Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hell's Angels

I was only 11 years-old in 1997, which means that unless it was Charles Woodson, Brian Griese, Anthony Thomas, or Tai Streets, all I knew was vaguely what role a player had, or a few notable achievements. For example, Marcus Ray was the guy who I never really heard of, but famously laid out David “If I’m Incapacitated When The Cops Arrive, Hide the Winstrol; My Lawyer’s On Speed Dial” Boston. Dhani Jones was a thin linebacker who was fast, which was exactly what I thought Ian Gold was. At the time I was pretty sure Gold and Jones were the same person, although now I think Dhani has an extensive bow tie collection, likes Charlie Parker, and probably doesn’t own many undershirts.

I mention this because I recently read something on Kissing Suzy Kolber about Ian Gold, written in this book “A Few Seconds of Panic”. The author, Stefan Fatsis, was a writer who spent training camp as a kicker for the Broncos, and then detailed his experiences in the book. In it were two incredible Ian Gold quotes which, after becoming more familiar with him through Google, aren’t even that surprising:

Ian Gold: “This is a business. When I’m here on this field, it is absolutely business. When I’m in the meeting rooms, it is business. Don’t hug me, don’t touch me, don’t call me your buddy, don’t tell me you love me, because I know you’ll motherfuck me as soon as I leave the room.”

Ian Gold: “The hard part for me is dealing with a lack of loyalty, dealing with people who have such a lack of integrity that it’s just sickening… You have coaches that will smile in your face and they’ll shit on you the next second.”

I find his overall paranoia and vehemence fascinating, and the use of “motherfuck” as a verb is rare but always appreciated. (Would that be more of a sensual or an aggressive fucking? If it’s your dad doing the motherfucking with the lights off just because “It’s a Saturday and all that's on are CSI re-runs”, mom could probably sleep right through it. But getting prisonfucked, or “I’m drunk and wearing a condom, so I’m not going to feel anything unless I do it like this” fucked would probably be uncomfortable. I guess this really boils down to what kind of tact Jake Plummer had.)

All of this makes the fact that he was cut by the Broncos, and still hasn’t been signed by anybody, even more disheartening. Gold is almost too small; made the Pro Bowl in 2001 mostly because he was ruthless on special teams; and once negotiated his own 27 million-dollar contract while representing himself. (“The one message it should send to other guys around the league is that we are intelligent human beings. We don't just play football. We have the intellectual capacity to negotiate contracts,” he said.) He doesn't trust agents, plays chess frequently, and he does not hesitate in saying that NFL owners are conniving, soulless moguls.

I like him because he’s an underdog who it seems has always felt a little scorned and neglected. He plays recklessly and instinctively, motivated by emotion and desire; it's like he's consumed by something more transcendent and primal than the vast intellect that he has. On the field it disappears and, as Carr once said, "his intensity is so high, he runs right through blockers." He’s also blunt, uninhibited and prone to hyperbole. He said that Michigan’s win against Alabama in 2000 was “the best ending to a football game ever,” and in 2004 he said, “Around the league everybody knows, and I'm aware of it as well, that I'm the best outside linebacker out there in the free-agent market right now.”

Back in elementary school, when a teacher would ask her class what they did over the summer, I picture Ian giving the most vivid – possibly exaggerated – responses. Maybe sometimes he’s not as graceful as he could be, but like Mike Hart and Lloyd Carr, he’s hardly concerned with his acceptance anyway. He’s just as combative as Mike, but he’s not as easily provoked; when Gold says something, it’s on his own terms.

There are few characters as complex as him, and even fewer who are as willing to reveal it. I was reading about this impromptu interview session a few days before the game against Alabama, and in it Gold took the microphone and tried to interview Lloyd. It encapsulated the Shawn Crable-esque spontaneity he’s capable of, and it featured a brilliant Lloyd Carr moment.

Gold: “We have Mr. Lloyd Carr here… Let me ask you a few questions. . . . What kind of year did Ian Gold have this year?''
Carr: “Who?”
Carr: “Are you interviewing for a job?''
Gold: “I'm interviewing you right now! You're messing up the interview.”
Carr: “That happens a lot”

When that happened, I was 13. Too bad all I knew then was that one was fast and the other was old.


Blogger phillip said...

Your posts make my days better.

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. I actually went to elementary and middle school with Ian. (He went to AA public schools before going to high school in Bellville.) I don't remember much from elementary school other than Ian being really short at the time - one of the smallest kids in the class. Though he was built like a rock, even then.

In middle school we shared the same homeroom and instructor. I remember Ian being fairly intense and introverted though by no means restrained in returning the trash talk that was a frequent part of our class. Ian didn't seem to excel at classwork, but he was too quiet on that front for me to judge his intellect then, let alone now.

I don't mean to imply that I know Ian. I don't. Save for a brief encounter on South U during college I haven't spoken to Ian since he was 13 or so, and even then we were just classmates not freinds.

I bring this all up because our homeroom instructor was someone who played an influential role in my life and I wonder if he didn't rub off on Ian as well. Our teacher was a guy who taught us to question everything we heard - both by explicitly saying so and via lessons that included goofy stuff like Area 51 and spontaneous human combustion. He preached/taught us about the importance of thinking beyond the boundaries imposed by curriculum. He criticized the euro-centric nature of the history curriculum and wore a Dashiki regularly. For all his quirks, he certainly drove home lessons of independent thinking, self-value, responsibility and control over one's destiny. I have no idea to what extent this teacher influenced Ian, but at the very least I think they'd agree on a lot of things.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, and distrust of authority. I forgot to mention that.

10:34 AM  
Blogger sardonic beholder said...

Keep writing, Johnny. For the love of Rudyard Kipling, keep writing.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your writing.

8:54 PM  

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