by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier
As I watched the Oscars this past weekend in all its glamour, glitz and glory, one glaring fact leaped out at me. Whatever cinema-works that took home statues and even those that were merely nominated seemed to have a common denominator—teamwork.
Aside from the lead and supporting actors’ roles, cinematographers, sound editors, video editors as well as set designers all shared the limelight with their on-camera colleagues.
When it was in its infancy, professional football was almost totally built on teamwork, like its “rugby” predecessor. However, sometimes the professional football game seems in many ways to have evolved like a prodigal grandson, returning home only after his inheritance has been foolishly squandered on frivolous and wasteful things.
Today’s game, in many cases, grossly overvalues some so-called marquee positions and grossly undervalues other positions. That is why there is no true sense of “equipoise” when it comes to salaries or marketing. But now, “the chickens have come home to roost.” Athletes no longer passively permit owners, agents, anything or anyone to place a value on their talent or services.
Let’s begin with the case of the future Pittsburgh Steelers Hall-of-Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In 2018 the team finished the season with a record of 9-6-1 and missed the playoffs, with Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger played a little more than a game and a quarter out of a 16-game schedule in 2019 and the Steelers’ win-loss record was 8-8 without Roethlisberger as well as his primary offensive weapon, the recently exiled Antonio Brown. The last Super Bowl that the Steelers won was Super Bowl XLIII, beating the Arizona Cardinals by the score of 27-23. If not for a 100-plus-yard interception by Steelers linebacker James Harrison at the conclusion of the first half and a miraculous catch by Santonio Holmes near the end of the game, there might not have been a Steelers’ sixth Super Bowl victory. Why, well, in Super Bowl XLV played on Feb. 6, 2011 the Steelers lost to the Green Bay Packers by a mere six points, 31-25. In that game, Roethlisberger threw two picks, one was a costly pick six. It has been nine years since Ben Roethlisberger has competed in a Super Bowl or even won a meaningful playoff game, yet he has successfully negotiated questionable raises that seem to have been based on his individual performance as opposed to the success of the team. However, when it comes to others cashing in on their performances, have the same principals been applied?
New England Patriots’ half-cheater and half-competer, Tom Brady, is another example of the fat cats getting fatter. Brady is unstoppable as long as he has the desired cast surrounding him as well as a few illegitimate and illegal processes available to him.
It has been proven that when Terrific Tom loses key personnel, combined with his access to cheating, then Brady may very well be just an above-normal QB. When Brady’s tight end and security blanket, Rob Gronkowski, unexpectedly retired in March 2019, Brady could no longer throw a 15-yard pass and expect a 15- or 20-yard run after the catch. Brady also lost a humongous blocking presence in both the passing and running game. Gronkowski made Tom Brady’s football life immeasurably easy. So when teams, agents and players start tossing around the term “franchise quarterback” they had better make sure they are in the process of putting the franchise around him. Don’t believe me? Then go chase down ex-Steelers wide receiver Antonio “madman” Brown. He’ll tell you through tears that no man, no matter how valuable, is the franchise and if they tell you otherwise, regard that as “fake news.”