September 3rd, 2011 22:04 EST
Cut Down Day in the NFL
Today is Cut Down Day in the NFL. I understand that it is an emotional day where some careers are launched and others are sunk. I get the whole dashed dreams and heartache thing. I have experienced this kind of emotional devastation in my own lifetime as well as the pain of rejection.
I was cut from the eighth grade cheerleading squad, and to this day, I believe my elimination was politically motivated. That pain sliced my heart in two. I still cannot do a cartwheel without shedding a tear. I was rejected from the Peace Corp when I was 18 because I did not possess the life skills that they thought might help third-world countries. In the Peace Corp`s defense, my only real skill at that time was the correct application of mascara, so their decision was valid.
Today, as NFL wannabes and veterans find out if they made the cut or not, I have to stop and take notice of the process that transforms some young men into NFL players and others into soon-to-be managers of the local fast food joint.
I know some of you are asking, "Why watch if you can`t take it?"
I have to watch. Cut Down Day is like the prom and a train wreck all rolled into one. However, even I admit that there is too much drama attached to this day. For instance, let`s look at the role of the Turk-- the eliminator who summons the players to his office so he can crush their dreams in person. How does one get the title of Turk? When players get the call to go see the Turk, do they know who it is or is it some big mystery? Does the Turk wear a special outfit for the occasion? Is he dressed up like the Grim Reaper?
Maybe, just maybe, the Turk dresses as Santa Claus or a comic Superhero, so the last NFL memory for the players who are cut is a cheerful or positive one. How much less traumatic would it be to watch your dreams go up in smoke if Kris Kringle were lighting the fire?
If I were a player on that about-to-be-eliminated bubble, I would not answer my cell phone the entire Cut Down weekend. Maybe if a player pretends he didn`t get the call, he will not get cut.
Personally, I think the NFL could learn a great deal from the theatrical world. I know the NFL does not want to hear this, but drama people are a lot tougher than NFL players. How do theater actors and dancers find out about cuts? A public posting of a list. Yes, everyone knows at the same time who is in and who is out. There is no Turk explaining why the cut was made. You just assume you stunk up the audition. No Turk is there offering condolences and names of other producers who might have a role for you. No, drama people are unceremoniously thrown out on their butts and told to take more lessons or go back to waiting tables.
I know there is still hope for some players who get the call to go see the Turk . Every team keeps practice squad players who I think are the NFL`s version of media interns. They get the crap beaten out of them for almost no pay, but they gain experience and maybe a shot to get cut again the following year. All hail the understudies of the gridiron.
I am just thinking here, but if I was a player who knew that there was a good chance that I was going to meet the Turk , I would head to the team locker room and wait for other players to show up especially those who might be in line to take my spot on the roster.
It`s a fact of life that injuries occur at the strangest times, and teams need replacement players. One never knows when a player might "accidentally" fall down a flight of steps or get stuck in a whirlpool and shrivel up beyond recognition. Don`t scoff; it could happen. My only caveat with this strategy is to make sure that the player who "accidentally" trips or shrivels is the player whose position you want. It does you no good for a punter to take a header down some steps if you are a defensive lineman. In other words, make wise choices.
To those who do not make it onto an NFL roster, I say I do feel for you, and there is always next year. To those who do make a team -- congratulations on a job well done and I look forward to watching you play this season.