The numbers, 30, 8, 7.5 million and, most importantly, 2 were trickier to solve than a Rubik’s Cube or even the daily online Sudoku puzzle. Sure, the first three are easy to make fit but when one mixes in that 2 the entire puzzle just fell apart.
At age 30 with eight hard years already under his belt with a $7.5 million on paper owed to him next season, Brian Westbrook became just another number to the brass behind the Eagles. Oh, there’s nothing complicated about an All-Pro running back at Westbrook’s age and experience that should scare off anyone. However, those two concussions he had in less than a month last season ruined the math.
Frankly, that sucks.
No, that’s not because Westbrook was cut by the Eagles (largely because of those concussions), though that is part of it. The disappointing part is that the Eagles’ move exemplifies the ugly reality that we must bear…
We’re all just numbers. That’s it. Somewhere some guy is looking at an Excel spreadsheet without an inch of an emotion or an inkling of knowledge of any of our traits, and that guy is making decisions on all of our futures. Is that the way it should be? And if so, why not train a chimp or build a robot to do that guy’s job.
We like sports because they are an escape. When it comes down to it, it’s entertainment or just one big soap opera that lasts for a long season, but never really rests during the hiatus. So when real life issues like downsizing slides into it from the cold-hearted and emotionless corporate types that run the Eagles, it kind of ruins the whole enjoyment of it. Who wants the local football team to be just like every other business in the country? Not me.
One of the reasons why I dislike fantasy football isn’t the nerdery of the enterprise, though that doesn’t help. Instead, who wants to pretend to be an owner of a team and have to make decisions without emotion? It’s not real, but it kind of is at the same time. You root for numbers, not people.
Numbers lie more than people. They are much more easily manipulated, too. Crunch them and push them they way you wish and numbers will say anything you want them to. They’re cheap, precise and stupid and who can respect that?
So the reason why Brian Westbrook was unceremoniously waived by the Eagles all comes down to the numbers. In fact, Westbrook said he was expecting a call from the team to ask him to take a pay cut or restructure his contract. Well, they restructured it all right—restructured it by dropping it into the office shredder.
“It’s just the fact that you don’t wanna be released,” Westbrook told CSN’s Derrick Gunn. “I have spent a long time in Philadelphia, since ’97—I started in college and had eight years with the Eagles. So you have some type of uncertainty going into the future. I was surprised by the news but at the same time it is part of the business.”
Yep, part of the business. It doesn’t matter that Westbrook was a model employee and the epitome of professionalism. It also doesn’t matter that he pretty much spent the entire 2009 season resting from a knee and ankle injury plus those two concussions, which means he doesn’t have the mileage on his body like your typical 30-year-old running back.
Westbrook says he wants to play in 2010 and he likely will have plenty of job prospects, so no one should feel sorry for the new ex-Eagle. Sure, the Eagles run a money-making machine, but the NFL is an industry unlike the others that are routinely casting off hard-working and professional people. Westbrook very well could end up in a better situation than he was in with the Eagles. That hardly seems farfetched when one looks at Westbrook’s digits.
“A lot of things you lack physically, you make up in the mental aspect. That doesn't mean you can't compete at a very high level,” Westbrook told Gunn. “You see Brian Dawkins, he played here until he was 34 or 35-years old, then went out to Denver and played at a very high level. It can be done. It takes a special player to be able to do that. I have that will to do it, that desire to do it. I am going to train as hard as I can this offseason to come back and show people that I can still play.”
At least there is one aspect of the business we can all respect—if a guy can do the job, there will be a place for him in the NFL. They got that part right.