In the T.S. Eliot poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," the speaker wonders if things that take great efforts are worth it if they are doomed to be misunderstood in the end. And as Denver Broncos Mike Adams reads the endless supply of articles about his most recent comment involving the Super Bowl, one has to wonder if, as he puts his head down on his pillow at night, he is left sighing, "That is not what I meant at all. That is not what I meant at all..."
You see, part of the two-week stretch between the NFL conference championships and the Super Bowl is the inevitable media blitz that latches onto anything at all noteworthy involving the teams, cities, or players, to the point that revisiting a dumb fumble from week 1 is considered news.
Yesterday, The Denver Post decided to continue along with this trend of journalistic half-assery and published a quick article about how Denver Broncos safety Mike Allen said that if the Broncos won the Super Bowl this weekend at Met Life stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, he would celebrate in an interesting way:
"If we win the Super Bowl, I'm going to keep my helmet and pads on and I'm walking home [to Paterson, New Jersey, which is about 12 miles from the stadium]...After I get to the IHOP on Route 3, I'll start hitchhiking...But they'd probably think I'm just some crazy person.”
More outlets than I have space to mention picked up the story — it's even already become a part of his Wikipedia page — with everyone reveling in how funny this declaration is. However, without exception, they also all completely gloss over the fact that Paterson is one of the most violent cities in the country and that this pledge of hometown allegiance is about more than just a celebratory homecoming, but an attempt to bring a bit of light to a very dark city.
Sure it's cute to hear about a pro football player wanting to forgo DISNEY WORLD for a chance to walk down the Garden State Parkway in full pads, but only focusing on that one aspect neuters a story that could have been used as a launching point to discuss, or at the very least bring to the light, the rampant problems going on in one of New Jersey’s largest cities. Adams himself compared the city to “a cancer,” explaining that “the negativity in that place can be like a snowball rolling downhill.” When reports of three murders happening in 72 hours and school workers stealing equipment are commonplace, you can see why he thinks like that.
Darryl Slater of the Star-Ledger seems like the only person willing to dig a little deeper.
If you read his feature on Adams, you’ll learn about how this once undrafted free agent from Delaware endured for a decade in the NFL before getting a chance to win a Super Bowl, but more importantly, you'll learn about the problems Paterson faces and what Adams is doing to fix it.
In 2006, Adams founded the Rising Stars Foundation with his high school teammate Gerald Hayes, who also was in the NFL from 2003-2011. Their free football clinic every summer and sponsorship of youth sports in the area isn’t anything grandiose, but considering Paterson’s School 6, the one around the corner from Adams’ childhood home, is in one of the most crime-infested areas and has some of the state’s lowest test scores, every little bit counts.
And the national exposure that it — and the problems in Paterson as a whole — could have received if a handful of lazy journalists had decided to type a few words into Google instead of parroting each other ad nausem, could have been been game-changing.
But instead of using this amusing sound-bite as a chance to discuss how to help cities like Paterson and Newark and Camden, which Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone called “an un-Fantasy Island of extreme poverty and violence,” we’re left with the comical but insignificant image of a possible Super Bowl winner hitchhiking in full pads in front of an IHOP.
Yes Adams may appear at times, indeed, almost ridiculous, but it's us left looking like the Fool.