This is what we do. We gripe and we bitch about the way things ought to be, but then when we get what we want, we gripe and we bitch about that.
Roger Clemens is one example. For three whole weeks after the Mitchell report came out and accused him of using steroids, Clemens said nothing. And we griped. And we bitched. We said, "Why is Clemens quiet? He must be guilty."
|Where so many people see obnoxious, Doyel sees a confident, everyman athlete. (Getty Images)|
Which brings me to the topic at hand, a topic that has me so flabbergasted that I've begun this column on Philip Rivers with a couple paragraphs about Roger Clemens. That's ridiculous, but so is the premise that Rivers is a jerk and a reason not to embrace the San Diego Chargers this week as they prepare to take on New England.
Look, NFL fans. You can embrace the Chargers or not. I don't care. But to use Philip Rivers as a reason, as an excuse, not to support San Diego? That's asinine.
This is one of the more fun guys in the NFL. He's everything we say we want in a professional athlete. He talks to the media and says what's on his mind. He shows unscripted emotion on the field. He pumps his fist and flaps his gums. He's a professional football player, and you can tell how much fun he's having.
And so we bitch and we gripe. Why? Because Rivers isn't like everybody else. Never mind that we've already bitched and griped about athletes who are boring and talk in clichés and act aloof and seem to be playing for nothing more than a paycheck. Like Eli Manning. Never mind that we resent those guys for making football look like a miserable burden.
Here comes Philip Rivers, and he has some nerve -- he's nothing like those guys! Who does he think he is?
This is personal for me. Just a little bit. When Rivers played at North Carolina State from 2000-03, I covered the Wolfpack for The Charlotte Observer. I covered most every game he played. I attended most of his press conferences. I saw him interact with media and coaches and teammates, and let me tell you something: Philip Rivers is no different now than he was in college. And he was awesome in college. Awesome on the field, but awesome off it, too.
Some quarterbacks lead because of their position on the field. Rivers led because of his attitude. Here he was, the best player on the team and one of the best players in the country, and he had zero pretense. He was just this goofy, fearless, fiery kid from Alabama.
He'd say anything. One day during his true freshman season, after he had thrown for more than 1,000 yards in his first three starts, the media was asking him about being ranked among national passing leaders. Rivers said what an 18-year-old with any sincerity would have said. He said he checked the stats every week because he couldn't believe that was his name -- Philip Rivers! -- listed alongside great quarterbacks like Florida State's Chris Weinke and Purdue's Drew Brees.
Rivers is the same way now. He'll say or do stuff that any of us would say or do if we had the guts and the chance. Against Baltimore earlier this season, Rivers and the San Diego offense was booed off the field after a three-and-out. The game was at home. It was the Chargers' first series of the first quarter. And the crowd was booing? Already? Rivers looked into the crowd and could be seen mouthing the words, "Oh, shut up." That made headlines, and not good ones. Because people like to gripe and bitch.
People are stupid. At Indianapolis, Rivers left the playing area after the third quarter because of a knee injury. Colts fans could be seen taunting him as he headed for the tunnel. Rivers could be seen smiling and mouthing the words, "Thank you." After the Chargers' victory, when Rivers threw those taunts back into the crowd's face, he was called a jerk.