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Self-Care, or Selfishness? | Gimme Schalter No. 16

Gimme Schalter
Self-Care, or Selfishness? | Gimme Schalter No. 16
By Ty Schalter • Issue #16 • View online
Football culture is a specific subset of sports culture, and not a particularly great one. All the major coaching trees that propagate approach and mentality from generation to generation have strong roots in the WWII-era U.S. military—and while we’ve thankfully moved on from ideas such as drinking water during practice makes a player soft, the idea that a football player is a soldier whose duty is to sacrifice everything for the team, without question, is still imprinted on the minds of many coaches, fans, and media members.
So in some circles, there’s nothing worse than calling a football player “selfish.” I usually push back on that, because it’s most often applied to football players (whose careers are shockingly brief) trying to make the most money they can in the time they’ve got, or taking care of their body instead of aggravating injuries trying to gut out one more game.
Aaron Rodgers is selfish.
Demanding a monster contract when you deserve one, fine. Demanding a trade when the demands aren’t met, also fine. Sitting out of spring workouts when neither demands aren’t met, also fine (especially for a Hall of Fame-level quarterback who doesn’t need the reps). Living well while he’s sitting out, including setting the stage for his post-playing career? Sure, whatever.
But telling the world on-camera that he’s “been immunized,” when he meant he’d had a fake homeopathic woo-woo something instead of an actual vaccine, that’s not just a lie, it’s a dangerous one. Playing fast and loose with the health and safety of your teammates is inexcusable. Everyone in the NFL knows the physical risks they take when they step on the field—but did Packers players (like receiver Davante Adams, who tested positive shortly before Rodgers) know the guy calling plays in the huddle hadn’t actually been vaccinated?
What’s worse, Rodgers demanded the NFL treat the “treatment” as an actual vaccine–and when they didn’t, Rodgers demanded the Packers keep up appearances by letting him speak maskless, live, in front of media. That the Packers caved to that demand is far more embarrassing than when they agreed to Rodgers’s demand they bring old receiver Randall Cobb back.

