Dear Meryl Streep

Photo: Getty

Dear Meryl,

I don’t want to argue politics with you. I don’t really want to argue politics with anyone anymore. Haven’t we done that enough?

But there is one thing I would like to debate.

During your eloquent speech at the Golden Globes, you stated (in a somewhat demeaning tone) that if we kick all the foreigners out of Hollywood, then we’d have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, “Which are not the arts.”

Now, I can’t speak to mixed martial arts, but I can speak to football.

You see, I’ve spent my entire life watching football. And now, I spend my life writing about football. It’s taught me a lot about life – about  patience, about toughness, and about teamwork. Much like making a movie, in football, no one can accomplish anything on their own.

I’ve spent the past few years talking to football players, getting to know them, and listening to their stories. They’re the stuff movies are made of.

Some of them come from backgrounds you could never imagine. But just like you, they had a dream. Unlike you, they had to overcome much more to achieve them. Some had to fight racism and discrimination. Others grew up surrounded by poverty, drugs, and violence. And many suffered unimaginable heartache along the way.

Determined to better their lives and the lives of those around them, they were undeterred. They held onto hope because they had no choice – they were the only hope.

Football is a real game played by real people with real stories – some of which become movies. It isn’t just what happens on the field. It’s the stories of the players, their families, and their journeys. The life stories of athletes inspire art and create roles for people like you.

I don’t really care if you watch football. Maybe it’s not your thing. That’s fine. But don’t turn your nose up at those who do – much less, those who play the game.

You’re right. The world should be kinder, less judgmental, and more understanding.

And so should you.

XO

A Bittersweet Time for Football Fans 

Former Colts Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning (Photo: Indianapolis Colts)

Former Colts Reggie Wayne and Peyton Manning
(Photo: Matt Bowen/Indianapolis Colts)

This week begins the NFL free agency signing period. The unofficial start of the 2015 season. A chance to sign veteran players, players with a track record, players who’ve had proven success.

I should be excited. I should be ecstatic. Instead, I’m heartbroken.

Because this is also the time of year when football fans have to say goodbye to players. Players who come into our lives, players we spend years getting to know, players we cheer for every Sunday, players whose health we obsess over, whose every word we hang on, and after years of investing all of ourselves in this relationship, eventually, some day…it’s time to say goodbye.

That time is now.

And just like any other relationship, it can rip your heart out.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not about one player. I love my team and I’m excited about what they’re building. I understand the business of football. And oddly enough, I don’t disagree with the decision.

But that doesn’t change how I feel about it. Truth be told, right now, when I picture my Colts lining up without Reggie Wayne this season…I feel sick and empty inside.

I know there are other guys out there. Guys who could come in and make an immediate impact. But I don’t care about those guys. I don’t have a history with those guys. I haven’t made memories with those guys.

Right now, I’m heartbroken. Weepy heartbroken. Don’t want to eat heartbroken. Nothing’s going to make me feel better heartbroken.

And that’s the curse of being a football fan.

I’m mourning the loss of one of the football loves of my life. But unbeknownst to me, I’m also in the process of making new memories and falling in love with new players. Only to eventually repeat this pain all over again.

But if the alternative to having my heart broken is having players I don’t love on my team, then the choice is easy.

I’ll take heartbreak.

Every time.

I just wish it didn’t hurt so damn bad.

XO

Deflating the game

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces questions from the media (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady faces questions from the media (Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)

Champions don’t cut corners. They don’t make excuses. Champions don’t sneak, spy, or steal. Champions push themselves, challenge each other, and elevate the game they love.

The New England Patriots were the better team in the AFC Championship game. It was apparent from the start. They dominated the Indianapolis Colts in every way. And they won by a large margin. 45-7 to be exact.

They didn’t need to give themselves an unfair advantage. But from all angles, it appears they did. Someone did. And now, with the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl upon us, football fans aren’t talking about the Patriots’ decisive win, the dramatic overtime victory of the Seattle Seahawks over the Green Bay Packers, or the biggest game of the year. They’re talking about deflated footballs. You can’t turn around without hearing a ball joke and “deflategate” has been the top news story all week.

The NFL kicked off the season embroiled in off-the-field issues surrounding Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, the fallout from which called into question the integrity of the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell. Now, it closes the season with an on-the-field issue, which takes direct aim at the integrity of the game itself.

What did the Patriots know? When did they know it? And who was responsible? We may never know.

My brilliant and witty friend, Shandon, coined Patriots quarterback Tom Brady “The Blue Jasmine of football.” If you didn’t see the movie Blue Jasmine, the script was loosely written around disgraced financier Bernie Madoff’s (now estranged) wife, Ruth, an “innocent bystander” who benefited greatly from her husband’s greed. Bill Belichick in the role of Bernie Madoff doesn’t seem like a stretch. Except, of course, for his wardrobe.

The problem is, this Patriots plot has more holes than an adult film. Belichick, a notorious control freak, admits to scheming to make practice balls uncatchable, but wants us to believe he’s never thought about a football on game day. And Brady, who has a process for picking and preparing balls, has never actually squeezed one. For the record, my sister Jennifer (who is a Tom Brady fan) says even she can tell the difference in a fully inflated ball when she’s throwing it around the backyard with my nephews.

