when it only protects you from the government limiting your speech? Who has a bigger influence on your life - your government or your boss? If your boss demands your Twitter password and you refuse then (in most states) your boss can fire you without any repercussion. Meanwhile, the media is an uproar about NSA surveillance. The NSA doesn’t know you, doesn’t care about you, and certainly is not reading your tweets. They’re not going to fire you and they’re not going to tell your co-worker that that fruit cake she made over Christmas tasted like a bag of rotting assholes… marinated in apple sauce.
And for what reason are companies allowed to this? Because they need to maintain their image.
So yeah, what about the Bills’ image? Doesn't Stevie owe it to the Bills to not wear shirts like this?
WC: God, I am the fuckin black belt zen master champion of segues. Was that seamless or what?
Anyway, why do they need to have one? Or, more specifically, what is so important about having one that is so squeaky clean? Could the Bills lose a few dollars if a picture of EJ Manuel blowing coke off fake titties surfaces? I don’t know… maybe? In jersey sales I guess? But does that really justify the current norm of mass censorship of employees?
B: Is it my turn to talk? You went on a little thought voyage of there, Wild Card.
The Bills’ image, if I’m being honest and have the urge to hit you with some word painting, which I do about 95% of the time, has always been the professional equivalent of Ralph Wilson’s colostomy bag with a Masters Degree in Being Terrible at Everything But Especially Catch and Run Ball. I think they offer that degree at the State University of NEW YORK at Buffalo.
A shirt that Stevie wore at a non-team photo shoot, that was photographed there and ultimately disseminated to fans via the Facebook by the team does not hurt the Bills' image. To use a legal term of art that I enjoy employing in reference to the sports writers at The Buffalo News, the Bills are "defamation proof." Their image is what it is. If anything, a picture like this improves things since at least we're not talking about the progressively poor parade of head coaches to go through One Bills Drive since Levy.
Don’t the Bills have a responsibility to hold themselves and their employees to a higher standard?
WC: Nope. They’re a franchise that we choose to root for or not for. I’d prefer they let their employees express themselves. If Mario Williams thinks the officials were shite in a game then I’d like it if he were free to say that, and not be subject to a fine. The only higher standard is the one we project on our teams and players. We’d like them to be role models. If they’re not? Well… aren’t you capable of deciding who you want to emulate in life?
B: Responsibility? To who? Not to me. If you’re stupid enough to put this kind of bullshit higher on your list than (a) not throwing the ball in the waning minutes of a game you’re winning, in your own half, like a fucking moron, (b) winning more games than games you lose that you should have won, (3) not getting perennially butt plugged by Tom Brady, (d) having a record above .500 sometime during the Obama administration, which will incidentally likely last another 50 years because that motherfucker is a tyrant and also in great shape, and (e) being on the constant brink of being moved to a city that is obviously better than Buffalo because, duh, and because shit we put our stadium in the fucking sticks, then well, please kill yourself. You clearly have a lot of misplaced sanctimony, so you can always choke on that.
B: Jesus. Shut up.
WC: Yeah, I’d like to see that happen too. I’d like it if he just put the team ahead of his own individualism and didn’t take any more penalties. But what I’d like to see a lot more is the NFL just do away with these stupid penalties.
God he drops passes and shit ALL THE TIME.
B: No. It’s an unofficial stat, for one, and he’s had a shit sandwich throwing him passes, so this stat might be even better with a QB who actually deserves to get paid to play professional football, but yeah. 21st in number of drops last season. With 8 drops on the year, can the “he drops passes all the time” argument still fly? How about when you consider that he only dropped 4.73% of the passes he touched, giving him better a percentage than Calvin Johnson, Fred Davis, Dez Bryant and 196 other pass catchers in the league?
In 2011, Stevie dropped only 4 passes, for 2.99% of his opportunities. Sure, 2010 was a rough year for him in this area, but we gave him a new deal after 2011 and he’s rewarded us for it.
(Oh, and I just said “we”… fucking deal with it. Sports are community, heretofore it is “we” unless I’m so disgusted with a team and I say “them” which is simply yet another example of my wavering standards).
WC: I’ve had him on at least one fantasy team for 3 straight years. He’s produced as consistently as anyone. I have no complaints.
And he blamed God that one time.
WC: Well… fuckin… at least he’s not a Scientologist, right?
B: Good. If players are going to thank God and we’re going to look at them and say “gee whiz that’s the best” then goodness gracious, cock in my ass, SJ can blame God for a dropped pass. Shit, I blame God for everything bad to happen in Buffalo sports, starting mostly with Jerry Sullivan.
I wish he would act more like the 90s Bills.
WC: As long as he doesn’t go all Thurman Thomas conservative on me.
B: This nostalgic moment is code for a time gone by, a time when player celebrations were more reserved and when our Bills did things the "right way." We're pining for a period of our lives when our football heroes emulated a higher standard (or at least we believed they did and had little media exposure to prove otherwise) and more tightly fit the mold for what we want them to be. A "classy athlete" is code for an athlete that, whether it requires subjugating his own personality and identity or not, conducts himself in such a way so as to fit in with a corporate NFL image.
This is about class and race and age and a number of other factors that make a quick, perfect, stylish route runner, for instance, different from Jones or Kraft or Wilson or Rooney or any of them.
Stevie doesn't act like the Bills of the 90s, and he doesn't fit the mold of the ideal NFL athlete. He acts like Stevie Johnson and fits the mold he chooses for himself. Want a role-model? Look at this talented motherfucker who is loving life and succeeding at his craft. Tell your kids to be like him.
But, yeah, it’d probably make us Bills fans feel a lot better if Stevie acted with a little more “class” and, like the Bills teams of the 1990s who lived without social media exposure, drank all night and did cocaine. Ideally, he’d be the kind of player who would hustle his ass off like Don Beebe did in Super Bowl XXVII when he hit the ball out of Leon Lett’s hand in a game that was out of reach.