Josh Gordon's season is up in the air for the umpteenth time. After his year-long suspension was upheld last week, word has come out that the NFL and its players' union are close to a new drug testing agreement that, if finalized, might mean Gordon's ban will be shortened. But in the meantime, the Browns wideout is assuming he's not going to be playing football until next August . He has decided to pass the time doing what any right-minded athlete does when he's not pushing the limits of his own body: He's going to hawk Chevys.
Gordon's official title of Goodwill Ambassador for Sarchione Auto Group—like a chain of northeast Ohio car dealerships is UNICEF or something—suggests he's going to be spending time at promotional events as a sort of human version of a cardboard cutout of himself. You'll presumably be able to catch him at some Cleveland-area charity barbecue, in a branded polo, shaking hands and doing some forced chuckling. More intriguingly, his new employer also promises Gordon will occasionally be working the lot as a salesman, attempting to find a number that'll put you in a 2015 Silverado today. One imagines that work will be more or less as satisfying as trying to catch passes from Brian Hoyer.
It makes perfect sense that an off-work football player would be working in auto sales. The link between athlete and automobile goes all the way back to the popularization of the car itself. In the 1920s, when professional baseball players were making $5,000 a year and NFL players were even less well-compensated, pitchers and left tackles would often sell cars during the offseason. College athletes have been getting no-show employment gigs at the booster-owned Dodge, Chrysler, and Jeep since before Jerry Tarkanian's first NCAA rule violation. (Incidentally, Tarkanian got in trouble at UNLV for letting players borrow cars from a Las Vegas dealership.) Arnold Palmer, Karl Malone, and Mike Piazza all have a selection of fine motors on hand, available for little to no money down. If you've watched any sporting event in the past year for more than 45 minutes, you're familiar with a man. A man and his truck. It seems like every third ad during a game is trying to sell you something with four wheels and optional leather seating.
Since most of us don't live in Cleveland and/or are not in the market for an SUV, all we can hope to gain from Gordon's year in NFL exile is that he cuts a few commercials of his own. There is no art quite like the two-take athlete car ad. These spots have always been amateurish or unintentionally hilarious or Lynchian, but they were also once folkloric. You would only know about that bit where Jason Campbell has a therapy session with a racist caricature, or John Elway ostensibly talking about his old man dick if you resided in a particular television market.
YouTube has taken these local curiosities global. We are now all aware that Tyler Hansbrough can capably channel John C. Reilly, and we're better for possessing that knowledge. So if Josh Gordon were to—just spitballing here—do an ad that somehow humorously dramatizes the time he swapped cars with P.J. Hairston upon meeting the former Tarheel for the very first time at a grocery store, America would hypothetically be all over that. If Gordon can't enrich us with his receiving skills, perhaps he can find a new way to entertain.