By now you have probably heard about New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan and the foot fetish videos that he and his wife have posted to the Internet. When asked about them, Ryan has indicated that this is a personal matter that he would prefer not discuss. In talking about the situation on ESPN radio, former NFL offensive lineman turned sportscaster Mark Schlereth was asked about how a football team might handle a situation like this in terms of the coach’s feelings.
To paraphrase, Schlereth said that the players would first determine if the coach’s marriage was potentially in trouble or if he was simply caught in an incredibly embarrassing situation. If the situation proved to be the latter, the entire team would most assuredly attend the next meeting barefoot, and the torment that the coach would receive for something like this could last for months.
“We would bring it up at every opportunity,” said Schlereth.
He went on to describe a prank in which a rookie was served falsified court documents indicating that he was being sued for sexual harassment after he had been seen flirting with a sound engineer on the sidelines during a game. The coach allowed that prank to continue for an entire day before letting the rookie off with a warning.
“There are no rules in an NFL locker room when it comes to this stuff,” Schlereth explained. “And the best defense is a good offense. So you nail the low-hanging fruit whenever you can.”
I like this philosophy a lot.
In my own life, my friends fall into two categories:
Those who believe that the world should operate like an NFL locker room and those who do not.
And in almost every case, there is no middle ground. Either you’re someone who is willing to engage in this kind of cruelty or you avoid it at all costs. You learn very quickly who can take it and who cannot.
Unfortunately, a majority of my friends (and perhaps people in general) cannot. For whatever reason, they tend to be (in my mind) overly sensitive to this kind of behavior. For these people, pranks end up being watered-down excuses for what could have been or are avoided altogether.
I cherish my friends who share my no-holds-barred philosophy. I admire their willingness to suffer embarrassment for the amusement of others. I respect their ability to laugh at their own foibles, regardless of how personal in nature they may be. And I readily accept their desire to do the same to me.
In my most treasured friendships, there is little room for hurt feelings. We give no quarter to one another of the battlefield. We show no mercy.
In the words of Mark Schlereth, we nail the low hanging fruit at every opportunity.
I never had the opportunity to play organized football (one of my three greatest regrets in life). My high school did not field a team and by the time I finally made it to college, I was working more than forty hours a week in order to pay the bills. Red-shirting as a freshman was not an option.
But I wish I had. I think I would’ve fit in well with a football team.
I tend to do a lot of stupid, prank-worthy things.
And my mind is constantly filled with hurtful comments and ideas for acts of supreme cruelty.
I fear that my talents are often going to waste.