Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Coming Back Richer

“Yeah, but what has Drew done for us lately?”

Might as well go ahead and start printing up the “Pulling Back The Veil” tee shirts. Because at this point that’s clearly the inescapable overriding theme of this here Saints offseason, whether we like it or not. One after another, unpleasant truths are being exposed all over the place. And, as always, the one place we fans absolutely refuse to look is in the fuckin’ mirror. But why would we do that? It’s not like we’re the assholes here, it’s everybody else who are the assholes. Especially that selfish bastard of a quarterback we’ve been struggling to tolerate for the last six years, am I right?

I mean, it’s not like we didn’t all see this coming from a mile away. Hell, you could set your clocks by it. Doesn’t make it any less excruciatingly stupid. Our only hope was that it would never get to this point in the first place, but we all pretty much knew what was gonna happen if it did.

And sure enough, here we are. The single best thing that has ever happened to this here sad sack franchise has apparently pulled himself one hell of a SHOCKING HEEL TURN and now all of a sudden we’re booing his entrance music. Because his selfish GREED(!!!) is gonna leave our favorite football team a shell of its former self and crush all our hopes and dreams! Or something.

That’s irony, right?

As long as we’re involuntarily pulling the wool from over everybody’s eyes, let’s see if we can’t manage to be honest with ourselves here for half a fuckin’ second regarding “the business of football.”

Serious question: Who’s really being the selfish asshole here?

It’s often been said that Drew could run for mayor or even governor and win in a landslide. Which is quite the cute little way of making the point about how popular he is around here, and there might even be some literal truth to the notion. But the dirty little secret that’s coming to light here lately is that whatever truth there is to it is pretty much entirely dependent on our maintaining the illusion that Drew has pledged his absolute and unconditional fealty to us. That he unfailingly prioritizes our interests above all others, even his own.

We prefer to call it “being a team player” and being “admirably unselfish” and other such cuddly descriptors. But what it really is, is a fantasy we’ve created for ourselves that Drew’s primary mission in life is to serve us. That he loves us so much, he will go to any length, make any sacrifice to see to it that we get what we want. And all he’ll ever ask in return is that we love him back.

Oh sure, it’s not like Drew hasn’t done more than his part to perpetuate that fantasy. He’s a slick, polished, savvy, incredibly image-conscious politician-in-pads. He knows precisely where all our buttons are, and which ones to push at any given time. He’s keenly aware of the value of saying “all the right things” and telling us precisely what we want to hear. He’s ridiculously good at it, and intensely committed to the persona he’s deliberately crafted for himself. He’s the Ned Flanders of football players.

Oh and there’s also the little matter of his having actually been the consummate team player and admirably unselfish for every second of the six years he’s been here. He actually has given us all we could ever have hoped for, and a hell of a lot more on top of that. And it’s true that all he has ever asked in return is the compensation he agreed to in 2006, and that we love him back. So, you know, he’s got that going for him too.

And we’ve held up our end of the bargain, we’ve loved him back. For as long as the give and take was ridiculously slanted in our favor, that is. (In this league, we prefer to call that “value.”) We were more than happy with that particular arrangement. As long as it didn’t involve anything that could even potentially result in any kind of sacrifice on our part. As long as we could have our cake and eat it too, and Drew was telling us that if our cake wasn’t enough, he’d be happy to give us his.

Pull back the veil. You say you love the guy. And I’m sure that, in a way, you mean it. But in another, more accurate way, what you really love is what Drew can do for you.

But now the time has come when continuing this relationship is gonna actually cost us something. It’s gonna require that we give up a piece of our cake. “Hey, nobody ever said anything about that!” And, by golly, that’s just unreasonable!

Sure, we all want the guy to get paid. Just not to the point where it causes us any slight discomfort.

“Worth every penny!” is all well and good, as long as we can easily afford it without having to make any difficult choices or sacrifice anything else we might also want.

Who’s being the selfish, greedy bastard now?

It’s like screaming “PRICE GOUGING!!!” because that shiny new gadget you’ve decided you can’t possibly live without any longer, and absolutely must have right this minute, happens to not be on sale at the moment. “Regular price? It’s an OUTRAGE! The thing was 25% off back on President’s Day. But I didn’t want it then, I want neeeeed it now. And if I’ve gotta pay full price, I won’t be able to afford this bitchin’ accessory I kinda sorta wanted too. Be reasonable and quit trying to rip me off, asshole!!!”

It’s utterly ridiculous. And quite frankly, a little disgusting. Typical 21st century consumer culture. “I want it all, and I want it now! On my terms, and at whatever price I’m willing to pay.”

He’s the single best thing that’s ever happened to your favorite football team. How much more does he “owe” you? How much more does he have to do for you before he’s allowed to look our for his own interests without immediately being branded an asshole?

This just in: Drew Brees doesn’t owe you jack shit.

