"To me, you need to stop bitching about it. And if you wanna say you're gonna get into a room and meet and greet, and say you're gonna do what you need to do, then do it. Don't just talk about it." -- New York Jet cornerback Antonio Cromartie
To be clear, the "it" Antonio Cromartie was referring to in that quote is the ongoing negotiations between the NFL owners and the players' union. With practically any other player in the NFL, I wouldn't have to clarify what "it" means, but Antonio Cromartie is not just any NFL player. (More on that in a minute.)
The NFL players' union has stayed fairly unified throughout this collective bargaining process, a journey that will likely lead to a lockout and negotiations that could get ugly. Cromartie's sentiments are not indicative of the public stance that most players have taken, but it's early.
Cromartie's rant continued with his lamenting the inertia and the lack of information being disseminated, at least to him...
"Especially when you don't get no information about nothing from the union or the owners," Cromartie said. "So to tell you the truth they need to get their damn minds together and get this [expletive] done. Stop bitching about money. Money ain't nothing. Money can be here and gone. Us players, we want to go out and play football. It's something we've been doing and we love it and enjoy it. It's our livelihood."
Go ahead and wade through the triple negatives, sift through the "We're all just in this for the love of the game" bullshit chaser, and focus on the "It's our livelihood" comment, and know this -- Antonio Cromartie has fathered nine children with eight women in six different states (in four different time zones to three different deal closing songs as outlined in two different paternity suits which document exactly zero contraceptives used...but I digress).
Last year, in presumably the most bizarre "welcome to the team" gesture ever requested, the Jets gave Cromartie a $500,000 advance on his salary so he could get squared up on child support payments.
If you need visual evidence of how ludicrous the back of Cromartie's "procreation baseball card" looks, check out this video from this past season of Hard Knocks on HBO where Cromartie struggles to remember his children's names and ages....
...hell, I think he may have even left one or two out. (NOTE: If you need to carry a grocery-style list of your kids around with you to remind yourself of their names, ages and the fact they exist, then STOP HAVING KIDS. Jesus.)
In short, Antonio Cromartie has financial obligations. Lots of them. To lots of people. Obligations that if not met could result in his incarceration. (And if a cash advance of $500,000 was needed at some point, it's safe to assume these are obligations for which Cromartie has not planned all that well, as if his mile-long list of illegitimate dependents isn't evidence enough of poor planning.)
Anyway, the point of this piece is not to mock Antonio Cromartie, really it's not. It's to remind everyone that as the euphoria of the Super Bowl is about to capture our hearts and minds these next couple weeks, on the horizon the storm clouds for a long and acrimonious negotiation period between the NFL owners and the players' union are forming.
And if you're looking for a harbinger on the strategy the owners will execute during the work stoppage, remember Antonio Cromartie's quotes and what they represent -- one desperate man who needs a paycheck every week to fulfill legal obligations and stay one step ahead of the wolves. And there are more where he came from. And the owners know this.
There are plenty of NFL players who have been responsible with their money, but there are also plenty who live check to check and who are counting on their NFL careers as their primary (hell, for some maybe their ONLY) earning years. They can't afford to NOT be playing.
So if we get to a lockout, and the owners are executing their "billionaires smoking out millionaires" strategy until enough of the players cave, just remember Antonio Cromartie and his desperation for security. For football. For his livelihood. Hell, for this week's paycheck.
"... I mean, you've got our head union reps acting like a [expletive]," Cromartie said. "And they've got their guys acting like them [expletive], so they just need to get their [expletive] together and get it done."
There's fear behind those words. Let the waiting game begin.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.