My man-crush on Kluwe grows.
Former Broncos tight end Nate Jackson took umbrage at Kluwe calling out Manning and Brees for their lawsuit against the league. Inaction Jackson wrote the following for Deadspin:
Dear Chris Kluwe: When We Want The Punter's Opinion, We'll Ask For It (We Won't)
Chris Kluwe should know better.
Earlier this week, Kluwe, the Minnesota Vikings punter, called Peyton Manning and Drew Brees greedy douchebags on his Twitter feed — validating, from a source who wears an NFL uniform, the media's assertion that the lockout is all about greedy players. But by relying on gossipy football media outlets for facts about CBA negotiations, then taking to Twitter to blast some of the league's most respected names, Chris Kluwe made a mistake that ensures he'll be respected even less than he already is, if that's possible.
Punters are at the absolute bottom of the totem pole on an NFL roster, the very last man. If the team plane crashed on a deserted island, he'd be dinner as soon as the food ran out. Most of them know this and understand that it's in their best interest to keep quiet.
Punters don't get to call other players douchebags. Again, every other kicker in the league knows this, and keeps it all in perspective. Kluwe's job, juxtaposed with the duties of his teammates, screams douchebaggery. And now Kluwe has compounded his lack of status by exposing himself as a turncoat.
If it is his goal to slide into a post-punter career as a presumptuous and accusatory football analyst, then he has set himself up quite nicely, making fast friends with the likes of Mike Florio and Jim Rome. But if his intent was to offer something resembling leadership, he has failed miserably.
In an NFL locker room, there are a handful of players who do the talking. When something needs to be said, it is one of these men who will speak up. The rest of the players sit back and let things take shape, knowing that it is far better to stay silent than to speak prematurely or out of turn.
The right to speak is earned, and the vetting process, although unspoken, is crystal clear. You speak up when your teammates start looking to you for guidance, not because you talk a lot, or because you draw cartoons on a locker room white board, but because you have been tested on the field and proven your worth.
That's why it's been easy for everyone else in the league to keep quiet about the negotiations during this critical time: This locker room culture extends across the entire league. In the NFL, there is an undeniable feeling that it's Us vs. Them. Us is the players. Them is everyone else: coaches, owners, media, etc. To be oblivious to this theme is nearly unforgivable.
Although Kluwe might have thought he was speaking for his peers, he most surely wasn't. His peers would hope that Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and anyone else who finds himself in the rare position of having leverage against the league would use that leverage wisely and get every possible cent out of an NFL power structure that they have come to see as oppressive and exploitative.
It's not surprising that Kluwe could be so out of touch. Punters live in a small, insulated bubble that no one else cares to enter. They are not included in the inside jokes and they're not invited to parties. Their lockers are tucked in a dark corner of the locker room, where they sit and read crime novels while the rest of the team watches film and learns a playbook that will be dead in a week, replaced by a new one.
The plays never change for a punter. During practice, while the rest of the team does football things, the punter stands off in space with his only two friends, the kicker and the snapper, reciting movie quotes and practicing his golf swing. When his moment finally arrives, and the coach yells, "Punt team!" he takes his place 15 yards behind the snapper and, in the span of 10 minutes, executes five or 10 punts.
Covering punt after punt in practice is grueling work for 10 of the 11 members of the punt team. The punter, however, stands completely still. Half of his kicks sputter off the side of his foot, sending his punt team scrambling to stay in their lanes trying to cover the wayward ball. If they are unable to maintain their lane integrity and the returner splits them, it's the players on the coverage unit, not the punter, who get verbally abused by the coach. Coaches — well, coaches who aren't Tom Coughlin — have long since discovered the futility of berating a kicker. Other players can handle it, but not kickers. They tend to shrink, retreating further into the shell of their insecurities.
After punt team is done, the punter mope-jogs to the sideline where he disappears once more into the protoplasm of his irrelevance. No one knows he's there. No one would know if he left. And no one would care.
For three hours on game day, by stepping on the field, the punter runs the risk of having to, just maybe, if shit goes really wrong, touch someone on a football field. But just in case, the NFL has made special rules to protect him from that menacing possibility. You can't hit him. You can't block him. You can't touch him, presumably because he might shatter. He is protected even more than the superstar quarterbacks he Twitter-fucked, as if the act of kicking a football were the most sacred motion on a football field.
He can be seen in a state near total ecstasy if he drops a punt inside the 5-yard line and has it downed by a hustling teammate, pumping his fist heroically. Likewise, he can be seen utterly disgusted if that teammate allows the oblong ball to bounce into the end zone for a touchback. Both reactions would look stupid to an actual member of the team if he were paying any attention, which he isn't. No one is.
But perhaps the moment most indicative of the separation between punter and football player is when one of his punts is returned for a touchdown. The punter, the nominal last line of defense, appears to be an invertebrate on a sheet of ice as he squirms into a position to make the tackle. His eyes widen and he splays his arms out to the side as if to embrace a giant teddy bear. The returner, with a quick head nod, sends the punter blindly lurching to the wrong side, into a Jell-O-like pile of his own shortcomings. That taken care of, he scoots off down the sideline for a touchdown.
When the team watches the film together the next day, it will not surprise them at all to see how feeble the punter looks. This will only sink him deeper into his locker and into his crime novels, searching harder for a way to convince himself that he is one of the guys, that when he speaks up, he is speaking for his peers. But he isn't. And he shouldn't.
