Colin Kaepernick, Joey Bosa, and American Ideals

I don’t try to be an internet troll, but I commonly find myself turning into one in the process of trying to prove that I’m not one. You see, a troll is somebody who is intentionally tries to provoke chaos and anger by posting something inflammatory or off-topic. I don’t intentionally do this very often. Sometimes it’s too good to pass up, but in general, any chaos or inflammation that I may cause is a byproduct of my actual goal, which is to make people think. In fairness, being forced to think enrages most modern Americans. Living in the world full of advertising that we do, we’re used to everything catering to the way we individually think and live. It’s almost thought of as rude when others have the audacity to disagree with us, or not acquiesce to our way of thinking. This is a really long lead in about how I’m going to say some things about Colin Kaepernick and Joey Bosa that most people may not like, but my only intention here is to provoke thought, not a comment war.

Despite the fact that everybody outwardly agrees that we should treat teachers better and that our fetish for constant news and celebrity is bad, we still spend our days glued to the latest news about celebrities, even ones as trivial as Colin Kaepernick. For those of you who learned who he is within the last week after he refused to stand for the national anthem at a pre-season game, some of us knew him before then. I first became aware of him when he played for Nevada, putting up large, video game numbers and ultimately upsetting the much overrated Boise State in his senior year with the Wolfpack. I also knew him from taking over for an injured Alex Smith and leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl against the Ravens in his second season in the league. The following year (2013) he was again successful, but that appears to have been his peak, as it has been a constant descent from there on out. He has mostly been an also-ran in professional athletics, largely considered to be on his way out of the league since it doesn’t appear that he is going to regain the magic he had in 2012 and 2013 any time soon. And then he dared to sit for the national anthem in a pre-season game, and a bunch of people who still can’t spell Kaepernick are convinced he’s the worst thing to happen to America since Creed.

Now, it’s important to point out here that I’ve always had a disconnect with the fervor that people feel about the actions of others. If Colin Kaepernick masturbated during the national anthem and used the stars and bars as his catch rag, I would have the same emotional non-reaction that I had to him sitting during that time. It doesn’t affect or effect me (at 34 I still can’t figure out which one of those to use). Him sitting doesn’t impact any other human, either, and you can’t convince me that it does, because it simply doesn’t. Nobody’s heart stopped because he didn’t stand up and put his hand over his own. Terrorists around the world aren’t using that YouTube clip to bolster their ranks, and if they’re trying to, it won’t work. You could make the argument that Gene Wilder died because of it, but you’d be wrong again. It’s a non-story that we turned into a story because most of life now is our vain attempt to fill dead air with contrived meaning. But even here, we fail, because he actually sat out the anthem in protest. What was he protesting, you ask, primarily because you didn’t bother to find out? He was protesting the treatment of minorities in the United States. Now, raise your hand if you think minorities are treated fairly in all aspects of life in the United States. If you’re raising your hand at home, I have a couple of notes: 1) Wow, I’m pumped that I have enough influence over anybody that they would actually do what I said. That’s pretty cool. 2) I know that you’re white. 3) You’re also very wrong. See, you don’t have to be a social scientist to figure this out, you just have to look around and not ignore all of the things that you disagree with. Using black people as an example, they make less money than white people for doing the same work, are prosecuted more frequently and jailed longer for crimes, they can’t find housing or work as easily, and they can be excused for having at least a small fear of police officers. Again, you might disagree with all of this in its entirety. But the fact that this many questions on racial inequality even exist should make the most skeptical mind wonder, if even just a tiny bit. And if there’s even an outside chance that some of this could be true, it’s also reasonable to assume that somebody else could take issue with it and try to draw attention to the issues by, say, using their celebrity to make a spectacle. You don’t have to agree with any of it, but it shouldn’t enrage you. The ability to speak your mind and express your opinion, even if you’re wrong, is part of the freedom that we experience here and that others around the world don’t. In Tehran, you’d be executed for this. Ditto in North Korea. Do we really want to aspire to those ideals? Do you regularly look at Kim Jong Un in pictures and go “That man is a visionary promoter of freedom!” I’m not agreeing or disagreeing with Colin Kaepernick, but I think that being outraged by what he did is decidely un-American. When Antonin Scalia, a guy who supported the idea of banning homosexuality, doesn’t take issue with protest of some of our national symbols, it should get the wheels turning. It’s precisely the ability to do things like sit during the national anthem or burn a flag that defines our freedom. So which way are we trying to move as a country? If we choose backwards, I’d at least request that we go sort of Cuba backwards, because there are a lot of cars from the 1950s that I dig. If we go Sierra Leone backwards I’m definitely going to get my hands chopped off for writing the sentence “…and used the stars and bars as his catch rag…”

Now Joey Bosa is a bit of a different story. I live right in the heart of Charger country. I’m usually pretty good with comparisons, but I can’t think of anything that appropriately compares to the sadness that is being a Chargers fan. Decades and decades of unwavering support for a team that went to the Super Bowl exactly one time and got fornicated by the 49ers is greeted with a resounding commitment of loyalty to the city. Just kidding, they want to move desperately. In the midst of all of this, they draft Joey Bosa, a lauded defensive end from Ohio State, and their highest draft pick since 2004. Somehow. The Chargers even manage to fuck up getting high draft picks when they suck. Anywho, they draft Bosa third overall, they offer a fairly boilerplate contract for a third overall pick, and Joey and agent decide to ask for stuff. This happens. The Chargers, through actions, say GFY. This also happens. Everything from that point on doesn’t ever happen, but there’s a pretty good reason why, in my opinion.