This franchise is no stranger to cheating scandals. In 2007, Belichick was imposed a $500,000 fine (the maximum allowable) for his role in taping the defensive play calls of the Patriots’ opponents, earning the nickname “Belicheat.” Now, with their team headed back to the Super Bowl, New England fans find themselves in the position of defending the Patriots and their accolades once again.

If the game isn’t fair, then the game means nothing. And this game means too much to too many people for that. The attention created by deflated footballs is not silly. As Tony Kornheiser said on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, “It shows you what the NFL means to this country.”

A strong stance is needed from the man in charge of defending the NFL shield. And with the game on the line, Roger Goodell can leave no doubt as to which team he’s on.

Time for a big play, Commissioner.

I hope you have it in you.

XO

Jerry Jones and Chris Christie make strange bedfellows

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have a budding bromance

There was Carrie Underwood. And Jessica Simpson. And now, there’s…Chris Christie?!

Meet the new muse of the Dallas Cowboys.

The New Jersey governor is the latest public figure to be spotted regularly in the suite of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. Last Sunday, when the Cowboys played the Detroit Lions in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs, Christie was photographed on the sideline, in Jones’ suite (in an awkward celebratory manhug), and going into the locker room afterwards.

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Which is all fine and good…if he wants to run for office in Texas.

The problem is, Christie represents a state with its own NFL team (even if no one wants to claim it), the New York Jets. And New Jersey is home to MetLife Stadium, which is shared by both the Jets and the New York Giants (a huge divisional rival of the Cowboys). I know, both teams say they’re from New York, but the Jets are actually based in New Jersey.

Christie’s brother Todd, who came to his defense on Facebook this week, says Chris is a lifelong fan of the Cowboys. Christie can be a fan of any team he wants. But showing up week after week in the owner’s suite is a bad look, even if it’s perfectly legal. It wreaks of big money power and influence. And it’s raised some ethical questions about a contract Christie pushed for a company part owned by Jones. Not to mention, Christie is reportedly preparing for the 2016 presidential election. You can bet those pictures in Jones’ suite will turn into campaign ads.

I can already hear them:

(Deep, dark male voice): “Chris Christie spent more time watching the Dallas Cowboys than watching government spending.”

(Concerned female voice): “Chris Christie cares more about football than children.” *A few of us (not naming names) may be guilty of that one.

Unlike Underwood and Simpson (both of whom were shunned when quarterback Tony Romo broke up with them), Christie may have some staying power with the Cowboys, seeing as the team is winning. Jerry Jones has said Christie is part of the team’s mojo. And he fully expects him to be at this week’s big divisional game against the Packers in Green Bay. God knows the Cowboys will need all of their mojo to beat Aaron Rodgers.

While it isn’t apparent at first, Chris Christie and Jessica Simpson actually have some similarities. They’re both Republicans. They’ve both endured public scrutiny over their weight and their attendance at Cowboys games. They both wear orange well. But only one of them has ever looked good in Daisy Duke shorts.

Are you happy, Governor? You’ve become a caricature.

Maybe you and Jerry are soulmates after all.

XO

With Adrian Peterson, the NFL finally gets it right

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Vikings running back Adrian Peterson
(Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images)

Go back to September. We were outraged. We were embarrassed. And more than anything, we were done. Video of Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious followed by pictures of the four-year-old son of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson with whip marks on his body was more than we could bear. We wanted a culture change and we wanted it now. We took to social media. We threatened to boycott (I didn’t, but others did). And the National Football League responded.

Armed with new advisors, new guidelines, and a new zero-tolerance stance on domestic violence, the NFL conducted a test of its revised personal conduct policy. And on Tuesday, Adrian Peterson became its poster boy.

In a statement released by the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell ruled that contrary to popular belief, Peterson would not be eligible for reinstatement by the league until April 15, 2015 at the earliest. His conditions (which include counseling, therapy, and community service) and reasoning were clearly spelled out in a letter addressed to Peterson and made public through the media.

“First, the injury was inflicted on a child who was only four years old.  The difference in size and strength between you and the child is significant, and your actions clearly caused physical injury to the child.

 

Second, the repetitive use of a switch in this instance is the functional equivalent of a weapon, particularly in the hands of someone with the strength of an accomplished professional athlete.

 

Third, you have shown no meaningful remorse for your conduct.  When indicted, you acknowledged what you did but said that you would not ‘eliminate whooping my kids’ and defended your conduct in numerous published text messages to the child’s mother. You also said that you felt ‘very confident with my actions because I know my intent.’ These comments raise the serious concern that you do not fully appreciate the seriousness of your conduct, or even worse, that you may feel free to engage in similar conduct in the future.”

 

-NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to Adrian Peterson

In the end, Goodell left no room for doubt. It’s not perfect. There are still ethical, legal, and procedural issues to navigate. But in one long overdue ruling, the NFL finally demonstrated it’s not messing around when it comes to violence against women and children.

And for the first time in months, I was proud.

XO