Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Mo' Better Blues

I am a lifelong New York Giants fan, which allegiance shall not change. As a Giants fan there are few teams that fill me quite so full of disdain as the Dallas Cowboys. America's Team? F*** off. In view of the uptick in the fortunes of the Houston Texans, the 'Boys might not even be Texas' Team any more.

I am constrained to admit however that as of Thursday night my "most favoritest" (evoking the words of Bob Cvengros who implored Coach Mac always to, "Give the ball to the man on the scholarmanship!") NFL player is a member of the Cowboys. The First Round of the NFL Draft was held Thursday night. As I understand it the Draft continued last night and concludes either today or tomorrow, with a total number of televised hours somewhere north of Herman Wouk's Winds of War and somewhere south of Alex Haley's Roots. I enjoy watching football but I would be fibbing if I said that in my entire life I have watched a cumulative total of one hour's worth of the Draft. I know not what I find more mind-numbing: the fact that not one - but two - television networks provide live coverage of the Draft; or the fact that people actually get all dressed up in their team's battle regalia and attend it. To each his own I suppose but certainly not this fella's preferred way to spend an evening.

Anyway, on Thursday night the Dallas Cowboys spent their first-round pick on a defensive back from LSU, Morris Claiborne. While I watch a lot of college football and saw LSU play often over the course of the past two or three years (when you lose one game every two years or so you tend to be on TV a lot....thus explaining why my Alma mater has been television's best-kept secret for the past decade I suppose) and am familiar with Claiborne's name and his position (he played cornerback at LSU), I would not pretend to tell you how good, bad or indifferent a player he is. Those who know these things however all seem to think he was pretty damn good in college and will be pretty damn good in the NFL, having traded the SEC West for the NFC East.

Earlier this winter Claiborne did what the top prospects do. He went to Indianapolis to take part in the NFL Combine, a process through which potential draftees are put through their paces running the 40-yard dash, lifting weights, performing agility drills, etc. all of which purport to give the NFL teams a better understanding as to what type of NFL player a kid might become then - oh I do not know - having watched the manner in which the kid performed in an actual game. It is something akin to a cattle call for bipeds.

Among the things the potential draftees are required to do is complete something called the Wonderlic Test. As I understand it, it is a fifty-question test that is apparently designed to measure the IQ of the young man taking it. How it does that, I know not. What the correlation is between high IQ and success on the field I know even less? A generation or so ago, a Dallas Cowboys linebacker named Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson cheekily proclaimed that an opposing quarterback was so dumb that he could not spell "cat" if you spotted him the "C" and the "A". The opposing quarterback? Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers. All he did was win each of the four Super Bowls in which he played, including the one played a day or two after Henderson's feline acuity comment.

Shortly after the Combine, the story broke in the media that Claiborne's score on the Wonderlic was a "4", which is a score of historic ineptitude. The kid was the object of ridicule in some circles and of fairly vicious comments in others. Nothing promotes bravery after all quite so much as the anonymity of the average internet forum.

Upon being drafted with the sixth overall pick by the Cowboys, Claiborne dished about how much it had hurt him to hear and read some of the rather unsavory things that were being said and written about him, "I'm human, so some of the things that were being said on twitter got to me," Claiborne said after his selection. "That test don't tell me who I am and what time of guy I am and what kind of ability I have. That test cant drop me."

But then Claiborne did something that I for one found refeshing. He claimed that the principal reason why he had done so dreadfully on the damn test was that he had found it pointless once he started taking it so he simply bailed on finishing it:

He found out it had nothing to do with football. He said he filled out 15 or 18 of the 50 answers, then put the test away and didn't finish. "I came to the Combine for football,'' Claiborne said Thursday night, "and I didn't see any football questions on the test. So I didn't finish it. That test doesn't tell me who I am.'

Time will tell I suppose whether he truly is as academically astute as a box of rocks and perhaps his intellect, be it limited or limitless, shall have a direct relationship upon his success as a NFL player. Perhaps time will reveal him to be as intellectually gifted as he is physically, which would tend to support his claim of how he handled the Wonderlic test. I hope it is the latter if for no other reason than to perhaps take one element of the "prized cow at the fair" mentality that permeates the Combine away from the NFL. I keep holding out hope that one day in the not-too-distant future the top 200 college players/draft prospects tell the NFL and its member clubs that none of them are coming to Indy for the Combine. Rather they shall require their prospective future employers to base their Draft Day decisions on something really extraordinary such as football.

Good luck in the NFL Morris Claiborne. May you have a long, prosperous and (for 14 games only as long as you play in the same division as my Giants) successful pro career.

-AK

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