Game Time: An Open Letter To Texans Linebacker Brian Cushing
Three clean guys. Way to go, USC
I won't even start off this letter with some colloquial phrase like "How was your weekend?" I know your weekend probably sucked, and the truth of the matter is I hate it when people ask how you're doing and don't really want to hear the answer. Along with the excessive use of the word "great" in sports-talk radio, it is one of my biggest pet peeves. So I'm not going to ask.
In fact, if I can make a hand-to-hand combat analogy (a world you know a little something about), I'm going to take the gloves off right now and go with some bare knuckled honesty -- this is the second time, Brian Cushing, that you've unknowingly jilted me.
The first time was back in 2005, when it came time to choose where you would play your college football. According to many reports, you had grown up a fan of Notre Dame, they were your team. However, when it came time to choose a school, not only did you turn your back on your boyhood dream, but you chose to head west and play for USC, the ultimate heel turn. Somewhere, there was a leprechaun laying in a pool of his own blood with a mangled folding chair next to him on the floor when signing day rolled around.
In some sense, I understood that decision -- choosing Notre Dame would have also meant being the crown jewel of Tyrone Willingham's final dud of a recruiting class and living through what became 3-9 and 7-6 seasons as an upperclassman with Charlie Weis. At that point, USC made 31-point beatings of Notre Dame an annual ritual, and from a player development standpoint you couldn't go wrong with Pete Carroll. In short, if you had gone to Notre Dame, you'd probably be the most jacked-up tax accountant in the Chicagoland area right now. I get it, just doesn't mean I have to like it.
The second jilting, as it turns out, happened these past few weeks. As both a listener and a "talent" (their word not mine, folks) in sports-talk radio, I had noticed that you were "out there" a lot more these past couple weeks, doing shows on our station, other stations, tweeting your Twitter followers to come find you at the Galleria for a free meal. It was almost as if whoever programmed Cushtron the Cyborg Linebacker decided to replace your regular memory chip with one that had been infected by a virus from Chad Ochocinco's iPhone app.
You were everywhere! Hell, I half expected to see you pop on the Kige Ramsey Show!
Little did I know that all of these interview requests and "spontaneous" tweet-ups were just a preemptive strike to paint you with a babyface brush before the media would inevitably cover you in spray-painted heel graffiti after your four-game suspension for violating the league's steroid policy was announced. The more I thought about it, I started to realize "Hey, I think my show is the only one he didn't ask to appear on!" I felt like Blubber McNeal in the shower full of hotties in Porky's. Repulsive, outcast, and completely inadequate. Thanks, Brian! Hence, jilting number TWO.
It's cool, though, Brian. Even after choosing to go play for Darth Carroll in 2005, and even after putting my show on the "pay no mind" list, I will still come forth with some unsolicited support and advice for you.
As I'm sure you've seen this weekend, this whole "steroid" thing is a bit of a sticky subject. Oh, a quick semantics clarification, I know you claim whatever you took was not a steroid, but forgive me if that word creeps into my letter every now and again. We don't know what it was that drew a positive test, you haven't said. Me, I'm kind of hoping it's the female fertility drug Manny Ramirez was on, just to lighten the mood and set up some awesome pranks on you from your teammates once this whole thing cools off. Seriously, admit it, you'd laugh if they welcomed you back in Week Five with a baby shower. You know it, you just won't admit it.
Anyway, back to you....it probably feels like all the fans are against you, and you've let down the entire Texans organization. My advice? This too shall pass.
Unlike your counterparts in Major League Baseball, the vitriol spewed forth due to steroid usage for football players is much more short-term and far less intertwined with little things like "historical integrity of records."
Baseball's standards are different for two reasons --
(1) The historically significant numbers tied to hitting are all magical in some sense. When you say numbers like 61, 755, .406, and 190 to a baseball fan, they know exactly what you're referring to. Football, especially defense, not so much. No one is mad that steroids may have been a catalyst to the magical 134-tackle mark this season.
(2) After losing the fans due to a work stoppage in 1994, Major League Baseball hoodwinked us back in 1998 largely behind the steroid-fueled power romp of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, two guys who are to steroid "Before/After" pictures what Jared from Subway is to veggie-sandwich "Before/After" pictures. A magical summer was all a big lie, what we saw wasn't really what we saw. People don't like being made to feel like they were played.
Along those lines, your little media tour and conversion from Cyborg Linebacker to Cuddly Cushy Bear may be a very big reason people are angry, some even moreso than the steroid usage. Be who you are, man.
Actually, in the end, the reason people are angry has nothing to do with a violation of the sanctity of the game (like baseball), has nothing to do with the message being sent to kids (funny how that whole angle on steroid usage has become soooo 1990's), has nothing to do with potentially doing something ILLEGAL; it has everything to do with this -- you're going to miss the first four games next season.
That's it. Those ten words. Nothing else.
You can cite concerns over "what Cushing are we going to get when he comes back?" and in a sense, it's probably valid. I would counter that argument with the fact that the test took place back in September and, steroids or no steroids, you're reportedly as hard a worker as there is on the team. Texans' fans should be confident that you will stop at nothing -- well, nothing suspension-inducing -- to make the Texans a playoff team. The question is "Is that enough to make us believe you'll still be playing at a Pro Bowl level on hard work and green vegetables?"
But football fans are bottom-line thinkers -- in the end, it's about winning. Not having you on the field for the first four games will hinder the Texans' ability to achieve the desired outcome -- win. Fans will be angry with you, especially if the Texans start off 1-3. But it's a forgiving society. Most Texans fans reacted the same way your training buddy Jay Glazer did on Twitter, where he tweeted about how "livid" he was when the news broke.
Now, I can't promise that those same fans will come back as quickly as Jay did (Glazer went from incensed to making a mix tape for you within 24 hours), but they'll all be back...on one condition: You help the Texans win. That's it. Answer the questions, then shut your mouth, and get back to being Cushtron the Cyborg Linebacker.
Players aren't the only ones with dirty little secrets. We fans have one, too, and that's we don't care that you use steroids, we just hate the suspensions that go with getting caught. Can't have that, man.
So go make those 100-plus tackles, sack a few quarterbacks, intercept a few passes, and make the playoffs, and it will be like a big reset button got hit. A lot like the reset button your P.R. people probably went ahead and pushed on the back of your neck after the suspension was announced. "Time to put him back in Cushtron mode."
Indeed, Brian, this too shall pass.
If you want to discuss this further, call my producer Kyle Manthey. He's the guy you didn't call when you were scheduling interviews these last two weeks. Sorry, man, I still feel jilted.
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.