As you may or may not know (or care), I spend my roughly one-hour commute each morning listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN Radio’s LA affiliate (that’s 710ESPN to you SoCal-ers), and today one of the main topics was the recent “scandal” about some pictures of Matt Leinart throwing a party at his home in Phoenix, AZ (home of one of the NFL’s worst franchises and birthplace of my little sister…you decide which is more impressive). One of the shortcomings of radio (even “HD” radio) is that so far it’s just sounds — although mark my words, someday they’ll invent something that can transmit pictures in the same way; right through the air to your home, like magic. So all I knew about these pictures initially was the description I heard from Colin & Co. on his radio show this morning. They used pretty much every tabloid buzzword/adjective to describe these photos (such as “scandalous” to “appalling” to “sexually explicit” and everything in between), so naturally when I got into to work today, the first thing I did was hop on espn.com and check out the photos for myself. And I was stunned. Shocked. Horrified. …But not for the reasons you might think. No, I was taken aback at these pictures not because of how “wildly outrageous” there were, but rather for how TAME they were. I figured for the media and the NFL to be making such a giant deal out of these things, that they would’ve been really incriminating — but to the contrary, they’re essentially just normal pictures of people at a party. One is of Matt Leinart sitting in a hot tub with three or four average-looking chicks (sidenote: remind me to talk to ML about his standards — you’re a starting NFL quarterback now, Matty, you can’t be seen around any group of girls that averages less than a 8.6 on the traditional 10-point scale. You think Tom Brady got to the SuperBowl by dating cheap sorority girls? Of course not. Now go get yourself a supermodel like a professional would), another is of him holding a beer-consumption-device for a chick (I’m told these are called “beerbongs.” We never had them when I was in college. Honest, mom and dad), and the third is of Nick Lachey awkwardly standing kind of near a different chick (any party where Nick Lachey is the second-most-famous guy in attendance is probably not one that qualifies as “wildly outrageous”).
And that was it. Just three relatively normal party pictures, taken by a 24-year-old millionaire and a few of his friends. Now I’m no millionaire, but I have far more incriminating pictures than that floating all over the internet — in most cases, because I put them there myself. So if those pictures of Leinart “cement his status as a bad-boy party animal,” then I’m Gene Simmons, Wilt Chamberlin and Captain Kangaroo all rolled into one (don’t let Capt’s outside appearance fool you, he knows how to party hard). The point is, our culture spends all of it’s time teaching our youth and teens that their only goals in life should be to A) make a lot of money, B) make a lot of friends, and then C) once you acquire both, go nuts! Think about it. Why does a song like “Party Like a Rockstar” (and that less-creative song of the same theme by Nickelback) get made, and then become wildly popular? Because that’s exactly what we want: to party like rockstars without responsibility or consequences. Can you imagine a song called “Go Out to A Poetry Reading Then Spend a Quiet Evening Politely Discussing It, Making Sure to Get Eight or Nine Full Hours of Sleep Each Night” ever making it in to the Billboard Top 40? Of course not…and it’s not because I didn’t try, believe me. So Matt Leinart — after a lifetime of having this line of thinking seared into his brain — does exactly what the song(s) suggest: he gets wildly rich, then parties like a rockstar (or pro athlete in this case). And what happens when photographic evidence of a twenty-something millionaire living like a twenty-something millionaire surfaces? Leinart gets blasted by every sports writer, radio host and paperboy in the continental United States (they’ve yet to discover radio waves in Hawaii and Alaska).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging excessively illegal/immoral behavior, and I’m not suggesting that Matt shouldn’t have been home taking care of his eighteen month old son instead of doing body shots off of Nick “98º is the Poor Man’s N’Sync” Lachey; I’m simply pointing out that we, as a society, are spending WAY too much time and energy deploring Matt Leinart for taking a picture with some girls when meanwhile there are guys out there like Pacman Jones (awaiting trial for, among other things: aggravated assault, manslaughter, conspiracy to commit, and several other felonies) and Chris Henry (arrested on FIVE separate occasions since 2005 for everything from gun-possession to drug running to beer-bottling a man’s winshield) who barely get a bi-line on espn.com’s front page. And then to top it all off, I get to hear from everyone that Matt Leinart is “the bad role model of the NFL.” I don’t have kids yet, so I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty certain that if I had to decide who was the worst NFL role model for my children, and my options were:
1) a guy who keeps military-grade guns and hard drugs in the trunk of his car,
2) a guy who pistol-whips strippers after “making it rain,” or
3) a guy who one time decided to drink a beer using a funnel and a hose instead of a cup,
— I think I’d feel safest about option 3. And that list doesn’t even include a certain canine enthusiast that used to play for the Atlanta Falcons.
To wrap this rant, let me just add that I think we can (and should) challenge ourselves as a society to tackle bigger and more salient issues than the drinking/partying habits of a millionaire who’s three years over the legal drinking age.
Matt Leinart, this Bud’s for you. Cheers.