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Name: Adam Bernard
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It's OK To Root For The Good Guy
Monday, December 19, 2011

There have been two parallel trends in the NFL over the past handful of years that trouble me - the deification of the second chance, and the marginalization of the player who doesn’t need one. Players who’ve done bad things, and I don’t mean on the field, I mean off the field, are being held up higher than those who’ve done nothing wrong, and the rallying cry behind it all has been “everyone deserves a second chance.” Sure, everyone deserves a second chance, and people love a comeback story, but shouldn’t the athletes who’ve never needed a second chance be held up a little bit higher than those who’ve previously fallen?

Looking around the league, some of the most popular, and lauded, quarterbacks are Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady. With that trio we have a man who’s been convicted of murdering animals for sport, a man who’s been accused of sexual assault so many times the NFL suspended him under the league’s personal conduct policy, and a man who broke up with his pregnant girlfriend to date someone else. Vick has been labeled “exciting,” despite never having actually won anything, Roethlisberger has been labeled “tough” for his ability to take a hit, yet everyone seems to ignore the fact that that same mentality may have played a large part in his off the field issues, and Brady has the infamous label of being “the golden boy” because he can supposedly do no wrong. Heck, the league has even changed the rules for Brady multiple times to keep his stats up.

On the other side of the coin we have quarterbacks like Tim Tebow, Eli Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Individuals, and they are certainly not alone in this group, who are top performers on the field (three being Super Bowl Champions) and really good human beings off it. Tebow’s list of positive work off the field is so long you almost wouldn’t believe it if there weren’t pictures to prove it. In 2008, when Vick was serving time in a federal prison on a dog fighting conviction, Tebow was using his spring break from college to do missionary work in the Philippines. Had Vick been in a Florida prison there’s a good chance he would have met Tebow because Tebow also spent time speaking at prisons all across the state that year.

Tebow, however, despite his incredible record as a starting QB this year, is constantly ripped for the way he throws the ball, and his ability to be a starting QB in the NFL is constantly being questioned. They never call him talented, they always say he's accomplishing his victories through smoke and mirrors. When commentators call his wins "miraculous" they're not using the word as a compliment, they're implying he's not as good as his record. No matter what he does, Tebow seems to face extra scrutiny. Why the extra scrutiny? Well, let me ask you this, if he had just gotten out of jail do you think people would be questioning him, or talking about how great he was doing with his “second chance?”

Manning has never had a losing season as the Giants’ starting QB, and owns a Super Bowl championship and Super Bowl MVP. This season has has six fourth quarter comebacks. He has also won a Super Bowl more recently than Brady, and, in fact, beat Brady’s Patriots in said Super Bowl. So what do people say about Manning whenever he throws an interception? “Typical Eli.” Really? Shouldn’t winning a game be “typical Eli,” or does he need to commit adultery, or be convicted of a felony, to be considered “exciting?”

Drew Brees, in addition to being a Super Bowl winning quarterback, continues to go above and beyond the call of duty in the rebuilding of New Orleans, including aiding with the rebuilding of schools, athletic facilities and child care facilities. Aaron Rodgers, another Super Bowl champion, sat quietly behind Brett Favre for three years, saying nothing, while many realized he should have been starting. The Raiders even attempted a Randy Moss for Aaron Rodgers trade before sending Moss to the Patriots. Rodgers, a former first round pick, could have complained about not starting and nobody would have felt he would have been unjustified in doing so, but he worked hard, played his role, and eventually was rewarded for it. Isn’t that exactly the kind of thing we try to teach kids? Work hard, get rewarded.

Tebow, Manning, Brees and Rodgers are all great quarterbacks who are also great people. Like I said, they aren’t alone in that group. Heck, Tony Romo took a homeless man to the movies and changes tires for people stranded in parking lots. For some reason these athletes aren’t lauded as much as guys like Vick, Roethlisberger and Brady. I think this is because the idea of the second chance has been deified so much so that we’ve been conditioned to ignore the good guy. The saying “nice guys finish last” couldn’t ring more true when it comes to the public opinion of some of these athletes. If Rodgers’ Packers hadn't been undefeated until this past Sunday many would have forgotten he won the previous Super Bowl. We need to reverse this trend. I’m not saying we need to stop giving people second chances, but we need to remind people that it’s OK to root for the good guy. You don't have to wait until someone needs a second chance to get behind them. Nice guys should finish first.

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posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:23 AM  
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