Game Time: A Follow-Up E-mail To Brian Cushing
Brian Cushing and Elton John: Soulmates
Let me get right down to business. I am actually sending this e-mail as a follow-up to my open letter to you on Monday of this week, and frankly, I'm kicking myself that I actually sent you an open letter. I mean, who the hell sends letters anymore? Here we are in a crisis, and I'm counting on the postal service to get you my words of support, my sage advice, my amazingly awesome "I'm smarter than everyone" radio guy instructions on how to handle adversity in a timely fashion?
Judging by yesterday's "performance," you clearly didn't get my letter (or you're like me and you check your mail once every ten days because it's a depressing pile of bills, advertising circulars, and reminders for court dates). My bad, man. My bad. I am truly sorry, and it won't happen again.
You see, Brian? Apologizing isn't that hard. Despite the smooth stylings of Peter Cetera bringing forth evidence to the contrary, it really isn't hard for you to say you're sorry.
I'm going to send this e-mail with the assumption that you just didn't get my letter. I'm going to assume you didn't just ignore my assertions that people HATE being lied to and that "this too shall pass." In fact, I'm even going to cater to you a little bit. Like most Texans fans, I saw the press conference yesterday. At the outset, you requested the following:
Whatever you choose to write about me, please do write that I'm very proud to be a linebacker of the Houston Texans, very honored to be the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year, and very anxious to get on the Reliant field Oct. 10 against the New York Giants.
Hey folks, let me tell ya, Brian Cushing is proud to be playing linebacker for the Texans, he is totally honored to be the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year, and GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY is he anxious to go wreck shop on the Giants at Reliant on October 10!
See, Brian. I'm still your friend.
Now, as Silvio Dante would say, this is where the conversation gets...um, uncomfortable.
I saw you flat out deny intentionally taking any substance that would drive your hCG levels to the point that you would fail a random NFL drug test. I saw you get borderline snippy when someone asked you if you should forfeit the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award (That "Why?" was a very underrated moment in that
sham press conference, man.). Above all else, I saw you say that you assumed you were possibly playing the 2009 season with tumors...you know, since hCG finds its way into one's system one of three ways -- intentionally injecting/ingesting it for "whatever reason", pregnancy, and testicular cancer.
And since you're
telling yourself you are not guilty of the first method and biologically excluded from the second one, naturally (is there anything "natural" about this story?) you deduced that you could possibly have cancer.
Personally, I know that I didn't ingest or inject anything, and the fact that my options were that I was either injecting or I had a tumor, as I was told by some sources, I played the whole season thinking I had tumors. So that's how I feel.
Forget the lack of follow-up questions from a media throng that was rushed through this ten-minute circle jerk of a press conference. Forget the ludicrousness of a meticulously programmed athletic specimen like yourself sitting around thinking that you might have tumors and not even dialing up an oncologist or discussing it with the team doctors.
Forget the Casey Hampton-sized mountain of medical data and educated opinion that completely refutes the possibility of even surviving a tumor that would generate the level of hCG you had in your body, let alone the possibility of making 134 tackles in sixteen National Football League games last year. The words "I played the whole season thinking I had tumors" were ridiculous the second they were uttered. The follow-up evidence from people who...you know...actually work to help those with real tumors try and survive every day was just the slam-dunk confirmation we all knew was coming.
Forget all of that. The bottom line is you spit in the face of the one sentence that mattered in my letter to you earlier this week:
People don't like being made to feel like they were played.
When we all figured out why you became Joe Social Media over the last month with your radio/TV/web junket and "spontaneous" Tweet-ups, that it was a preemptive strike to make you appear to be the "persecuted everyman" when the suspension came down, it was a little insulting. But we can handle phony personalities. Hell, radio and TV are chock full of them, so is every line of work. We all sort of laughed at you after we figured out why your P.R. people were frantically emailing every media outlet in town to see if they'll talk to you. No big deal.
Insulting everyone's intelligence is another story altogether. People HATE that. Ask Roger Clemens. (You shouldn't have to wait in line behind many people to talk to him, a few government officials maybe, whenever they get around to that whole "perjury thing.") On a day where you should have just owned up to what many have suspected for years now -- that what we've seen has not exactly been "100% FDA-approved Cushing" -- you decided the best avenue was steadfast denial and the "tumor" card.
You chose poorly.
Lou Holtz always said "When things go wrong, the only friends you have in this world are those you eat with, sleep with, bleed with, pray with, and cry with. That's your family and your teammates." Your family and teammates have your back, this much we know. And that's good, because things are going decidedly wrong.
So what do we do, Cush? Can the wagons be circled? Your situation is eerily similar to that of Clemens, and he is in baseball-fan Alcatraz right about now. I can't help but feel like if you got my letter before Thursday, you might have thought about what the common folks think of entitled celebrity figures treating their intelligence like the bottom of a drug test urine cup . But that's beside the point now...what can we do to fix this? (Yeah, that's right, Cush..."we"...me and you. We're gonna fix this sumbitch.)
Let's assess. What do we have going for us here?