The sticking points ended up being two of the very few things that rookies can actually negotiate in their first contracts; bonus payouts and offset language. Bonus payouts are pretty simple in that you’re really only negotiating how much, and when. Bosa’s side was easy to understand. They answered “All” and “Now.” The Chargers wanted to pay out most this year and the rest in the NFL’s next fiscal year. I never bothered to find out why they were requesting this, but I’m guessing it’s either budget or salary cap related, regardless, they didn’t want to pay all of the cash up front. The offset language is a little dicier in my opinion. For those of you who were uninitiated like I was until this whole thing happened, offset language is a way for a team to save themselves money. I don’t know the exact numbers, but let’s say that Bosa’s fourth year was set to pay him $4 million. If the Chargers decided that he was no bueno and cut him, and another team signed him for $1 million. With offset language, the Chargers would have to pay Joey $3 million to make sure he received the full $4 million that his original contract promised to pay him. Without offset language, the Chargers would have to pay him the full $4 million regardless of what he made from another team. To me, it’s obvious why both sides wanted what they wanted, and usually this ends up being trivial. Both sides demand their best outcome of both bonus and offset language, and then both sides drop one of those wishes to get the deal done. But the Chargers did something untoward; they hammered home their economic advantage.

The loser in all scenarios where Joey Bosa doesn’t sign a rookie contract is Joey Bosa, and it’s not even close. Had he not signed at all this year, he would have had to go back into the draft and start all over again next year. But that’s the cold, brutal beauty of the Chargers stance here; he loses so much more by going to the draft again. He was drafted third overall this year, but that is very far from a guarantee to happen again in 2017. If he is drafted lower than third, it’s a foregone conlcusion that he gets a worse contract offer than what the Chargers were offering. To boot, his holdout would probably give teams pause, leaving them wondering what he’s going to be like to deal with if he was willing to sit out an entire season.

Additionally, and this may come as a surprise, football players only have a limited amount of time to play football. As a defensive end, Bosa will be lucky to celebrate his 34th birthday while still being employed as an NFL player. Each year for a player represents precious earnings power, and lighting one of those on fire can only happen if you stand to gain more than you stand to lose. As an unproven NFL rookie, there’s no math equation that makes skipping a year worth it in terms of future earnings power.

So Bosa loses a lot. What do the Chargers lose if he doesn’t sign? Honestly, not very much. The assumption here is that Joey Bosa will be a very good defensive end, and he probably will be. But if he doesn’t sign, the Chargers pick up somebody else who is serviceable, and they soldier on. A player like Joey Bosa maybe gives them one additional win over the course of the season. And that’s a stretch. But one win for the Chargers isn’t a make or break thing. Yes, NFL playoff spots have been decided by one win, and regularly at that. But even if it works out as a worst case scenario for the Chargers, their bottom line still remains relatively healthy. Maximum loss for the Chargers is missing the playoffs (when they could have made them with Bosa), and thus missing out on the added revenue that the playoffs generate. What do they gain? A gigantic edge in all future negotiations, with both rookies and veterans. But while the loss is a one-time debit, contract negotiations happen every year. If you asked me to give up $1000 this year, but in doing so, I’d be very likely to save $2000 in each subsequent year, I’d have the check written before you were done with your proposition. The time value of money can be offset by a sheer volume of money, and a business like the Chargers has a theoretically infinite timeline. To fans, it seemed like the Chargers were squabbling over $1-2 million dollars one time, but to their front office, they realized that this meant $1-2 million, in each contract negotiation, forever. That’s a staggering sum of money over the long haul.

So the Chargers did what I would have done, which was to basically flop out their giant negotiation power dick for all to see and say “We’ll be fine if Joey Bosa doesn’t sign, but Joey Bosa will be fucked.” And Joey Bosa did what I would have done in his spot, which was to ask for something, no matter how tiny, to hang his dignity on. But it was uncomfortable for everybody to watch because, while we live in a society that promotes capitalism, capitalism, capitalism, we struggle when we see it bare it’s ugly teeth. Joey Bosa was effectively powerless, and the Chargers called him on it. And they were right. Not morally or ethically, or any other made up justification that we may try to use; they were just factually right. Joey Bosa would have suffered more than the Chargers would have, so they turned the screws. And just like Colin Kaepernick and his protest, we’ll forget this just as quickly over the next few weeks, as soon as some other inane story pops up. For me though, this was an interesting example of power being used in its purest form. And while it’s fascinating, I don’t generally like seeing exertions of dominance. On the bright side, when animals exert dominance in nature, sometimes they do so by humping each other. Nobody wanted to see Tom Telesco barebacking Joey Bosa midfield, his cross-eyes desperately searching their own respective directions for any help they could find. Nobody wanted to see that.

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