Saturday, May 22, 2010

Melissa Isaacson Annoys Me While Saying Something I Generally Agree With

Here's the thing: Brian Urlacher is not my favorite guy off the field. He can't keep his haploids from making diploids with trashy women. He pops off at the mouth. He looks like a bad guy in a Steven Segal movie. All that sort of thing. The dustup he's had recently with Gale Sayers is no exception--Urlacher thinking that taking shots at an all-time great for "not having won anything" will function as a comeback to Sayers's critiques of the current Bears team kind of typifies why Urlacher's a shithead.

So I agree in principle with Melissa Isaacson's column on why Urlacher is an asshole in this incident. But that just makes the trainwreck that is her column all the more difficult to watch.

For a big, tough linebacker, Brian Urlacher sure is sensitive.

Gale Sayers speaks nothing but the truth in answering questions at a banquet two weeks ago in Omaha, Neb., and next thing he knows, he is being torn apart by a guy who needs to stop getting annoyed by comments he thinks are mean and unfair and concentrate on making his team respectable.

Off to a smashingly snarky start, Melissa. I'm going to go ahead and nominate that second "paragraph" for "most awkwardest sentence of the year award."

Sayers told the Chicago Tribune he was just being honest. Good grief, the guy wasn't even being controversial.

Isaacson can't really be this stupid right? Since when is an ex-superstar ripping an organization "not controversial"? Isaacson is trying to make the point that what Sayers said in his critique is "true" and therefore not controversial:

"[Jay] Cutler hasn't done the job," Sayers said.

Um, that would be true.

"Urlacher, I don't know how good he's going to be coming back [from surgery]," Sayers continued. "He's [32] years old [this Tuesday]. They need a couple wide receivers, a couple defensive backs. They haven't done a good job."


"If Lovie [Smith] doesn't do it this year, I think he's gone," Sayers said in answering another question and giving his opinion, which is basically acknowledged as fact.

"He had a good team the Super Bowl year. Nothing came together for him the last couple years."

Stop the presses.


For these factual observations, Urlacher found it necessary to rip one of the most revered players in Bears history.

...but clearly that misses the point. What is eminently obvious is that the controversy of the statement comes from Sayers' decision to speak up in the first place and rip the organization--right or wrong. Something Urlacher explicitly commented on in his remarks:

"Does it bother me? There are enough people throwing daggers at us right now. Why does one of our ex-players have to jump in? There are enough experts talking [expletive] about us, so why does a Bear, an all-time great, have to jump in? I just don't like that."

And for the record let me take a Melissa Isaacson-like look at the "validity" of Urlacher's comments. I'll try to maintain the classic Isaacson snark:

"Let me ask you a question: 'How many championships did Gale Sayers win?'" Urlacher told the Tribune in one of the least classy retorts in memory.

"How many playoff games did he win when he played? None. None. None

Um, that would be true. Stop the presses.

Anyway, more Isaacson, in response to Urlacher's comments about Sayers's failure to make the playoffs:

Boo-hoo. Now Urlacher is bragging about making it to the Super Bowl and being embarrassed. Sorry, doesn't work that way around here.

Wow. I knew the NFL was a bottom-line league, but I didn't realize that someone who's made the playoffs 3 times in his 10 year career and led his team to a Super Bowl had absolutely nothing to hang his hat on. Sorry, Brian--Melissa's not impressed with your resume unless you win the Super Bowl. I'm anxiously anticipating her thoughts on LaDainian Tomlinson.

Hall of Famer Dan Hampton joined Hall of Famer Dick Butkus in talking about Hall of Famer Sayers and telling Urlacher to grow up.

"This is the overarching point," Hampton said. "You can't have thin skin if you can't win. That's just the way it is. Buddy Ryan used to say, 'We're not in the business of playing football, we're in the business of winning games.

"Ultimately, [the Bears] haven't been successful in three years. However you want to cut it, those are the facts. Gale Sayers just had the audacity to point it out."

The only reasonable words in this column are the ones penned neither by Isaacson, Urlacher, or Sayers. You know what the difference between Hampton's comments and Sayers's comments is, Melissa (or the difference between Sayers's comments and an ESPN analyst saying the same thing)? There was a reason for Hampton to give them. There is absolutely no reason for an ex-star to call the team out on the carpet besides being a self-important asshole (which, incidentally, Sayers has shown himself to be time and again).

