Redskins and Philosophy
It's been a tough few days in Ashburn, from the fourth loss in fifth games to the season-ending injuries to the Zorn vs. Portis mess. Over the past few days, I asked several Redskins whether we might find comfort in philosophy. No, it wasn't the greatest idea of all time.
"You mean like Voltaire and Sartre or something like that?" asked Pete Kendall, and truly, to listen to a hard Boston accent's version of Sartre is a joy. "Um, I mean, this is our job, but for everybody else this is supposed to be a diversion, right? So I don't know if I'd wrap myself up in it too much. Obviously I enjoy when the home town teams are winning, and sure it's disappointing when they lose, but the sun comes up the next day."
I asked Kendall if he wanted to discuss Voltaire further; "I've killed too many brain cells, both on and off the field."
I asked Casey Rabach whether he was turning to the philosophers; "can you get that in, like, Outdoor Life or Field and Stream?" he responded. "I think it's on the inside back page," Kendall said.
Fred Smoot, if you can believe it, was never one for philosophy either.
"You know, I don't really know that much Aristotle, I go to Plackemeier," Smoot said.
"He's the Medium Aristotle," Ryan Plackemeier said of Smoot. "Just like Shaq's the Big Aristotle."
(Plackemeier was referring to Smoot's size, not to the mantra of Stay Medium, but I'm pretending medium had two meanings here.)
"Maybe I need to give it a try man," Smoot said of philosophy. "I was a psychology guy, Sigmund Freud guy. Man, I'm into that guy."
Smoot then explained how competitors didn't need any great books to get them fired up.
"Man, let me tell you something," he said. "I don't like to lose to this guy in a video game," he continued, pointing to Marcus Washington. "Like, I will go change my whole game plan, stay up hours.
"No question," Washington agreed. "I know I'll be staying up late.
"Like, sometimes my girl tells me I need to quit, quit competing," Smoot said. "We'll be in the kitchen cooking, I'll be like, 'I bet you a hundred dollars my [food] tastes better. I compete at everything. Anything, greens, dressing for Thanksgiving. She cussed me out, made me get out of the kitchen. No problem."
Most players scoffed off my suggestion that depression could set in, but some admitted it was possible.
"It's depressing, yes it is," Chris Wilson said. "This is what we do. We're competitors. So when you compete and lose, you get down on yourself, start wondering what happened, figuring it out. That's what's most important to do over these next couple days, we've got to get our mojo, some people call it swagger, we've got to get it back."
Wilson is actually trying to get his own mojo back, since his playing time has flagged in recent weeks. Hence the deep thoughts.
"Say Ali, he was the greatest boxer ever, right?" Wilson said. "What if he never would have boxed, would he still be the greatest fighter ever? Just because he never fought? I mean, you're great whether you're proving it to the world or not."
"He likes to make you think with what he says," Isaiah Ross mused at the next locker He puts it in your hands and let's you think about it."
Then Ross asked Wilson if he'd read The Art of War yet. Wilson hasn't. Ross has.
"I wanted a different mindset going into my job," Ross said. "Even though it's considered a job and it's considered a sport, it's still a war, you know what I mean? It's a war inside of a war. You want to mentally prepare yourself and take you to a different level."
A few lockers down sat Lorenzo Alexander, a legal studies major at Cal, who said he's now more of a current events guy. He did take some theory of law classes, and he mentioned Kant and the utilitarians, so I asked whether Portis or Zorn was being utilitarian here.
"No no no no no no," he said. "That's your quote, not mine."
"You're never as good as you are but you're never as bad as you think you are, something like that," offered Plackemeier, in lieu of classical philosophy.
"You're never as good or as bad as you think," corrected Wilson.
"He said the same thing, it just sounds better when you say it," Alexander said.
Way across the locker room was Antwaan Randle El. I asked him the philosophy question.
"You know what I'm gonna say, shucks," Randle El said. "Well, I always believe in prayer, and when you have situations like this, you've got to think of this situation being like a mountain or a giant or a mess, something that you need to be removed."
Then he cited Mark 11:22-26, which suggests that the power of prayer can move mountains.
"So I'm telling that mountain that it's got to go," Randle El said, "the situation's gotta go, and not only that it has to go, but I'm telling it WHERE to go. To the sea. Away from us. Go bother somebody else, let them deal with us."
Would the Potomac River work, I asked?
"It's away from us," Randle El allowed.
December 11, 2008; 10:14 AM ET
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