After being acquainted with them for close to a century, we should have run out of new ways for the NFL to remind us exactly how little they think of their players.
So kudos to the New York Times' Ben Shpigel for giving us a fresh — albeit inadvertent — perspective by introducing us to Jets senior manager of team operations Aaron Degerness, who's handling travel logistics for this week's game in London against the Dolphins. Per the article, the Jets have spent "the past 11 months preparing for about 65 hours overseas," something that Degerness estimates required 10 times the work of a standard road game. Some of this is justified; transatlantic travel can be a nightmare for a family of four, to say nothing of a voyage that involves hundreds of people within a billion-dollar enterprise.
That does not, however, mean the Jets need to treat their players like children. But doing so just comes naturally in a league that trades on homogenization and herd-like control.
For instance, here's how the Jets plan on handling downtime in the airport:
"It's hard to tell the guys: 'Don't stop. Just keep walking,' " Degerness said. "Those are the things that keep us up at night — that we get through security, someone stops at duty free, and we leave Ryan Fitzpatrick because we didn't know he wasn't there."
That is Ryan Fitzptrick, Harvard graduate and 32-year-old father of three. He's a grown-ass man. He can tell time. Of course, the Jets have contingencies in case their starting quarterback decides to buy a quart of whiskey and get liquored up like an idiot kicker.
"In that unlikely event, the Jets have a solution: As each player boards the plane, a team official will cross off the player's name with a highlighter."
This is a move straight out of the summer camp counselor playbook. I know because I once was was a summer camp counselor and had my own highlighter. After a while, I stopped, because when you trust people to act like adults and hold them accountable, they generally pull it off. Mind you, the "people" I'm referring to were third graders. This is the low bar the Jets believe their players incapable of surmounting.
Naturally, assimilating to cultural norms is out of the question. New York has shipped more than 5,000 items – by both air and sea – to London, including condiments, breakfast foods and even 350 rolls of toilet paper.
"Some may say that's a little over the top or whatnot, but it didn't really cost that much, so why not?" Degerness said. "We're basically trying to replicate everything that we're doing here over there."
Let the record show that whileVICE Sports is vehemently pro quality toilet paper, the conceit behind this is mind-numbingly stupid. There is 0.0% chance that these players would or even could treat this like a standard road game, because it is being played on another continent at 9:30 A.M., ET.
There is, however, a way to spin the jaunt to London as something positive. If NFL teams hold their players' collective IQ in such low regard as to herd them like Ritalin-addled elementary school children, it shouldn't be difficult to pep them up over an special trip they get to take for being extra good boys. They can capitalize on the opportunity to soak in a new culture, and compete in front of a country that treats American football as a once-per-year extravaganza. Those are objectively cool things.
Most of the players will probably scoff at this, because they are adults and rightly chafe at 15-plus hours of unnecessary travel over a three-day span on account of a naked cash grab from a grossly overcompensated commissioner enthusiastically indifferent to their health and well-being. If they can figure that out, then they damn sure can function on a lower frequency of condescension by their bosses.
The counter-argument is that, upon entering college, over-scheduling is all these players know. It's why so many float aimlessly – sometimes even dangerously – upon retirement. Tossing them some distant cousin of Real Travel Responsibilities would barely dent the freight train of life changes that they'll eventually collide into, but it's the sort of easily implementable tweak that can smooth the transition. At the very least, it would be a nice reminder that their employer sees them as human beings.
But if NFL teams are not too calloused to consider the benefits of such an idea, they are at least too insecure to attempt it. This is an insecurity rooted in the same logic that governs the draft process, in which franchises disassemble players down to their most tangential quirks, not just because they have exponential time and resources but because someone else will if they won't. The Jets are jumping through toilet paper roll-sized hoops because the Dolphins are most assuredly doing the same thing, and the Dolphins do it because they are cogs in an idiocracy preaching the monumental power of minutiae – that, yes, even the tissue a player wipes his ass with can influence outcomes in the National Football League. It is a lot easier to regulate this dystopia when everyone's on the same page, and so individuality, agency and personal responsibility are streamlined out — because they are outright liabilities. In any other realm of society, such fixations would be regarded as some measure of insanity. Within football, it's simply process.