I’ve been reading a lot of banter–and a lot of nastiness–about NFL running back Rashard Mendenhall who, at the age of 26, surprised just about anyone who gives a damn about football by announcing his retirement rather than seek a new free agent contract. I don’t get it. The hate, I mean.
This scenario reminds reminds me of another former Steeler: Barry Foster, a hard-hitting pro-bowl quality running back who quit at the pinnacle of his carreer to go bass fishing when he realized he just didn’t feel it anymore. In a game of inches, where the difference between the great and the mediocre is a razor-thin line made mostly of confidence and commitment, if the will isn’t there, the player is going to fail, hurt his team and probably hurt himself physically in the process.
I think of it this way–at 47, if I was offered a choice between the fame and glory of an NFL career, with all the attendant risks and responsibilities, or $10 million in the bank and a lifetime to do what I want, go where I want, and be myself away from the glare of the media spotlight, I’d take the later. At 26, I don’t think I’d have made the same choice–Mendenhall made a mature choice–he owes nothing to anyone. He played out his last contract; the slate is clear. If I’m him, I’m already gone–a babe on my arm on a slow boat to Bora Bora.
While I was devoting considerable energies into not nodding off during the State of The Union Address last night, Mrs. Junk remarked on how odd it was to see President Obama’s suddenly graying hair. As a guy who has seen his own hair take a sudden flight towards white–I’ll be in Santa country by the time I’m 55–I have to say he carries it well. He’s a handsome guy, after all, and he’s got a lot on his mind. Not only that, he’s certainly in good company. Until my own hair changed from brown to salt & pepper to–uh–just plain salty (like my personality, I guess), I have to admit that I suspected s conspiracy of Presidents. As candidates, it goes to figure, potential leaders want to appear youthful, energetic, virile, powerful and vigorous; so it goes without saying that coloring one’s hair is a simple part of a campaign not unlike wearing good suits and attractive ties. Once in office, however, the cultivated image of choice shifts to one of wisdom, maturity, and leadership–candidates are cast as agents of change, but Presidents are leaders. The are diplomats who set the tone for national discourse and international relations. Even the simplest of men, those who bore leadership as if it was no greater burden than a sack of children’s toys, have aged under the weight of responsibility and the pressure of constant scrutiny. Was I wrong to suspect that Presidents in office intentionally let their hair go gray? That some possibly even hasten the process via artificial means? I suspect I’m on to something–but I also think that these guys are missing the boat. Ronald Reagan, that canny old player, appeared to moisten his hair with waxy black shoe polish right up to his last days in office, even as he muttered “I do not recall” to inquiry after inquiry into the despicable conduct that took place on his watch–and people loved him for it. Why did folks love Reagan? Not because he denied any problems America faced with the same fervor he denied knowledge of the Iran-Contra Arms For Hostages deals, and not because he reminded many of us of our doddering old grandfathers. Reagan was beloved because he had the same hair as The Fonz. When Reagan was elected, who was the reigning cultural icon? It Arthur “Fonzi” Fonzarelli. When Reagan won reelection in 1984, American was sadly saying goodbye to that same shark-jumping icon when a wave of nostalgia carried the incumbent back for another four-year term. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
If I was any good at computer graphics, I’d mock up a cut and paste job of Questlove’s hair on Obama, but I’m afraid we’re just going to have to wait for the inevitable since, now that I’ve loosed this cat from it’s sack, there’s no way this isn’t going to happen. In the mean time, please enjoy the video link.
I love to tell stories with words and images, often with a darkly magical twist. While speculative fiction & dissecting pop culture are my primary passions, I also work with clients & brands by assisting with content creation, editing, marketing & design.