Padecky: Falling into ‘dumb jock’ stereotype actually takes work

It was his choice, his gamble and now his punishment for being selfish and thickheaded. Buffalo Bills wide receiver Cole Beasley has been told he can’t play in his team’s preseason game Saturday. He had been in close contact with a trainer who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.

Because he’s an unvaccinated player, Beasley has been told to stay away from the Bills for at least five days, as per NFL protocols. Beasley never liked those mandates now or back in June, when he announced he would not get vaccinated.

It wasn’t logical, he said upon arriving at training camp, for all vaccinated players to be tested once every two weeks for COVID while unvaccinated players, like Beasley, need to be tested daily.

“It’s common sense,” Beasley said, “that if a vaxxed or unvaxxed player is tested less frequently, the likelihood of a player being pulled for COVID drops dramatically.”

I have gone over and over that sentence as if it was ancient Sanskrit, looking for clues, hidden meanings. Maybe a word was dropped. Maybe a misplaced modifier (I’ve even forgotten what that means). Maybe Beasley was joking. Maybe I need a drink.

I took his “common sense” and applied it to daily life. If, for example, the CHP pulled over fewer people for not wearing seat belts, then we would have fewer seat belt violations. Thinking of it like that, I get it.

Then again, we want to be safe; that’s why we wear seat belts or get the vaccine.

What could go wrong if an unvaxxed player like Beasley goes two weeks between tests while exchanging aerosols brought on by the thud of physical contact or a curse word directed at someone who aimed an elbow at Beasley’s head?

What could go wrong being in the huddle, on the sideline, in the locker room, in the shower? With other anti-vaxxers?

Why take the chance? Doctor Beasley has the answer.

“If your (sic) scared of me then steer clear,” Beasley said on social media in June. “Or get vaccinated ... I may die of COVID but I’d rather die actually living ... I’m not going to take meds for a leg that isn’t broken.”

We now have insight to understand how someone 5-foot-8, 174 pounds has made it through nine NFL seasons. It takes a special mentality to play tackle football against men 100 pounds heavier who want to rip his head off. Clearly, Beasley has a special mentality.

Beasley has become a player in a Greek tragedy — even though he may not know Achilles is much more than a tendon. He has made himself the leading 2021 candidate for the Carl Everett Lifetime Achievement Award.

Everett is the former Boston Red Sox outfielder who took what he thought was common sense and turned it inside out like a pair of sweaty socks.

“God created the sun, stars, heavens and Earth,” Everett began in a 2000 interview. “He made Adam and Eve. Bible never said anything about dinosaurs. You can’t say there were dinosaurs when you never saw them. Someone actually saw Adam and Eve. No one ever saw Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

Yes, it’s true. I’ve never seen a T-Rex. I once saw the skull of a cow in the Arizona desert, if that counts. Least it looked like a cow’s skull. Coulda been a T-Rex.

As for Adam and Eve, however, they are still on the watchlist.

The low bar that Everett and Beasley set does a disservice to all athletes in general and football players specifically. Every athlete that has committed to a particular sport has faced The Tag.

The Tag is certainly an insult. Sometimes it is spoken. Sometimes it is assumed silently. The Tag is never a compliment.

To be called a Dumb Jock. To be thought of as brutishly arrogant, easy to insult, not a lot of cognitive awareness. A Dumb Jock has nothing much to offer except a physical skill. It is the stereotype of a stereotype. It may be the lead example to explain someone who is shallow and mindless.

Those two words drove Bob St. Clair crazy. St. Clair is the Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle who played for the 49ers and passed away five years ago. He was 6-foot-9, 270 pounds. He had the Voice of God, or least James Earl Jones.

“People are always surprised when they first meet me,” St. Clair told me once, “that I don’t say ‘dems’ and ‘does.’”

St. Clair spent the last 20 or so years in Santa Rosa and no one thought of putting up two fingers and asking, “How many is that?” He was mayor of Daly City, on the San Mateo Board of Supervisors, a lobbyist in Orange County. In Sonoma County, St. Clair owned and sold four liquor stores and worked for Clover Stornetta.

St. Clair was one of the most passionate and articulate athletes I ever met. He once refused to play in a postseason bowl game because two of his USF teammates — Burl Toler and Ollie Matson — were not permitted to play because they were Black. And then was back in 1951, when protesting racism didn’t attract huge crowds.

Yet St. Clair admitted he was a victim of a stereotype. How can someone that huge, with a voice that could crack glass, be nothing but a Dumb Jock? He never challenged a look or a word that hinted at the smear. He just let his intelligence embarrass the accuser and the assumption.

While it is true a pro athlete can and often does ignore the real world and any conversation contained in it, it’s not because they are intellectually challenged. Rather, they have to be obsessed with their sport and their momentary existence in it. As an example, the average NFL career lasts 3.4 years. Aristotle can come later. Or what a second mortgage means.

When Bill Walsh handed Steve Young the 49ers’ offensive playbook, Young read through it once and memorized all of it, including all the check-offs. Young showed not just an exceptional memory but the ability to call the right plays to attack a defense that could change its formation from play to play.

So when Cole Beasley opens his mouth and sawdust comes out, no one thinks of Bob St. Clair or Steve Young. A stereotype all too often takes a lot of effort to remove, like a tattoo. Maybe Beasley can begin the process by calling up the name John Frank.

Frank was a 49ers tight end who played five years and won two Super Bowls with the team. He went to med school. He became a doctor. He is a board-certified otolaryngologist. Beasley probably doesn’t know what it means. I didn’t, either. I had to look it up. I became a little more educated. At least that’s what my common sense tells me.

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