Sailing the Seas of Cheese: Heavy is the Head That Wears the Crown
“Have you ever seen the Iron Throne? The barbs along the back, the ribbons of twisted steel, the jagged ends of swords and knives all tangled up and melted? It is not a comfortable seat, ser. [The king] cut himself so often men took to calling him King Scab, and [another king] was murdered in that chair. By that chair, to hear some tell it. It is not a seat where a man can rest as ease. Ofttimes I wonder why my brothers wanted it so desperately”
–Stannis Baratheon, A Storm of Swords (George R.R. Martin)
Imagine Martin’s Iron Throne–a chair made of sharpened swords melded together, a chair with hundreds of sharpened edges. It’s a chair that embodies everything you have sacrificed throughout your entire life and is the symbol of your achievement and power. Seated on it, you are king; all that you can see is yours. But the moment you seize the chair, even your most trusted knights and allies plot behind your back to knock you from the throne. They may smile to your face, but behind closed doors, they not-so-silently wish it is your blood is next to be spilled beneath it. And to top it off, it isn’t a comfortable chair. It pokes and jabs you with it’s blades, a constant reminder that he who sits in the throne should never get comfortable, that the job is never cushy or easy. In Martin’s Westros, so was the life of the King of the Seven Kingdoms. In any NFL team, that role could easily be played by its quarterback.
A quarterback’s tenure can be filled with records, fame and success. It’s no surprise many of the Super Bowl–as well as league–MVPs are quarterbacks. A team rises and falls with the quarterback’s success. They set the tone for a team, and the rightfully earn the title Field General. But that tenure is finite. It is heralded by an ascent to leadership either by outplaying or outlasting a predecessor. Sometimes it seems like a birthright. Other times it the result of a drawn-out battle.
If 2008 taught us anything, that tenure is anything but easy. There is drama behind the scenes and the ever encroaching social media gives us all the more windows into that drama. Can you imagine what the Favre circus would have been if Twitter (born only 2 years prior) was as popular as it is today?
But as in any kingdom, the knights will frequently battle behind the scenes for the king’s favor and plot against him when they feel slighted, the same can likely be said for the dynamics within a locker room (or any Junior High School.) He’s your best friend when your fame soars with his. And he’s persona non grata if things aren’t going well or you aren’t his favorite target. After all, just like the quarterback, each player earned a spot in that locker room with his own sweat and tears, his own abilities, and his own hubris and narcissism. Each one of them thrives in the spotlight and craves it all more like a petulant toddler jockeying for a mother’s attention–when that spotlight is elsewhere.
This has gone on for generations. There is no doubt about that. But prior to the internet, we saw little of it. Opinions and images were better protected when the only ones parsing out information were beat writers armed with only with notepads and a pencil. Today a player’s thoughts–or those of his siblings–spread across the internet as soon as they are uttered. The internet is unforgiving. Once something is posted, it is nigh on impossible to redact it no matter how hard one tries.
This certainly isn’t unique to the Green Bay Packers, but I will touch on them later. The New York Jets have been experts at playing Brutus and Cassius plotting to stab Caesar in the back. For the Jets, they have been equal opportunity character assassins. In November, anonymous members of the Jets team tore into backup quarterback Tim Tebow, calling him “terrible.” They questioned his abilities as a quarterback.
Two months later, that anonymous vitriol as redirected at the starting quarterback Mark Sanchez. They questioned Sanchez’s work ethic, calling him “lazy” and announced that his confidence was all but gone. The hoped for a trade up to send the QB packing.
Nothing like airing the team’s dirty laundry for all to see: they trust nor particularly like their first or second string quarterbacks. Such statements were meant to destroy each of the player’s credibility and wound from anonymous statements.
Now let’s look at the Packers’ locker room. This past year has not been a lovefest at 1265 Lombardi. When tight end Jermichael Finley questioned why he was no longer Rodgers’ most favored target, he has gone the record asserting that he and “the quarterback” lack chemistry on a personal level. These comments started in the 2011 season as Finely was in the midst of a ball dropping problem. These same comments came to the fore once again this year and continued to grab the media’s attention as recently as late November. At that time, he admitted he chafed at the thought of no longer being the chosen one:
But me and 12 just ain’t been on. He’s had some guys come through this year, and he’s gone to them instead of me. And really, it’s out of my hands at the end of the day. If I could throw myself the ball and run under it, I’d do it every play because he’s just not throwing me the ball like he used to.
The comments finish with blame deflected off himself and back at Rodgers. He states, “I need the quarterback on my side, and I need to catch the ball when he throws it to me. It takes two things to get that going. So the chemistry, I feel like we need to get that going”
And if Finley’s repeated bombs about interpersonal issues weren’t enough, there was his own agent Blake Baratz casting doubt and blame as well. In September Baratz tweeted, “ARod is a great QB he isn’t a great leader. There’s a major difference. Leaders take the blame & make every1 better. He doesn’t.”
