Fans Today Deserve a Better Class of Athlete—Accept No "Substitutes"

Pete McKeownAnalyst IMarch 21, 2009

With the recent news of Jay Cutler being unsatisfied in Denver and Manny just being himself, it made me think back to some of the jobs that I’ve had in the past—you know, the ones that weren’t necessarily your typical “dream jobs.”

Little do famous athletes know that despite the glamour in some jobs, there are more than enough things in any given job that can make a given person happy.

And truthfully, I have been in some pretty bad occupational circumstances throughout my life, so I know a thing or two about hating one's job. 

I stocked meat and milk in a gigantic freezer for a deli, while swiping rogue pieces of chicken cutlet from the kitchen.

When I was in middle school, I was an item compartmentalizer and carriage wrangler at Wild Oats supermarket. Needless to say, I now have such a deep-rooted hatred for any grocery store that is considered "organic,” and I will never fully understand the justification behind having tofu be the main part of a diet.

I even spent many a summer landscaping, riding under the sun on one of those powerful lawn mowers that you stand behind on a platform. Pretty badass, I know.

Of all my professional endeavors, however, being a substitute teacher has been the most entertaining. It's a very difficult job, and I make about as much as Starr Jones would as a stripper, but it allows me to reminisce about the great aspects of being in elementary school.

First off, the diet of a first grader is far superior to that of a 20-something. Two words: snack time. "Those tasty Lucky Charms for breakfast are wearing off, ugh, I could really go for a snack. Oh, wait, just 10 minutes until snack fest '09."

Each day would go by a little easier with the mid-morning promise of a coveted string cheese, washed down by a true nectar of the gods, an Ecto-Cooler Juice box.

Lunchtime? How about a PB & J with a helping of Nacho Cheesier Doritos, some sort of fruit to trade for a Snack Pack pudding and a delectable Nesquik? The world would be a much simpler place if everyone abides by these simple culinary choices.

As far as entertainment goes, PlayStation 2 and Xbox are great for playing video games, but there is no better experience than Number Munchers or Oregon Trail. I hate math, but there's no way I'm going to let my Muncher get eaten by a cannibalistic Troggle just because I don't know my prime numbers. How could I nap with that on my conscience?

Oregon Trail was an especially compelling experience. The point of the game is to follow the Oregon Trail, fording rivers, trading with locals, gathering food...a true lesson in survival on the great American Frontier.

Unfortunately, I would spend nearly all of my time hunting bison, deer or squirrels—and spending all my money on ammo rather than medicine—that my entire traveling party would die relatively horrific deaths.

Apparently, typhoid fever, cholera, and dysentery were running rampant, and periodic drowning while fording rivers and fatal snakebites were mere happenstance, leaving my Oregon Trail littered with graves that had epitaphs reading something like this: "Here lies buttface. Beloved brother and craphead."

One part of elementary school that will forever be remembered fondly is gym and recess. I'm not going to sit here and lie to any of you: I was, and still am, a phenomenally talented schoolyard athlete.

I was the Manny Ramirez of stick ball, the David Beckham of kickball, and the Patches O'Hoolihan of dodgeball. I ruled the asphalt arena with an iron fist, each game a Darwinian test of ability.

As a gym teacher, I sometimes felt the need to get back those glory days and participate in the games if the kids seemed tough enough. Now I know when you play with children, you're supposed to let them win. But that's a loser's rule.

No mercy, teacher or not, or they won't learn valuable first grade lessons of sacrifice and teamwork. How can a class of seven-year-olds possibly respect a gym teacher who doesn't have top-notch arm velocity or catlike reflexes?

The only concern I should have is my throwing mechanics, because a dodgeball sent careening at a child's dome isn't good for anyone (due to the obvious injury factor, and the fact that headhunting is illegal and I'd have to sit out, a rookie move).  Too bad "Dodgeball super-stud" isn't a résumé booster.

With all this said, I don't think I want to pursue a career in teaching at this point. The job of being a full-time teacher is much more draining and taxing than people give it credit for.

It involves molding and corralling the minds of tomorrow's youth, and the money is not nearly enough to entice me at this stage in my life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it while I do it.

Besides, children need a strong, respectable role model, not some college grad who doesn't shave and races off to "happy hour" on Friday the second the last bell sounds.

My point here is that even in jobs like this that don’t pay well or garner fanfare, you can still find hope and positives with whatever it is you choose to do, even if it’s not the most ideal situation.

The people who teach do so because they love to do it, and there aren’t too many professions more important than the role of a teacher, as they serve as role models for the future generations of our country. It’d be easy to find some negatives in this kind of work, but I find it difficult to look at the work so pessimistically when there are so many good things I can think of; which brings me back to my opening statement.

People like Jay Cutler or Manny Ramirez seem to have forgotten the country that they play for and entertain. They are, whether they like it or not, role models for millions of people around this country. They are paid very handsomely for this burden, and are able to play GAMES that they love for a hefty paycheck.

Think about that...they play for money. It’s really difficult for me to relate to someone who has this privilege and takes it for granted by publicly complaining about money or “respect.”

Sorry Manny, I don’t feel bad you’re not making the extra millions on top of your already great fortune.

Sorry Jay Cutler, I don’t feel bad that your new coach thought of you as a trading piece. Get over it.

Sure, these guys have a right to feel slighted, that’s completely understandable. But they do not have a right to share that with a country of people who are struggling economically and would give an appendage just to get a cup of coffee in a pro sport.

They come off as whiny, pampered stars who wouldn’t think twice about our problems, so why should we worry about theirs?

Not that it matters, I don’t have time to worry—it’s ten minutes until fourth grade gets here, and I still haven’t properly warmed up my throwing arm for Dodgeball.

After all, I have to be a role model to these children—I don’t whine when I don’t get paid for being picked first.


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