Echoing the media's trite narrative — those selfish players! — is a fool's errand, and couldn't be any stupider for someone who must keep the company of real NFL players, who know what it means to sacrifice. Kluwe's satirical white board drawings and CBA negotiation parodies were harmless enough, I suppose, but even those echoed the sentiment of conventional media wisdom. Player wisdom is beyond him. It is true that greed is the operative byword, but it is not the greed of Manning or Brees or Mankins. It's Kluwe's greedy use of his roster spot as a platform from which to shit into cyberspace, knowing that people will pay attention. Well, now they are.
Kluwe pulled no punches when he thoroughly eviscerated Inaction Jackson:
Chris Kluwe Responds: Can I Kick It? (Yes, I Can)
Dear Nate Jackson,
It was with some dismay that I read your piece in Deadspin and immediately tried to wrap my head around why a player with a reasonable grasp of the English language who made no measurable impact upon the game (i.e. you) would stoop so low as to berate a National Football League player who has actually completed a full 16-game season (multiple times!), has broken every team record at his position, and above all has contributed to his team winning games (and occasionally losing them [i.e. myself (I love parenthetical asides)]).
Raise your hand if you got lost at the end of that last sentence.
Let's be honest here. Yes, I am a punter. Yes, I don't run routes, or zone block, or cover receivers. Apparently, though, neither did you, which is the only explanation for your total lack of statistics. You, more than anyone else, should know what goes on during special teams, and yet your description of a special teams practice, while venomously hilarious, is quite inaccurate (or maybe you guys had a really crappy punter and you're spot on, in which case, my condolences).
You talk about me like I'm some kind of disease, like punters are some kind of infection that should be excised for the good of the game and how dare we raise our voices when our betters are talking. According to you, punters should be happy to sit in the corner and be treated like shit because we do something different, something that the other 54 members of the team can't do.
Wait, let's parse that last clause for just a second — "something that the other 54 members of the team can't do." Huh. Would you look at that. Tell me, Nate, how well can you punt a football? What's that you say? You CAN'T punt a football?
Then why in fuck would you think that, just because I can punt, my opinion is somehow less valid?
I freely admit I'm not a receiver, or a lineman, or a DB, or a quarterback, but why should it matter what position I play? Have I not spent 16 years of my life honing my craft (just like you)? Have I not spent countless hours running sprints, lifting weights, trying to stay awake during boring-ass special teams meetings (just like you)? Have I not suited up for a game, gotten my clock cleaned by a blindside block on a punt return, tried and failed to tackle Devin Hester (just like a lot of people)? Tell me, when it comes to breaking down who gets to talk, what's the order? Should linebackers not be able to talk before safeties, or are they allowed to talk after the centers? When does the longsnapper get to chime in? Does the X go before the Z or after?
Please, enlighten me with your wisdom, because the next time I have something to say I'd like to make sure it's OK with you that I say it and that I say it at the proper time.
Oh, wait a minute.
I don't really care what you or anyone else thinks about what I say or when I say it. If I see something greedy, hypocritical, or just plain stupid, I'm going to call out whoever the offending party happens to be. I've done it to the owners; I've done it to the NFL front office; and I'll certainly do it if I see it happen with the players. And make no mistake: trying to hold up the settlement of a CBA affecting almost 1,900 players just so four can get special treatment is pretty much the definition of greed. Whether it was instigated by their attorneys, agents, or whoever, it's still a douchebag move to make.
And you know why it's a douchebag move to make? Because it makes ALL OF US look bad. It makes ALL OF US look like grasping, blackmailing, money-grubbing jerks whose only care is how much blood we can squeeze from the rock that is the fans — you know, the people who ultimately pay all of our wages. And I'm not a fan of that. (Owners, make sure you pay attention, too. Charging outrageous sums for drinks, seats, and seat licenses, while a great moneymaker now, is definitely counterproductive in the long run, especially with the advent of high-def TVs). You know how you grow the football pie? It's definitely not by shitting on the people who spend money on you. Maybe this is a small thing, but small things add up over time.
I'll grant you that Mankins and Jackson got screwed by the CBA situation last year. They're entering the prime of their career and were counting on entering free agency. But at the same time, the franchise tag and restricted free agent tag aren't exactly the kiss of death. One year under the RFA offer would be as much money as a doctor earns in his/her ENTIRE LIFE. What. The. Fuck. You're telling me that having to go one year making "only" as much money as most people will earn their entire lives is such a hardship that you need an extra $10 million payout for putting your name on a lawsuit? I honestly don't know how to respond to that.
Oh wait, yes I do. It's a douchebag move.
Speaking of which, my favorite part of your entire rant is the following: "If it is his goal to slide into a post-punter career as a presumptuous and accusatory football analyst, then he has set himself up quite nicely. ..." Let's replace "punter" with "tight end" and see how that reads. Ooooh, it reads quite nicely. I like it. At least I had the grace to do it in 140 characters or less, not this meandering shitstorm that you felt compelled to vomit out at someone you've never met, don't know the first thing about, and likely might enjoy talking to if we ever met at a bar (someone who has written a meandering shitstorm of his own in rebuttal).
So, Nate Jackson, while I respect your right to free speech (as apparently you don't respect mine), I also respect my right to tell you to go jam a tackling dummy up your ass sideways for being a snake-tongued, shit-talking Internet tough guy asshole who is so far out of touch with reality that you have no idea just how privileged we are to play this game for ridiculous amounts of money.
You're not the only one who can craft a sentence, my friend.
P.S. I respect all four of the people I called douchebags (Manning, Brees, Mankins, and Jackson). That's why I used the word "douchebag" instead of "asshole" or "fuckwit." Someone acting like a douchebag can still be redeemed; generally it's a momentary lapse of judgment. There's no hope for asshole fuckwits.
P.P.S. tl;dr — U mad bro?
Jackson was clearly outmatched and never stood a chance. As a Bears fan, I gotta say, Kluwe is now officially my favorite Viking.