It’s we who are indebted to him.

And don’t even start with the whole “Drew owes the Saints because they took the risk and signed him when everybody else in the league was pretty much convinced he was done” bullshit. That debt, to whatever extent it ever existed in the first place, has been repaid tenfold.

And quit acting like the Saints organization did Drew some kind of favor back in 2006 anyway. Bullshit. They were desperate. It was either Drew, a McCown of some sort, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, or more Aaron Brooks. It’s not like they signed Drew out of pity, they signed him out of desperation. What kind of idiot signs a starting quarterback as a “favor” anyway?

Sure, I also believe them when they say it was also about a genuine belief in Drew, his ability, and his relentless determination to Come Back Stronger. But ultimately, they took that gamble with their own interests in mind, nobody else’s. And that gamble paid off something fierce, it was nothing short of winning the lottery.

So to whatever extent you want to assert that “Drew needed the Saints more than the Saints needed Drew” back then… yeah, well, I’m pretty sure we’re all square on that particular issue at this point. To say the least.

“But Wang, he LIED! He fucking LIED, Wang! TO US! He looked us right in the eye and PROMISED that his contract wasn’t gonna stand in the way of keeping the team together. HE PROMISED!!! And it was all a bunch of bullshit! All his ‘team first’ mumbo jumbo is clearly just an elaborate façade to keep us from realizing that he’s really no different than any of these other asshole millionaire athletes! It’s all about how much money he can put in his own pocket!”

Wait, WHAT??? Dude wants to maximize his earnings while the opportunity exists? Nah, you must be shitting me! What kind of jerk tries to pull some crazy shit like that? Surely not you or I.

And what the hell would you expect him to say, anyway? What, you’d respect him more if he had been “honest” about it and had given you the opportunity to start bitching and moaning and calling him an asshole sooner? Would that have made it better for ya? I suppose you’d have preferred that he just said “Look, I gotsta get mines yo, and the rest is Mickey Loomis’s problem. Keeping the rest of the team from falling apart is his job, not mine.” Hey, it’d have been the truth. And you’d have been just fine with that, right? Riiiiight.

You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!

What you really want is for Drew’s “promise” and everything you read into it about his complete willingness to continue to sacrifice for the sake of your happiness to have been the truth. For Drew to keep on giving and giving and giving, and for the smiles on Saints fans’ faces to continue to be reward enough for him.

Grow the fuck up already, would ya? Quit believing in fairy tales. Pull back the veil.

As often, and as gleefully, as we fans throw around quips like “Cut that chump!” you really expect any player to sacrifice a thin dime for the sake of your happiness? Really? You really think Drew isn’t well aware of the fact that it’s only a matter of time until we wake up one morning and decide he’s no longer good enough for us, and we don’t want him anymore?

If it happened to Dulymus, it can happen to anybody. It’ll probably happen to Drew at some point. Our “love” most certainly isn’t unconditional, how arrogant are we to insist that his be?

Especially given that, to date, he’s met and exceeded every single goddamn one of our conditions. By a lot.

And how do we thank him? By imposing more conditions. By demanding that he continue to take whatever we’re willing to give him, and not a damn bit more.

And God help him if he throws a couple more interceptions this fall, or gets sacked a few more times, or his completion percentage slips a bit. “IT’S HIS OWN DAMN FAULT!!! If he’d have ‘done the right thing’ and subsidized Nicks’s and Colston’s salaries out of his own pocket instead of being a selfish asshole…”

“But Wang, nobody’s got a problem with Drew being the highest paid player in the league. THE HIGHEST PAID PLAYER EVER! And HE’S the one who turned it down!”

Well aren’t we fuckin’ generous? I guess that’s supposed to qualify as the second “favor” the Saints organization has tried to do for Drew. Shit, when is it gonna be our turn to get something out of all this?!?

What I think a lot of people fail to understand, or at least prefer to pretend isn’t true, is that the teams aren’t the same in the offseason as they are in the regular season.

For the time being, Drew’s not exactly on “our team.” He’s not on Team Benson Football Inc. He’s on Team Brees Family. He’s not the starting quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, he’s the starting quarterback for Team NFL Labor. His responsibilities don’t lie with the Saints right about now, and they damn sure don’t lie with us fans. They lie with his family, and with the rest of the league’s unionized workforce. And in both contexts, Drew’s responsibilities to his teams are at cross-purposes with us Saints fans’ hopes and dreams for our team. In that way, he truly is temporarily “the enemy” as long as all you really give a shit about is The Fleur.

And hey, we here at moosedenied aren’t about to blame ya if The Fleur is all you really give a shit about. We get that. For the most part, we’re right there with ya.

You don’t have to like it. But you don’t have to call Drew an asshole over it either.

