Before castigating Miami Dolphins’ general manager Jeff Ireland for the question he asked former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant during a pre-draft interview, think about all that rides on a team making the right choice. It’s not just the millions of dollars in guaranteed money; it’s the jobs of all the scouts and anyone else who had a hand in making the decision. The first round pick, as our Vice President would say, is a BFD.
So if teams want to dig deep and ask questions normally reserved for government or police psych tests, so be it. Given the endless amount of public scrutiny today’s athletes receive, teams need to be sure none of their players are going to throw a fan through a glass window for teasing them, as NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley once did. The NFL might not be the CIA, but then again, no one in the CIA is making $10-15 million before they even begin their job.
On Tuesday, Yahoo.com NFL writer Mike Silver tore into the Dolphins’ general manager for asking Bryant if his mother, who was once arrested for drug trafficking, was a prostitute during a pre-draft evaluation. By this morning, Silver’s piece had gone viral and every sports talk show in the country was debating whether or not Ireland should be punished for asking such an insensitive question.
And just like that, Bryant, who was eventually taken in the first round by the Dallas Cowboys, has gone from a villain to a sympathetic figure. The same people who held on to their wallets a little tighter every time he was in sight are now rooting for Bryant to stick it to Ireland, the Dolphins and anyone else who had questions about his character.
But here’s the problem: It was the media –with their labels and their gossip—who started this. Ireland was just asking a question they were scared to ask.
A week ago, the decision to take Bryant in the first round (or at all) was considered questionable, if not downright ludicrous. Bryant, we were led to believe, was a thug. Of course, that word was never used. When a largely white media utters the “T” word, the largely black player base interprets it the way they interpret a much more offensive label. Hint: It begins with an “N”.
Instead, we heard phrases like “character issues” or “personal problems” and the consensus from the majority of the so-called draft experts was that teams should avoid Bryant like he was Pac Man Jones. He was unstable, a liar, a kid who came late to games and sometimes, he even skipped English class. By god, I bet he even chugged Natty Ice from a keg once or twice. If this were sports betting or Apuestas deportivas, I'd bet the online sports odds say he's total thug.
One can only assume that Ireland was testing his extremely vulnerable interviewee, deliberately trying to make him as uncomfortable as possible to see if Bryant would snap under pressure. Why would he do this? Because the media had a label for Bryant before he turned 21. National talk show panels were criticizing a kid most of who had never even seen play.
This is what happens when you have so much air to fill and not enough substance to fill it with. This year’s NFL Draft was longer than a Ken Burns’ documentary and the coverage lasted longer than an entire football season, including the Super Bowl. The analysts needed to talk about something other than Tim Tebow’s likeability, so they often focused on the rumors surrounding Bryant.
Ireland was simply asking about one of those rumors.