Hey Cary Williams, It Does Matter What We Think

Cary Williams has not gotten off to a good start with the Eagles or it's fans.New cornerback Cary Williams hasn’t played one game in an Eagles uniform, but he has already vaulted to number one as my most hated Philadelphia athlete.  If you’ve been avoiding all major media and social media outlets who discuss Philadelphia professional sports this summer you probably haven’t heard the imprudent interview Cary Williams gave on the Mike Missanelli show on 97.5 the Fanatic last week.  I think fellow HighPhiver Joe Corrado summarized it best via his twitter account @corrado_19 when he said, “Imagine the ‘For who? For what?’ interview on steroids.”

Williams, a Cornerback who was signed as a free agent this offseason after winning the Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens last season, has been under the microscope lately for missing optional offseason practices called OTAs. His reason for missing them – he wanted to go to his daughter’s dance recital and needed to pick out a few items for the new house he and his wife are building. I don’t really want to get into whether these are legit reasons to miss OTAs or not. As a single man with no kids who has also rented his entire life I don’t know what goes into building a house, or how important a dance recital is.  However, I do realize the importance of making your family a top priority. In a day and age where professional athletes are far from model citizens, and seem to be lacking in sound family and ethical values, I commend him for putting his family before football. However, from a professional standpoint, it is clear that in his first season with a new team, a brand new NFL coach, and a new defensive scheme it would be beneficial for him to attend OTAs. Williams attended the last four OTAs as a member of the Baltimore Ravens, so clearly he understands the benefits of them. You would think there were negatives from missing OTAs that Williams would have to weigh when making this decision, but you wouldn’t know that based on his interview.

Williams takes a downright defiant stance to his interview with Missanelli. Every question that is asked, is retorted in a “How dare you ask me that question” tone.  Usually a professional athlete getting indignant with a member of the media doesn’t faze me, but when he resorted to the “people don’t understand how tough we got it” approach, my blood pressure really shot through the roof.  Nothing infuriates me more than professional athletes who complain about how rough their life is. Sure what they do is extremely demanding physically, and it is an extremely stressful career. These players are expected to perform and if they don’t it could mean the end of their career. I might never understand what dealing with that pressure is really like, but what I do know is 99% of the fans who watch Eagles games every Sunday would trade places with Cary Williams and his teammates in a heartbeat if they had the opportunity. I also know that most of those fans would do it for pay much less than Cary Williams is making this year (he is making a measly $750,000 base salary this season, but already received his $5 million signing bonus this offseason). He even goes on to say that they don’t get any time off during the season so he has to take advantage of these OTAs to make sure he gets enough time off. Yea, except most Mondays and every Tuesday which is mandated by the CBA, so for those keeping track he works 5 or 6 days a week during the season, or in other words, a work week for your average American, and then works much less during the offseason.

Throughout various points in the interview, Missanelli gives Williams opportunities to lighten his harsh stance asking him things like, “what do you think the fans think of you” and “what do you have to say to the Eagles’ fans out there” this is the point in the interview where Cary Williams’ ignorance and stupidity really made me laugh. Williams said, “I don’t care what the fans think of me.” Let’s get one thing straight, he absolutely cares what the fans think about him. Every athlete does. They would much rather be cheered and revered than booed, and if they say otherwise they are downright liars. Why would he say he doesn’t care, then? I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine, but remember, this is the guy who was dangerously close to getting ejected from the Super Bowl last year for getting into a fight and then pushing a referee out of his way – clearly this guy isn’t the sharpest tool at the Home Depot.

Cary Williams is not the first professional athlete to spurn the fans and he certainly will not be the last. Although, he might be the first one to spurn the fans of his new team without even playing in a single game.  I think the most frustrating thing about all of this from a fan’s perspective is it’s really not that difficult to not be a complete jerk to the fans and media. In fact, it is extremely easy. While I can somewhat understand that answering the same mundane questions asked repeatedly day after day can become annoying what I don’t get is why players just don’t give the answers the fans want to hear. It would have been easy for Williams to just say, “I really wanted to spend some time with my family. I asked Mr. Lurie if I could miss these and he approved. I understand the questions and concerns, but I promise I’m going to bust my rear-end this offseason to be ready to go. I am committed to giving this franchise, my teammates and this city, 100% of my best effort.” I could teach a six year old to give an interview to the sports media. Instead he decided to dwell on everything he missed while playing football, and how hard he has worked in the past. Newsflash Cary, you didn’t play one down for this team yet and we could care less about you playing in the Super Bowl last year. You haven’t accomplished squat here and last time I checked, this fan base is what allows you to get that big salary which bought you that new house.

Most professional athletes are not very good at seeing things through the eyes of the fans. Most of them grew up as the star athlete for their teams and now make a very good living playing a game we all loved to play as kids, so they don’t acquire the same life experiences that most of do that comes with growing up and becoming a real world adult. Things as simple as needing to save for 2 years in order to buy a car to replace your 1995 Buick Century, or picking up some extra hours at work so you can afford to take your significant other on a weekend getaway to the Shore. These are not problems the average professional athlete has to deal with, so it should not surprise the fans that the professional athlete cannot connect to them on a personal level.  Not connecting is one thing, but professional football is a business and when each player talks to the media they are representing their team and their team’s brand to the world, but more specifically to the brand’s customers – the fans. The lack of respect Cary Williams showed the fan base during this interview seems to be a reoccurring trend with the Eagles’ franchise and it’s one that needs to stop.

Friends of mine who are not hockey fans often tell me that Flyers fans aren’t really Philadelphia sports fans because they never really get on them, and constantly make excuses for them. I think this is somewhat a broad statement that is largely overblown, but I do think Flyers fans are much more loyal to the players than any of the other 4 major sports. I believe there is a logical explanation to this. I believe the Flyers’ entire franchise does a better job of pandering to the fans through the media than any other the other franchises by a large margin. The players seem much more down-to-earth during interviews and during in-person meetings. This is not a coincidence. The Flyers’ brass led by Ed Snider grew that franchise from the ground-up, and they realized very quickly that winning is ultimately the most important thing, but if you can’t win building up as much goodwill with the fan base as possible will go a long way. That is why the team hasn’t won a Cup is almost 40 years and they are still one of the most profitable franchises in the NHL, and are absolutely beloved by their fans.

The Eagles’ brass needs to address this problem. It seems like ever since Brian Dawkins and the last of the Andy Reid hay-day players left the franchise the Eagles’ as a group have been harder to root for, not just because they haven’t been as successful, but because they are one of the most ego-centric, selfish and heartless groups of players in recent memory. Cary Williams is just another player who fits into this mold. On a side note, do you see stuff like this happening in the successful franchises in the NFL? These stories are always coming from the Jets, the Eagles and the Cowboys, but I never hear stories like this coming from the Patriots, Packers or Giants. Coincidence? I doubt it. Many fans were hoping this would change during the Chip Kelly era. How much Chip Kelly had to do with the Cary Williams signing I don’t know. Hopefully though, Chip Kelly and Jeffrey Lurie can do one of two things. Either implement some kind of policy where your players show more respect to the fans and media, or win a Super Bowl. After all, if they win it all no one is going to care about what Cary Williams or any of the other Eagles are saying off the field.  We’re all hoping for that solution, but until then, Cary Williams and the Eagles should work on removing the figurative foot from their collective mouth.

Tags: , , , , ,

Kristopher Foulk

Avid Philadelphia professional sports fan residing in the Lehigh Valley. Enjoy playing poker in my spare time.