Louis Riddick Wants Us to "Show Some Respect" for Fringe NFL Players
I agree with him.
He fired off this tweet last night, which popped up all over my timeline on Friday morning:
A lot of “big talk” about how poor, sorry, bad, not entertaining, etc week #4 of the #nfl preseason is…These men are busting their a$$ trying to accomplish something that could change their lives forever on the upside. Maybe show some respect?
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) August 31, 2018
Yeah, week four of the preseason is pretty bad. The play is low quality, with a bunch of backup and peripheral guys just thrown out there and asked to make something happen. They don’t have much experience playing together and they’re tasked with executing vanilla offensive and defensive schemes. A few guys might be fighting for 53-man roster spots, but the majority are just “bodies” who exist primarily to bridge the gap from late August to week one of the NFL regular season.
So of course the complaints are valid. It’s not a good product on TV or live at the stadium. The ticket prices are too high. The concession prices are too high. The parking costs too much. Maybe those things should be drawn down in the preseason to be aligned with the quality of the experience you’re getting, which makes too much sense.
But it’s also corny to sit here and read about how much Christian Hackenberg “sucks” from people who probably can’t kick a football five feet or run the 40-yard dash without falling over dead. No, Christian Hackenberg is not a great quarterback, but I respect the hell out of the fact that the guy worked his way from a division one “Power Five” program to the NFL and is still trying to make it happen. I’m not going to shit on anybody who is good enough to find a way to Lincoln Financial Field, then go shove a recorder in his face after the game and pretend like I wasn’t just ripping him on Twitter.
It’s easy to criticize but much harder for people to give credit where it’s due, and trust me, coaches and athletes pay attention to that kind of stuff. They know who the shit talkers are. As a general rule of thumb, when a player or coach goes out of their way to tell you that they don’t read the stories or pay attention to social media, they usually read every single article and scan Twitter before and after a game.
That’s not to say that people who didn’t play in the NFL don’t know what they’re talking aboutf or can’t be critical of players. No, Howie Roseman didn’t play pro football, but he built a Super Bowl winning team. Fans and beat writers can learn the difference between cover 2, cover 3, and a 3-3-5 odd stack. You can be a fantastic journalist in many different ways, but obviously I’m going to favor Ike Reese’s opinion over Howard Eskin’s opinion if both guys are talking about proper block-shedding technique.
One thing I don’t think people understand is that it’s not just whether you played pro sports or didn’t. There are multiple layers to it. For example, some fans and media members grew up playing the sport and officiating the sport that they watch or cover. Some still do. I always felt like it was important to play and ref soccer if I was going to write about it, because I felt like it gave me more credibility. To that end, I’d hope I’m at least speaking from a position of personal experience when I explain that a center back is supposed to pass off a striker to his or her partner instead of following a mark across the field and getting crossed up. I don’t know half as much about the position as Jim Curtin does, but I’d hope the effort in at least learning and playing the game would benefit my work.
Likewise, I try to keep it simple on the Sixers beat, because I’m learning a different sport. I’ll write about some of the basic offensive sets I see on the floor, but I’m not going to sit here and try to tell you about the best way to dunk a basketball, because I can’t dunk a basketball.
Anyway, this is how players and coaches look at the outside world. They know that some fans and media are legit and some aren’t when it comes to specific topics. They appreciate when we can identify things that the average talking head cannot. Maybe that makes me sound like an total asshole, but I always just felt like learning the game you cover and attempting to actually play it should be the BARE MINIMUM expectation for an able-bodied media member.
I think sometimes we treat athletes like they exist solely for our entertainment, as if they’re caged up circus animals who are only released on Sunday or after our work day to give us a way to wind down. LeBron James should “shut up and dribble,” right? He’s only here to please us and give us basketball highlights like he’s some sort of automaton. But these guys aren’t automatons, they’re human beings with thoughts and emotions and memories, and if we’re gonna rip people because they “suck,” then we should at least try to give credit where it’s due.
De’Andre Carter was an FCS All-American in 2014 and is still hustling on the NFL fringes.
He does not “suck.”
Donnel Pumphrey ran for 6,405 yards and 62 touchdowns in college.
He does not “suck.”
Joe Callahan went to a school you’ve never heard of and wound up getting some chances in the NFL.
He does not “suck.”
That’s really what Lou Riddick is talking about. He’s not talking about ticket prices or the TV product or the quality of play on the field. He’s just asking you to not be immediately dismissive of these guys and at least appreciate the hard work they’ve put in to get to this point in their careers.
He’s just asking you to show these guys a little bit of respect.