Sayers was not just admired, he was beloved. And after just six seasons, he was a legend, a player whose legacy has never dimmed, even in the shadow of Walter Payton's greatness.

So fucking what? Sayers was a phenomenal running back who everybody loved. I guess that means it's beyond the realm of possibility that he could ever do anything wrong.

No, that's clearly a low blow and not really relevant. I just wanted to post that picture. But seriously, plenty of world class athletes and class act individuals tend to pop off at the mouth upon retiring. Hank Aaron was a fantastic human being as a ballplayer and one of my all time heroes but after retirement he sometimes fell into the habit of giving his unsolicited, cranky old man opinion with eye-roll inducing results. He's softened a bit as the years went on and he's never been as bad as Sayers, but the point is that talking about how great a guy Sayers was 40 years ago when he was still in the spotlight and everything was smiles and lollipops really doesn't do anything to mitigate him being that obnoxious know it all from the living room coach--only with a voice in the MSM that you have to listen to.

You want tough? Try playing on Sayers' knees in the days before advances such as arthroscopy and the sort of therapy taken for granted by players like Urlacher, whose career could have been over after his neck injury, and again last year, if he had been playing in the '60s.

And Sayers's career would probably have been over much earlier if linebackers in the 1960's weighed 275 pounds and ran mid-4's 40 yard dashes. Big fucking whoop.

Sayers has earned the right to make whatever observations he wants to make about his former team for as long as he lives, the least of which benign comments that happen to be true.

I guess that's technically true insofar as he lives in America and the first amendment is still in play (even though da guvment don't like it!), but as far as "being a good player and a generally good guy" giving him license to be an asshole without getting called on it? Not so much.

"You're part of building a huge company, you're ultra-successful, you retire and the thing goes into crapper," Hampton said. "You're offended; you resent it. If you didn't care, you wouldn't say a word.

"The doublespeak part of the whole thing is since Gale and Dick Butkus didn't win a Super Bowl, maybe they don't have the right to say anything. Well, I beg to differ. Their rings say 'Hall of Famer,' and last time I checked, that was a pretty select group."

That's an absolutely reasonable rebuttal to Urlacher's utterly obnoxious comments. Too bad Isaacson couldn't follow Hampton's lead.

Clearly Urlacher is touchy because neither he nor his team has played close to anyone's expectations the last three years. Maybe because he smells the end of a career that, while impressive overall, individually speaking, still doesn't feel fulfilled. Or maybe because the Bears gave him $6 million guaranteed in a signing bonus last summer, he'll get more than $22 million the next three years and he feels guilty.

Or maybe not.

She gets paid to write this.

Isaacson closes with another solid, reasonable quote from Hampton about if Urlacher doesn't like it he should go 14-2, which is the only intelligent move she makes in this column. But the damage is done. What a steaming turd this column is


dan-bob said...


Elliot said...

There are two really dumb aspects to this:

1. Urlacher bashed Cutler when he first came to the bears, so it's not like he's been silent as far as criticizing their "franchise QB".

2. Urlacher is one of the few reasons the Bears have had the small amount of success they have had since they drafted him #1. Cutler's the one who needs to win some playoff games. Okay, A SINGLE playoff game. Okay, PLAY in a single playoff game.

That being said, you're exactly right here, Chris. Hampton is the most reasonable out of everyone.

Chris W said...


The Urlacher bashing Cutler thing was he-said she-said hearsay from a rival player (Bernard Berrian) that Urlacher denied.

You're 100% right on w/r/t point #2

Martin said...

Sayers was answering questions at a banquet. People were asking him his opinion. How is that different then Hampton being asked for his about the whole situation?

It's not like Sayers went off to find a reporter to say all this stuff. These kind of banquets, a Q & A session is a big part of the draw, so why wouldn't Sayers answer these seemingly legit questions from fans who paid to ask them? I'd be pissed if I paid and asked questions and got the BS cliche answer I expect to hear from a current player.

Chris W said...

He's still speaking publicly as a representative of the organization. If you appreciate his candor, that's totally fine. But the fact is Sayers is always popping out at the mouth publicly about what's wrong with the Bears. It's not completely "unsolicited" here, but it kind of is, given that when you're giving a speech as a representative of an organization you're really not being expected to bash the organization.

Dylan Murphy said...

This just goes to show how much control Lovie Smith has. None.

Adam said...

How is speaking the truth bashing the organization?