Someone set out to ruin Laremy Tunsil's night and sabotage his chance at a big(ger) payday last night. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said it was "part of what makes the draft so exciting." This is an incredibly fucked up thing for a 57-year-old PR man to say, and he's 100 percent correct.
I wasn't even watching the draft last night—I was out watching other sports—but I checked in on Twitter every once in a while and once I saw what was happening it was irresistible. I alternated between being glued to my phone and then looking up and asking everyone "did you see this shit? Look at this shit, it's crazy." It was the most memorable draft in ages, maybe ever, and it was simply watching a dude's life spiral out of his control on national television, in real time.
Maybe you think it's not such a big deal. Tunsil still got drafted 13th overall, he still instantaneously became a millionaire, and he's going to get to play professional football for a living. But everything we know about that living makes it clear he's got a limited window to get paid, and he's going to need every cent he can get because as an offensive lineman, he's probably looking at a post-career life colored by brain damage and myriad of other physical ailments. He's had off-field issues before this as well, so maybe you think this is just the way it goes with him.
We talk about the combine and draft as dehumanizing events. Young men stripped to their underwear and evaluated physically and mentally, and then they get dressed up and wait to be selected by their evaluators. In the time between, they are talked up, or torn down, and evaluated by amateur GMs on TV and in bars. You do it, I do it, we all do it. That was never clearer than last night when everyone, the Commissioner included, gawked at the burning car on the side of the road.
But even the games are dehumanizing. We barely see their faces when they are on the field hurling themselves at each other, covered in armor. They might as well be Cletus, FOX's stupid robot guy, or "Dan Beerdorf" bottles of Budweiser and Bud Light playing each other. At the end of the day, the players are pawns in our quest for a win. They're strangers with no real connection to us, so either help out, or keep it moving, pal. That's why every single fan fancies him or herself a general manager. We have the same goal as front offices and we can relate easier to them than we do the hulking specimens on the field.
The shitty thing is, I will continue to do this, because I have an irrational love for this sport and an even more irrational love for my favorite team, made even more indefensible because it is the Jets. But in a weird way, Goodell's tunnel vision at least helps to make me aware of this messed up relationship. He was asked about Laremy Tunsil—a person—and the words "kid" or "young man" or any other way you might describe another human being are nowhere to be found. He doesn't even focus on the subject of the question, it's all about the league and its teams, until finally, the last word: "player."