Whether it's right or wrong, we have a tendency to put our favorite athletes - our sports heroes, if you will - up on a pedestal to admire and to share their accolades with others.
I'm not a believer in such a practice, as a general rule of thumb. Its's true, most of these guys we root for we admire because they can perform at a level of athleticism we can only dream of attaining ourselves, but is that any real reason to set them above all others?
Above our leaders, our teachers, our police, fire and military officers - or even our parents? True heroes in their own ways, I think we can all agree. It's a great question, and it doesn't get asked often enough.
So, putting a football player on some personal pedestal because he can run a 4.4 40, or because he can throw touchdown passes or sack a quarterback is a personal choice, sure. Sometimes misguided, certainly. But an important choice we all make, nonetheless.
And I'm about to do that with recently-retired Patriots' linebacker Jerod Mayo.
Mayo doesn't climb onto my personal pedestal because of his football talents - even though he has plenty. He doesn't gain entrance into my hall of honor because he once wowed me with his ability to hit and make plays - although he often showed a propensity for doing just that during his eight-year career. No, Jerod Mayo deserves mention here largely because he did exactly what Bill Belichick - and Patriots' fans everywhere - asked him to do.
He did his job.
Celebrating the birthday of Jerod Mayo with some of our favorite photos of the Patriots LB.
Now, say what you will about pro athletes and their ability to do what they're paid very well to do - you and I both know it doesn't always work out, in this world or in any other. Some athletes have sunshine blown right into their facemasks, have their hands held by agents and family members and wives and girlfriends - and they still manage to fumble their opportunities away.
This wasn't Jerod, however. By every account I can recall over his eight-year tenure in New England, Mayo showed up, did his job, led by example, did what extra was expected and/or required of him, and did it all without complaint. He was well-compensated for his effort and performance, and then, Father Time caught up with him...as he does with everyone eventually.
The player whose time was up just as Mayo played his own way into our hearts and minds, was none other than Tedy Bruschi. As a first-round draft selection in 2008, Mayo had heavy expectation set upon his shoulders, certainly. But Bruschi recently told Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com from Mayo's rookie season (which was Bruschi's last) "I could already tell his professionalism he had and one day he would be a captain on that team."
Which he was. Mayo was the Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in '08. Bruschi added "I felt every injury he had, and the two comebacks from major injuries, I felt that too. There are certain feelings you know they're going through. I'm so proud he had so much success."
Tedy, so am I. The Super Bowl win from a year ago. Two Pro Bowl honors (2011, 2013). And countless personal pedestals climbed, whether he meant to or not. Because, he did what we hope all of our heroes can manage someday.
Their jobs. Proudly, and without complaint. Without controversy or trouble. Where simply playing the game was a privilege.
And it was a privilege watching you play, Jerod.
And at the opposite end of the pedestal...
While Mayo's retirement from pro football slides through the NFL largely unnoticed outside of New England, you know what makes headlines?
Bad boys. Bad behavior. I've never really understood why we're really drawn to behavior worse than what we might expect of ourselves. Is there no shame? Does it really feel good to be "bad?" Do some of these guys ever understand how completely juvenile they are, or how stupid they look to most right-minded adults?
Forget the kids, who look up to them like they look up to the guy driving the ice cream truck on a hot, summer day. The key here is - they don't care about me, or you, or the kids.
Then again, I've also never understood why we're compelled to look at the accident on the other side of the road, either. Can't do anything about it, nothing to see, let's move along here folks. But we do it, if only to say "whoa, that could've been me."
The off-season has begun, but we're apparently still in-season for bad behavior. A couple of days after Dallas rookie Randy Gregory was suspended for the first four games of next season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, former Cowboy Joseph Randle was arrested for hitting three people with a car and for breaking into a home.
And this was after being arrested for shop lifting underwear and cologne a couple of years ago. Five arrests in 17 months? It's almost as if some of the Cowboys - past or present - feel the need to one-up their much more ballyhooed bad-boy of a teammate, Greg Hardy. Clearly, it seems there is little-to-no care or control over what players do these days in Dallas.
On top of all of the bad stuff, they don't win, either. Not even a healthy Tony Romo can save them from themselves.
Recently, there have been more stories surrounding Johnny Manziel's partying and alleged domestic issues; Indianapolis cut LB Jonathan Newsome after his arrest on suspicion of marijuana possession; Peyton Manning's situation is far from settled and even Super Bowl runner-up Cam Newton has been caught by the camera's eye in a rather compromising personal situation.
Let's face it. Some of these guys (all of these guys?) just don't seem to care. So why should we?
But we should. We should demand more. Or at the very least, demand they be held to the same standards of justice and accountability as we "normal humans" are held to at home, and in the workplace.
Is Combine change on the way?
Are you ready, draftniks and draft geeks? The Combine is Coming.
The once-per-year "Underwear Olympics" as they've been referred to previously, the NFL's Draft Combine kicks off in Indianapolis later this week. Prospective future pros will be timed, poked, prodded, tested, stressed and strained in front of an army of scouts, medical personnel and weirdo on-lookers.
Ok, so not everyone watching will be a weirdo. Patriots' coach Bill Belichick suggested last summer that prospects may be doing themselves more of a disservice by participating in the Indy circus, rather than continuing more football position-specific training.
And guess what? Now, National Football Scouting, Inc., which runs the combine for the league, is contemplating changing the way the combine is run. A new committee of executives, scouts, coaches, trainers and physicians will be reviewing all phases of the event, starting this week.
Apparently, someone else with football knowledge besides Bill Belichick agrees - there may be better things to do than watch, time and measure players jumping around in tights...without a specific training purpose in mind.
Now, if we could just get someone else to agree (Hello, Mr. Commissioner - looking at you here) that the penalty meted out to the Patriots for "Deflategate" doesn't match the alleged crime, the NFL could regain another measure of respect. Sports Illustrated's Peter King said this week Roger Goodell should return the draft picks, leaving the monetary penalty ($1 million) in place, and call it a day.
It's the right thing to do.
Change is a good thing all around, for draftniks, geeks, Combine aficionados and commissioners...don't you think?
John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and just completed his 23rd year as the Patriots' stadium voice. Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 27 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.