“But seriously, come on Wang, let’s be real here. How much money does one man need??? He’s already earned more money than he’ll ever be able to spend, more money than I’d make in ten lifetimes! It’s blatant GREED, Wang!!!”

As always, your blue collar righteousness couldn’t be less relevant. I suppose you think he oughta just say fuck it and play for the league minimum for the rest of his career because he’s already got “enough” money in the bank? Ridiculous. And incredibly self-indulgent of you to impose your own arbitrary standard for what constitutes “enough” earnings on a fellow law-abiding taxpaying American.

Greed? Really? As much as this guy does for charity? Greed? As quiet as this guy has been about his contract, despite having outplayed the hell out of it for six years? Having never, not even once, made any public noise about deserving a raise? Aren’t you the guy who’s constantly bitching at players about “Shut up and play out the contract you signed!” That’s precisely what Drew has done.

Look, I realize that it’s next to impossible for regular folks like us to wrap our minds around the financial realities of a professional athlete. They’re playing on a whole different financial chessboard than people like us. And sure, I know that a lot of professional athletes waste their millions on Bentleys, bling and blow. Not to mention truckloads of assault weapons, high-priced hookers and Jimmy John’s franchises. (Wait, scratch that last one, undermines my point.) But come on, we know that Drew isn’t that kinda guy.

We talked about this back when Fujita chased that big contract in Cleveland. It’s easy for us to scoff at the notion that these guys are “feeding their families” when the numbers are so astronomical. But, like Fujita, that’s precisely what Drew’s doing.

“Riiiight, Wang. Just feeding his family. What are Baylen and Bowen getting for after-school snacks, whole truffles?”

Maybe. It’s really none of our business. But I doubt it. And that’s not what I’m talking about when I say “feeding their families.” I’m talking about feeding their families for generations. I’m talking about Drew seeing to it that his great, great grandchildren never have to worry about paying for college.

You don’t think Drew thinks about that kind of stuff? You don’t think Drew feels a responsibility to do that, if only because the opportunity exists? Because I think he does. And is that not a virtuous endeavor? Wouldn’t you do the same thing, given the opportunity? You’re either full of shit or a piss-poor head of household if you say you wouldn’t.

Just because you and I will never have that opportunity, that doesn’t mean Drew’s an asshole for taking advantage of the opportunity he has. And it damn sure ain’t GREED!!! So take your bourgeois sanctimony and shove it up your ass.

“But Wang, look at the big picture. It’s totally shortsighted of Drew to demand an extra few mildo from Benson Football Inc. because he makes at least that much in endorsement income anyway. And part of the reason why he gets all those endorsement deals is because the Saints have been so good. So if he doesn’t ruin his image by HOLDING THE FRANCHISE HOSTAGE(!!!) in the first place, his marketability will erode due to the Saints being a perennial also-ran and Drew himself being less Peyton Manning and more Matt Schaub.”

Fair enough, and that’s a pretty good point from a Team Brees Family perspective. But you’re neglecting a whole other part of the big picture. Namely, Drew’s role as the starting quarterback for Team NFL Labor. A role that by all indications Drew takes very seriously.

And in that context, non-football income is irrelevant. It’s all about NFL players vs. NFL management. And he has a responsibility to his peers in the NFL workforce to raise the bar for everybody by signing as rich a football contract as he can. It helps to raise the cap, it helps to increase the “average” NFL contract, and it helps to increase minimum wage. We’re not just talking about the rich getting richer here, Drew’s contract indirectly helps the guys at the bottom of the depth chart too.

Pierre Thomas is one hell of a football player, but he’s never gonna make a dime from a national endorsement deal. And local endorsement deals are not only fleeting, they’re also chump change. The NFL’s “99%” will never make any significant non-football income as a result of their being NFL players, unless you count post-football careers as sales executives or local sports anchors or high school football coaches. And their football income is often largely dependent on things like league minimums and averages and whatnot. To whatever extent Drew’s contract raises the bar at the very top of the NFL food chain, it also raises the bar for everybody else.

Hey, I’m not telling you that you ought to give a single fraction of a shit about any of that. It might not matter to you, but it matters to Drew. And if you wanna hold that against him, then you’re the asshole, not Drew.

This ain’t about Drew. It’s about you.

It’s about Drew’s priorities temporarily running contrary to your own selfish desires as a Saints fan. And it’s fine if that pisses you off. My allegiance lies with The Fleur too, and I’m just as nervous about the whole situation going forward as the next Saints fan.

All I’m saying is that the whole “SELFISHNESS!!!”/”GREED!!!” thing cuts both ways. And it’s high fuckin’ time that the veil get pulled back on that particular little unpleasant truth.

We fans are every bit as selfish and greedy as any professional athlete embroiled in protracted contract negotiations. And I’d assert that, in this particular case, even moreso. We’d be wise to go ahead and come to terms with it and acknowledge it.

Pull back the veil. And quit being a douche.