Though he has won widespread acclaim for his ability to connect with
an audience, trial lawyer-turned-union chief De Smith might have
misfired a bit with his lofty, professorial address to the newest crop
of NFL players.
“The fundamental truth of progress is that we only surpass history when we embrace it,”
Smith told the incoming first-year players at the annual Rookie
Symposium. “Mature thought is a thought where we now understand not
only what we do and who we are, but where we are and where we exist in
“If you let people define you as just a player, I guarantee you one
thing: You will lose. So who are you? You’re fathers, you’re sons,
you’re brothers, you’re husbands. Hamlet talked about that famous
question: What is it to be? If you remember any part of that
soliloquy, the answer to his question was the question itself. It was
an understanding of who he was in relation to the world in which he
lived. He was a brother, he was father, he was husband, he was a son.
That’s who you are.”
Insert snoring sounds here.
And those players who didn’t fall unconscious might be wondering
whether De Smith just told them that, since they are what Hamlet was,
they’re all destined to become so paralyzed by thought and indecision
that they eventually ponder suicide.
For the players who weren’t already sawing logs with rusty blades
after hearing the term “soliloquy,” Smith also mentioned that French
president Nicholas Sarkozy addressed both houses of parliament last
week, explaining that it was the first time that had happened since the
days of Napoleon Bonaparte.
And that likely prompted one rookie to ask another one, “Wasn’t his last name Dynamite?”
Look, we’ve got not problem with Smith’s message. But talking about
fictional Danish princes and dead French dictators isn’t the way to get
through to young American athletes.
And please don’t give us the “But weren’t they college students?”
routine. For most of them, attending college was a means to an end,
and the only book they ever really studied had only two letters in it
— X and O.
So while De Smith has done a nice job of connecting with his
constituents, some of the kids who had their first exposure to him at
the Rookie Symposium possibly emerged from the experience unimpressed.
Rested and refreshed, but unimpressed.