Three Cheers For Rashard Mendenhall

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.

rashard-mendenhall-gettyI respect the guy for opting out rather than signing another contract and half-assing it until he got cut, a strategy he could have used to reel in another substantial signing bonus–he certainly wouldn’t be the first NFL player to cash in and clock out, nor would he be the last.  It’s not easy to walk away from a million dollars, and he would have got more.  It’s more difficult still to cut the cord on the ego-boosting that comes along with being a famous athlete, but if what he writes in his impressive explanatory letter in the Huffington Post is true, that was never a big deal for Mendenhall.

Barry Foster

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.

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh SteelersI 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.


The President Needs a Make-Over

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 Obama Grayhis 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, Clinton Graypotential 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 george-w-bush-58e91e6f1fa9866bnational 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 RonaldReaganmoisten 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 FonzIran-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.

So, clearly what President Obama needs is a celebrity make-over, and the perfect celebrity has never been more clear–we need someone who is highly intelligent and articulate, someone who works as hard as Obama, and we need someone cool–if the truth is to be told, Obama needs a little help here: he’s a bit of a policy geek, and those cigarettes don’t make him seem any cooler, despite what years of Marlboro ads have said to the contrary. He gets points for playing basketball, but not enough to compensate for his wonkishness.  On the subject of his rumored, rabid fanaticism for Star Trek I plead the fifth amendment and the right to not risk self-incrimination.

I’ve found a guy who is smart, articulate, wildly talented, supremely hard-working, and unquestionably cool.  His name is ?uestLove and President Obama should assume his style immediately. questlove

“Hey, Questlove–I need an update–who’s your stylist?”

Not only would it be a serious upgrade in terms of both style and cool, but there would be added tactical advantages in dealing with the primarily southern, lilly-white conservative seed at the heart of Republican stubbornness, for example–that tall and proud hair is going to scare the bejesus out the closet crackers who let their backwardsassed racism foul progress.  On the international circuit, do we really think a bully like Vladamir “Mad Vlad” Putin is going to give a giant like Questlove–easily 7 feet tall with the hair factored in–and backtalk whatsoever?  I don’t think so–and Obama is another tall guy, so all he needs to do it thicken up, add 150 pounds, and voila….

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.