Again, I don’t usually begrudge an NFL player wanting to play on their terms. If any player has earned the right to dictate the conditions under which he’ll play, it’s Rodgers: A Super Bowl-winning quarterback who’s been consistently, historically excellent at the game’s most important position for an unusually long time. But there’s testing your leverage against the NFL’s fraternity of billionaires, and then there’s refusing to take basic health precautions and insisting everyone pretends you did.
Vince Lombardi famously said that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing,” and I famously think that’s a stupid way to think about sports and life. But it’s the very importance Rodgers has to his team that makes this act so reckless, so stupid, so selfish. Besides taking the chance that teammates like Adams could suffer career-derailing long-term symptoms from a disease he helped spread, Rodgers’s absence will hurt the Packers’ chances of securing the NFC’s No. 1 seed—which is the only way to get a first-round bye, which is the best way to ensure you make a deep playoff run, which is what this whole “last dance” was supposed to be all about.
And if Rodgers is trying to set the stage for his next act, whether at a another team or in front of a camera, pulling this stunt has made for a very bad scene.
Spooky Flashbacks
Those of you who’ve been reading for a while know that church stuff can be…complicated for me. But being part of an extremely good and authentic live rendition of Veggie Tales’ “God is Bigger (Than The Boogeyman),” with performers and people I love, for an audience of kids I care about, is uncomplicatedly amazing:
The Disciples Dumb Dream - Worship Service 10/31
The Disciples Dumb Dream - Worship Service 10/31
Everything Awesome
I almost made this story the subject of this week’s essay. But I launched this newsletter by complaining about how Twitter’s rageohol-fueled engagement algorithm had made witches and witch-burners of us all, and I’ve returned to the subject often enough since then. Lee’s take on it is more personal; as a woman of color working in genre fiction, she’s experienced far more and stronger hate-waves than I ever have. But she also points out the compound after-effects of Twitter eating itself.
More and more marginalized creators are being pecked to death from the right and the left, more and more are leaving (or stepping back) because of it, and as a consequence there’s less of what makes Twitter good: new, emerging, marginalized, oppressed or even just clever creators putting organic, farm-to-table brain food in our timelines.
But the worst part, for me, is one Lee just briefly touches on: Twitter, ten years ago, was a place where artists and audiences could interact on equal footing—and audiences could listen in on (or even be a part of!) the back-channel discussions between their favorite creators were having on craft, industry gossip, tacos, whatever. There were cons to that coexistence, but there were pros, too. As artists increasingly retreat to their own spaces, those backchannel conversations become much more insulated, isolated, and cliquey. Emerging, marginalized creators can’t establish themselves in their scenes as easily, and established pros have to work harder to seek out, elevate, and protect the young voices.
As more and more creators shut out the world to focus on their work, that work will be less connected to, and less engaged with, the greater creative community—for better, or for worse.
“The debate about both siderism is an old one,” Lenz writes in her newsletter, and she’s far from the first to point out that media types weighing real people’s civil rights against manufactured grievances creates a false balance that does real harm (and rarely satisfies the bad-faithedly aggrieved).
But Lenz takes a personal angle to this insight—not only from the ground-up, in stories she’s worked on, but pointing out that the pressure to treat a Nazi and his victim as two parties in an ideological dispute comes from the top down.
Normally I only post work published/posted in the last week or so, but I’m making an exception for this one.
Radley Balko
There’s a lot going on tonight, but here’s some great news: If this story pans out, @LilianaSegura’s reporting has played a huge role in freeing a wrongly convicted man. Have it on good authority that her reporting caught the attention of the DA’s office.
My wife and I were “Forensics Files” fiends back in the day, and I get why people love police procedurals. But the reality is that a lot of the tools of the trade—from polygraphs to fiber evidence to arson investigation—are mostly bullshit.
Now, a man who’s spent almost 30 years of his life in prison for what was probably an accidental death might get freed because Segura’s story shone a light through the holes in the case. Brava.
Once upon a time, when I was trying to make the whole Full-Time Writer thing happen, I showed up at my local UPS place to apply for a part-time job sorting and loading packages. But there was an orientation first. They walked us through what the job would be, asked workers to explain what they were doing. Everyone seemed to be authentically happy to work there—and why not? The union-backed workers were paid well, with good benefits. Working alongside them for four hours a day sounded pretty workable to me, but those four hours being 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. did not.
Now Bloomberg’s citing UPS’s unionized, loyal, well-taken-care of labor force as a major strength in the current courier wars—and FedEx’s push-the-costs-onto-the-workers, loyalty-free permalance model as a liability.
Let’s hope other industries take notice.
If you noticed Gimme Schalter is a little bit short, and a little bit late, well, bless you for paying attention. I’ve totally been doing the #NaNoWriMo thing, starting with a local midnight write-in on Halloween night. But I’ve only eked out a few hundred words in the days since then, thanks to my freelance work (and life in general) taking up a bit more bandwidth than usual.
The Aaron Rodgers column that started this newsletter is a sharpened, truncated version of one I pitched to a new outlet—a pitch that had been cold-solicited (!) by an editor I’d never worked with before (!!). Super-excited to capitalize on the opportunity, I rushed out a pitch for an opinion column…only for both of us to realize we should have been more specific and clear about what kind of piece was being solicited/pitched before I actually did the thing.
It was a bummer to spent that writing time on a pitch that didn’t land—but I got my newsletter essay out of it, and I at least have contact with that editor now!
Meanwhile, I’m only about 1,000 words into A&A, well short of the 6,668 I should have been at when I woke up Friday morning. But it’s a good 1,000 words, repeatedly revised and edited as I dial in the flow, voice, world, and characters.
No, I know that’s not supposed to be how one does NaNo—but I’m not just trying to barf out 50,000 words of what amounts to manual Lorem Ipsum text, I’m trying to give my A&A idea a fair shot at being developed out and drafted. I won’t feel right about the next howevermany thousands of words if the first one doesn’t feel right and true, so it’s necessary fiddling that I’ve been doing.
But I also have to stop fiddling now and get cranking, or I’ll never get there.
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Ty Schalter

The latest thoughts, hottest takes, and coolest work of Ty Schalter, a professional writer & talker (@FiveThirtyEight, @ThreeOutPod). Lots of sports, geeky stuff, social commentary and more.

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