Congratulations to Rashard Mendenhall.
That’s what we’re all supposed to be saying, right?
My question is, why?
Didn’t Mendenhall simply do what any 26-year-old who happened to be working in a job they in theory enjoyed, but in practice didn’t like when it turned out they didn’t agree with the overall internal politics of the organization? As Ferris Bueller once said, “If you have the means, I highly recommend it.”
But alas, most of us at the ripe old age of 26 don’t have the chance to leave a job or career on principle to simply pursue what we enjoy.
Mendenhall says in his farewell letter to the NFL on the Huffington Post: “What was more difficult for me to grasp was the way that the business of entertainment had really shifted the game and the sport of football in the NFL.”
The business of entertainment? Uh, isn’t that what it says if you look up the definition of professional sports in a dictionary, kind of like if you look up attention starved celebrity you see a picture of the Kardashians?
Sports is entertainment. Nothing more, nothing less. Can entertainment lift entire fan bases to heights they never knew? Of course. Is it possible said entertainment can have a profound impact on the communities they occur in not to mention on those who watch or participate in them? Without a doubt. But that doesn’t make it any less entertainment. The same way a movie with a meaning which has a personal impact or thought-provoking novel is created to captivate a specific audience and make money.
If sports weren’t all about the entertainment wouldn’t they simply be men or women working out while wearing matching outfits in front of a large group of slightly less athletic people who are sitting?
Doesn’t the spotlight and interest in one’s personal life comes with accepting millions of dollars to play what amounts to a child’s game? That isn’t saying that Mendenhall or anyone else should be subjected to racial slurs or other derogatory comments from another human being whose ego is puffed up by hiding behind a keyboard. That is an unfortunate byproduct of a digital age, not sports, that is still in its infancy and a debate for another day.
And don’t think the irony of Mendenhall’s choice of venue to share his stance is lost on me. A man waxing poetically about the fact the game of football has turned into entertainment rather than about the sport and the glare of celebrity that comes with it did penned it for the Huffington Post in the Entertainment section that includes headlines about Liam Neeson’s personal life and stories about other quasi celebrities.
This is not passing judgement on the man who Mendenhall is nor the player he was. In fact, last season I rooted for him once a week like clockwork and respected how hard he played despite battling injuries. But I wouldn’t have done it if football wasn’t for entertainment.
So I guess we should congratulate Rashard. Just not for what he’s being recognized for. We should congratulate him for having the ability to walk away from a job and still live comfortably while chasing his dreams. It’s something we’ve all wanted to do at one time or another and couldn’t because our jobs weren’t in a field lucky enough to be considered entertainment and pulling in a salary that is associated with it.