First, how about the fact that steroid users in football are generally forgiven if they come clean and admit it. Whether it's the Darwinian culture of violence that pervades football or the fact that the records in baseball have a sanctity to them that longtime fans HATE to see violated by syringes and pills, for whatever reason fans are quicker to forgive in your league. That's good for us. In short, Scarlet Letter Effect is very low for football players. (Maybe a lowercase "h" tattoo on your ankle for "hCG." That's it. We can handle that, right?)
Ok what else...hey, how about this? You're a young guy. Unlike Clemens, who was put on the trial of public opinion after his career was over, you have twelve games this season and presumably many years after that to make this a distant memory. If Clemens had five or six more years to go rack up a Cy Young Award or win a World Series, steroids become a back-burner issue with him (assuming he apologized). Ask A-Rod. Does anyone even bring up his Gammons "steroid admittance" interview anymore? And hell, he was painted orange! Just win, baby.
One thing in your favor: No Mindy McCready
Let's see, thinking, thinking, thinking...I don't know, Brian. You tell me on this one, but you seem like a pretty driven guy. An "all ball" type. When things spun out of control for Roger, not only did the steroid scandal waylay him, but then rumors of marital infidelity began to surface, including allegations that back in the day...well, let's just say there was no bigger fan of Mindy McCready than Roger. I look at your bio, and I see nothing that would indicate that there will be some sort of "sexual, relationship-driven" chaser to this PED scandal. You are Cush-tron the Cyborg Linebacker. If we fix this hCG thing, we should be good. In the game of life, the female genitalia are undefeated and untied; choosing not to ruin their undefeated existence is probably wise.
Ok, so let's assess...you've got the culture of football to lean on, you've got years of football left in you, and you've never had sex with Mindy McCready. It's not perfect but it will have to do.
So now what? Is it too late to apologize? Let's process everyone that requires an apology.
Start with your teammates, who you completely let down by getting caught and getting suspended for four games. 2010 is supposed to be the year that the Texans finally -- FINALLY -- break through and make the playoffs. Last season, you guys came within one "phone it in" performance by the Bengals against the Jets of achieving that goal. You were that close. A play here, a play there and you guys get in. You are the team's best player and made plays every week -- here, there, and everywhere. Yeah, making the playoffs just got harder.
Mention Bob McNair by name. He pays your salary. You are an employee of his. If a football team were a regular "office environment" then you, at the very least, just stole a shitload of office supplies. Apologize to him specifically.
Mention Rick Smith by name. Not that he shouldn't have seen this coming and not that playing with fire doesn't burn, but he did draft you. On draft day, he did talk about your outstanding character and how the steroid rumors were a non-issue. You're really making him look bad right now. He may have the most to lose if you don't come back right.
Mention Gary Kubiak by name. Yeah, he got an extension this offseason, and your play in 2009 was a big reason the team went 9-7 (a catalyst for said extension), but the fact is these extensions aren't even worth the paper they're written on. If the team goes 6-10 this season, Kubiak is in big trouble. Ultimately, the wins and losses (you would think) fall on his head. If they don't, he'll die trying to put them there (sensing a lot of "This one's on me" from Kubes in Weeks One through Four).
Mention DeMeco Ryans by name. He followed your act yesterday, and while he did not have any material nearly as hilarious as your "tumors" contention, he did have to sit there and say that he believed the outlandish bullshit you were dishing out. He's a team leader, a fellow linebacker, and with the big contract now come big responsibilities, so he was the right guy to follow you. But damn man, did you not at least cringe a little bit when he said that he believes your story? The stuff you're doing is stuff that bad teammates do. And I don't think, deep down, you're a bad teammate.
Apologize to everyone in the Texans organization. Ultimately, the Texans are a business, and while the turnstiles keep turning and the gear keeps selling despite a short history mired somewhere between bad and average, someday they won't if the wins don't start coming more regularly. Wins equals money, money equals jobs. The people you directly let down are the other 44 players and the coaches who would have run out of the tunnel with you this September. Indirectly, though, anyone who has a Texans logo on their paycheck feels the ripple effect of your suspension.
Apologize to people who actually have tumors in their bodies and are dealing with them daily. The way you nonchalantly surmised that you may have played the season with tumors, as if they were a hangnail or hemorrhoids, was a slap in the face to people who are actually suffering from cancer or caring for someone who is. I don't know if you've had a loved one who has dealt with cancer (sadly, it seems we all have), but if you have it makes your "tumors" contention all the more infuriating. If you haven't had someone close to you suffer from cancer, be thankful.
Apologize to the fans. Yeah, you can apologize for taking a banned substance, and I suppose when it comes to the rhetoric, we would expect that. Hell, even mix in a "don't do like I did" for the kids. Ultimately, the fans just want an apology for getting caught, and now, for your treating their collective IQ like it has the pocket presence of JaMarcus Russell with this "tumor" garbage.
I just went back and proofread this e-mail. Can we pull this off, Cush? The "should have apologized" apology? I'm not sure, man. It's the "Roommate Switch" of apologies. But our alternatives are what? Keep living this lie that you didn't do anything wrong? That's not going to go well for you and, frankly, it just puts more garbage on your teammates figurative lawns.
I suppose you could change your story to "I was actually concerned I was pregnant this season," but honestly, I don't think I could handle getting a birth announcement from you.
If you do send one out, e-mail it to me. It's so much faster than the postal service. Obviously.
1560 The Game
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on the "Sean & John Show", and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.