Pots & pans: Could Michael Vick help other players escape being sacked by stupid comments?
He needs to stick to the clichés and help others do the same
If Michael Vick’s preseason coaching internship with the Kansas City Chiefs doesn’t lead to a full-time coaching job, I have a career suggestion for him: roving cliché instructor.
In this job, Vick would travel to NFL training camps to teach players how to use safe and familiar language to stay out of trouble during press interviews.
Oh, I know Vick just did the doofus two-step: he’s suggested that Colin Kaepernick, the exiled former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, might get back in the league’s good graces by first cutting his stop-sign-sized ‘fro, as if his locks and not his activism were at the root of his estrangement from the NFL. With his comments, Vick managed to put both feet in his mouth and then fell flat on his face.
But Vick, who served time for running a dogfighting operation and then resumed his NFL career, could be taught to help today’s players escape being sacked by controversy. After all, Vick later recovered enough to say that Kaepernick’s NFL unemployment had nothing to do with his hair. Last year, during the playing of the national anthem at NFL games, Kaepernick knelt in protest of police killings of black men and other misconduct.
Furthermore, as cliché instructor, Vick wouldn’t be teaching NFL athletes to improvise, as he did as a dazzling dual-threat quarterback at Virginia Tech and in the NFL for the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and other teams.
Rather, after intensive training for himself, he would teach his charges to make a limited number of responses to a limited number of circumstances, as if they were inexperienced quarterbacks. And sometimes, like the imagined novice quarterbacks, Vick’s students would learn to punt rather than risk game- or career-jeopardizing plays or statements.
For example, the players would be taught this artful dodge: Instead of trying to answer tough questions about universal topics, they’d say: “There are experts and specialists who know much more about this than I do. Why don’t you talk to them? I’m a football player. I try to stay in my lane. I think that’s the best way to avoid colliding with trouble.”
Or when a player is asked to comment on another player’s life choices, he’d say, “When I’m off the field, I do all that I can to live the way I think I should. If someone else thinks he wants to live as I do, I’m ready to help. But I know I have no monopoly on doing what’s right. I’ve met people whose lives are nothing like mine, yet I know they are decent and moral. And I know there are billions of people around the world whose beliefs and behavior are nothing like mine who could teach me a lot about being a better person.”
When a player gets into trouble, his apology could begin: “I don’t know what to say other than I screwed up and I’m sorry. My folks raised me better than that. I know what I did was wrong. I want to put it behind me. But I won’t run away from it. I take full responsibility for the wrong I’ve done and the people I’ve disappointed, and I stand here pledging to do all that I can to become a better person. …”
And for the retired players asked to comment on the talents and accomplishments of today’s stars, it would be: “I’m the biggest fan of today’s players and teams. They do things I could only imagine, but I’d like to think that, at our best, I along with others from my era could compete today, at least for a quarter or two.”
The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Chorus Line is a story where dancers stand in for all people longing to do what they want, longing to be who they are, people who can’t regret what they did for love.
Many of the lines the dancers speak are culled from anecdotes from dancers. The NFL players’ scripted responses could also be culled from interviews and stories of veteran athletes. Responses could be refined through focus groups, skits and role-plays.
Now, I think I know what you’re thinking. If the players always give the same safe answers, how will journalists do their jobs? More importantly, how will fans ever get to know the real TaySean Touchdown?
But imagine this: After Vick develops a business helping players protect themselves and their careers through innocuous remarks, he can expand his consultancy to help journalists cut through the haze. Another part of his business could then offer fans who pay a certain fee access to truths and facts only they would know and understand.
And if Vick can do that, he and his staff could play host to cruises that would bring fans, players and journalists together:
A three-hour tour where player TaySean Touchdown, reporter Cyndi Cynical and fans Connor and Consuelo Credulous can swap stories, throw back some chilly brews and trade verses of Kumbayah.