In the meantime, Finley has once again become one of the favored targets and all seemed right with the universe. Meanwhile, it was Greg Jennings whose role diminished this year. His star started to fade as Randall Cobb’s rose. Things were only compounded as he sat on the sidelines recovering from abdominal surgery. Of course this meant another disgruntled player clamoring for attention. But this time it wasn’t the player trying to smear the leader’s reputation. This time it was a sibling championing the slighted knight’s cause. Enter his sister Valyncia Jennings and her well-documented tweets that were multiple and scathing:
Aaron Rodgers come on u had GJ for the TD twice. Get him the [the football] geez!!!!!
Why was that ball under thrown like that, he was wide open make the throw for the receiver!!! Geeez!!
My God Aaron Rodgers holds the ball forever! GJ was wide open 5x for that touchdown! Goodness he acts like he doesn’t want to throw to him
GJ is the only receiver that has to jump in the air with both hands up to get the [ball]!!! It’s ridiculous I pray he departs GB ASAP!
Aaron Rodgers smh! Had him in the slot wide open no one even covered him! Where is Peyton Manning when u need him! This is utterly pathetic
@Da_mrs_85 Eb, Cortney, and Jahlin. We are hot Mad! I’ve never seen a star receiver ever go through this smh! @GregJennings needs to bounce [emoticon]
It is so obvious that @GregJennings is being blatantly ignored by ARod. Maybe @ halftime GJ should put on #18 then ARod will force [the football] to him!
Who can make a play @GregJennings can! He’s the best freakin receiver these clowns got! Now take your talents to south beach & get paid! [money bag emoticon]
@GregJennings ball out so you can leave this team! They will miss u when your gone! It’s all good bye packers! Cheap team, can’t afford him
@Da_mrs_85 I don’t freakin care he should have more catches, if this idiot could see the coverage!! [emoticon] Then he holds on to the ball & fumbles!
ARod is the most overrated QB in the league! He is no where near Peyton or Brady! It sickens me, Peyton would avg. 5 TD with this squad!!!
Jennings didn’t shy away from questions regarding his sister during yesterday’s media session. But while he pointed out that the comments were strictly those of his sister, he did not go out of his way to refute any of the statements. In fact he pointed out that it is not his job to police or censor the opinions of another adult. In addition, he appeared to deflect criticism by pointing out that Rodgers’ own brother has previously used twitter in the past as his own forum to criticize the Packers as though to say, “Your brother did it first!”
Yes, Rodgers’ older brother Luke–a frequent user of Twitter like many of us–did make the following tweets during the 2011 game against the Kansas City Chiefs:
I don’t buy the loss of 85 as the problem for one minute. The WR corps are more than capable of making these catches. It’s gut check time.
Need to find anyone who wants to catch the ball and make a play.
Unbelievable. It’s another game of drops.
Stop throwing to 88
JMike is terrible.
I’ll let the reader dissect both siblings’ comments and compare/contrast the apparent agendas and intent. But one set of comments appears to criticize performance and outcome while the other set appears to be rooted in ad hominem attacks. But since Jennings brought up Luke Rodgers’ comments, I thought it was only fair to include them in this discussion.
Of course in any of these situations–whether the obnoxious comments came from a family member or a hired representative–it is very easy to go on the record and distance one’s self from them. It’s practically an obligatory step when it comes the politics of gossips and smear that customarily follows a PR faux pas. But it does raise the question if those speaking are merely parroting the thoughts and frustrations of the disgruntled teammate. A wise man mused last night that such tweeters, while not a confirmed mouthpiece often serve in the capacity of the classical Greek Chorus, commenting on the collective narrative of the drama unfolding before the audience. They often serve as a window into others’ opinions and frustrations. While they may not be echoing what they have heard the player utter, they often bring those collective feelings to light and indirectly bring those thoughts to public fruition. in a more pessimistic light, this also creates one degree of separation divorcing the player from the comments and possibly creating an air of plausible deniability in any power struggle.
Getting back to the image of the Iron Throne, such cyberjabs are no different than the jabs from the multiple swords the king risks each time he sits up on the throne. The job is not easy, and that king remains forever the first target of any coup, often led by whom he thought was his closest ally.
And just like that feudal model, the power struggles never end until the king is replaced one way or another, likely escalating until a new king is crowned. This isn’t a phenomenon unique to the likes of Sanchez, Tebow or Rodgers. It happens in all 32 locker rooms regardless of how great or lousy its QB may be. Alliances are forged each year. Proverbial lines in the sand are drawn all the time. You’re either with him or you’re with me.
This behavior is not unique to feudal kingdoms or locker rooms. It plays out every day in middle school cafeterias. While I have never been in a football locker room, as a girl who played on the boy’s soccer team in high school, I am well aware of the ongoing teammate driven attempts at character assassination. Guys on the team that were not pleased their left wing had two XX chromosomes couldn’t decide what was a better smear campaign–that I was a whore that slept with half of the boys in school or a lesbian trying to be one of the boys. I know first hand the power of the teammate smear campaigns. It is no different than the territorial pissings to assert who is alpha male and leader of the proverbial pack. It’s part of human nature to jockey for the top and discredit and push those in your way to the side. This type of character assassination has likely been part of the locker room dynamic for generations, and the instant dissemination of gossip and information makes it all the more public and visible for scrutiny.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Everybody kicks you when you’re down. Laugh for now; later you can frown. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. –The Crown, Everlast