-- Nate Jackson, former NFL player, in an "open letter" to then-future-draft-picks Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.
First of all, I hate open letters. Open letters are among the worst literary devices, ranking right up there with opening a speech by saying "Webster's defines..." or combining anything with zombies and calling it a new work of fiction. (I just had this idea: Game Of Bones: It's "Game Of Thrones," only with zombies!)
But second of all, I heard this quote when Nate Jackson, whom I've never heard of*
*I'm 99% sure that I'm using whom correctly in that sentence, the rule being "use whom when you'd use him". Since I'd say I never heard of him, it seems correct to say Whom I'd never heard of. The things you learn on podcasts!
was interviewed on NPR and read portions of the letter, and I really missed the point of the rest of the story or letter or whatever, because all I could think of was "Who is the Darth Vader of the NFL?"
I've never watched the draft, never, because I think if you watch the NFL draft you deserve to have some of your lifespan taken away like in those futuristic sci-fi books and movies (maybe like "Slipstream," by Michael Offutt?) and given to someone who deserves it. That's my newest thing, ranking things that you definitely should not ever do, like "watching the draft." If you feel that you've got enough time in your life to sit and watch the draft live, then perhaps someone else should get to use the time you're sucking up.
Time being a finite commodity, after all.
Where was I? Oh, yeah: The Darth Vader of the NFL? Who is that? From what I can gather having seen news stories about the draft and clips of people getting drafted, you shake hands with Roger Goodell. Is Goodell Darth Vader? Lord knows I'm not a fan of the guy -- a half-season or less suspension for players who deliberately tried to hurt someone else for money? -- but I wouldn't say he's Darth Vader. I wouldn't even make him Darth Maul. Or Grand Moff Tarkin. And is the NFL even the Empire? I'd say no. The NFL would be more like Jabba The Hutt's organization. Didn't they sponsor those pod races where people were always getting hurt and Muppets cackled evilly?
Bad metaphors and misguided Star Wars references are just more reasons why "open letters" from people you never heard of are stupid.
I believe the whole point of the letter is to emphasize that Luck and RGIII just lost their souls and that they can get it back only by focusing on football, to the exclusion of all else. After talking about how rich they'll be and the McMansions they'll live in (Jackson apparently watched Playmakers when it was on), he says:
With all of this pushing against you, the role of friends and family becomes very important. There are people in this world to whom you're just Andrew and Robert. Son, brother, lover, friend. You need to lean on these people when the Weirdos start to make sense. You need to run to the familiarity of genuine friendship. But even in this, there will be a loneliness, because, as a defense mechanism, you will have assumed a piece of your new identity, and your loved ones won’t understand it. Caught in between these two worlds you'll drift. You'll feast on the fruits of excess, and will only grow hungrier. You'll dine with familiar faces, and find you've lost the taste. And so you'll get in your Mercedes on your days off and drive to the facility and watch film. Ah yes. Football. That’s what this is all about.
Then finishes up with:
And your ability to keep this all in perspective will determine how you perform on the field. Once the whistle blows on Sundays, you'll be released from captivity, and you'll be free for three hours to truly live your dreams on the grandest scale you can imagine, against the best athletes on the planet. You will win or you will lose, but then the football game will end. The NFL game never will. Godspeed, boys.
That is to say: your ability to handle your new life will determine how well you play, and your ability to handle your new life depends entirely on how much you focus solely on football to the exclusion of everything else in your new life including friends and family. It's football football football, boys, and then one day: BAM! Football's over. Good luck!
In closing: The NFL Game will never end? I bet in 10 years the NFL won't be a big deal anymore, sooner if the league actually lets someone die on the field. You can't have athletes shooting themselves in the chest because you valued your contract with a helmet supplier over the lives of your athletes and go on as a league.
Maybe that Darth Vader comparison was more apt than I thought?