Vincent Jackson’s Redemption Song

Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Blogging. Integrity. Sadly, all too often, these two words do not mix very well. Over a few drinks a couple of months ago, a friend and I were doing the usual: cracking jokes and talking sports. That led to a conversation about starting our own little blog for guys like us in San Diego, a platform for our comedic genius and ridiculous knowledge of both sports and pop culture. We had our fingers on the pulse of the social media world, so why not? In our spare time, we’d keep our ears open, and if something came up, we’d blog about it, whether that meant critique, insults, praise, laughter, satire…whatever. That’s sports journalism in a nutshell, right? Take what the news gives, and run with it. Wait, blogging is not sports journalism? Is it? I recently read an article in GQ Magazine found here about Deadspin’s A.J. Daulerio. The title, and the caption that follows, sums up my concern with blogging and integrity. It reads “The Worldwide Leader in Dong Shots: With his leering coverage of Brett Favre’s penis (allegedly!), Rex Ryan’s foot fetish, and the surprising sex life of ESPN, A.J. Daulerio has turned into the raunchiest, funniest, and most controversial sports site on the Web. But at what cost to his soul? And hell, to sports journalism itself?” At what cost to his soul… and to sports journalism? Fantastic question. It’s one that I had not pondered when I decided to start a San Diego sports blog. This question, however, found me.

So, after generating a small follower base on Twitter on our @LobShots account, we decided to start our website. The timing was perfect, I had won a Twitter contest with our local radio station, XX1090, to bowl with celebrity athletes at the Gonzalez Sports Academy Celebrity Bowling Bash, a send off party of sorts for San Diego’s hometown hero, Adrian Gonzalez, before he split for Spring Training with the Red Sox. Seemed like a great opportunity to go brush shoulders with some professional athletes, with many past and present Padres and Chargers in attendance. Even better, one of our Twitter followers (@gaslampball), asked me to write a Fan Post about my experience at the event on their website. Gaslamp Ball is a SBNation blog, with many readers, so I thought I’d do the post for them and link it up to our LobShots website. So, I wrote a blog about my experience at the event, and spoke of my interactions with a few different sports personalities, namely Padres Cy Young winner Randy Jones, and Chargers WR Vincent Jackson. All was fine, Gaslamp Ball tweeted my post, generating readers and an excerpt from the blog was posted by John Gennaro on a San Diego Chargers blog, Bolts from the Blue (@BFTB_Chargers), another SBNation blog. From here it was retweeted again. Somewhere along the line, Vincent Jackson caught wind of the blog. You can read the full blog here, but below is the excerpt I wrote concerning Vincent Jackson.

Worst conversation of the night: Vincent Jackson. First of all, VJax was the biggest football star there, and he wasn’t even advertised on fliers for the event, which I thought was bizarre. Anyway, here’s how my convo with VJ went down. “hey VJ, how’s it going” as we shake hands “good man, how you been?” (we’ve run into each other a few times at Miller’s Field and Shore Club in PB, so he might’ve recognized me) “great, man. so glad you came back… was really nice to have you out there. I hope you stay for next year.” His response? “Bro, I live here, I never left.” and he walked away. What a dick. Listen, VJ, I get that you’re pissed at AJ about the contract and the money you lost, but guess what… nobody cares. You handled that situation like a dumbass and so did he, and you both paid the price. The Bolts missed the playoffs and you missed your payday. You never left? You left the field, dude. You think when AGo is playing in Boston next year he’s gonna tell Padres fans he never left b/c he still owns a place up in Mt. Soledad? No, b/c he’s not an idiot. So, get off your high horse and carry out a conversation with someone who’s clearly complimenting you and your play on the field. Off the field? Just one more ‘case in point’ of your idiocy and poor judgment. Oh, and you suck at bowling too.”

So, to recap… in response to a 10 second conversation I had with VJ, I called him “a dick”, “a dumbass”, “an idiot” and told him he was on a high horse, had poor judgment, and as icing on the cake…he sucked at bowling. A few hours later, I checked my personal Twitter account, @bradyphelps, and found that @VincentTJackson had sent me a tweet, and a Direct Message (DM). Gulp. He had read the article and was clearly not pleased. He explained that there was a misunderstanding, and kindly told me to “man up” if felt slighted…don’t blog about it. Feeling fairly justified in my comments, harsh as they might have been, I tweeted back to him. “If there was a misunderstanding, forgive me, I’d love to set the record straight. DM me ur email & we can chat. I’ll man up“. To my surprise, he did exactly that. He sent me his email account, and a couple more tweets.

So, I crafted an email to him, I won’t post my entire email, but I explained the way I perceived our interaction and shared my frustration, along with another main point, that regardless of our encounter, “I think my blog post represents the general fan perception of you here in San Diego, and nationally. That perception is this: You’re an insanely talented football player that has the potential to be the best in the NFL, but you make idiotic decisions off the field that prevent you from reaching greatness on the field. I’m not in the minority of fans, bloggers, and media alike that believe the Bolts would have certainly been in the playoffs if you’d been with the team the whole season.” The way I reacted to Vincent at the bowling event was not just about my short conversation with him, rather, my response combined my built up frustration from this past off-season and contract negotiations, missed games, DUI’s, an arrest prior to playoff game, and a kicked penalty flag during a playoff game. Finally, I asked him where the misunderstanding was anyway? He was a jerk, period. Well, what came next shocked me. Not just a response from VJ, but a very lengthy email response explaining our interaction, explaining his situation, and explaining who he is as a person. I was floored. Here was a superstar All-Pro NFL wide receiver taking the time to have that conversation that I had hoped for a few nights earlier, off his high horse. He was a normal person, a real person. I know what you’re thinking… “of course he’s going to be nice to you, he wants you to do exactly what you’re doing… write a blog about how great he is since you bashed him”. Well, I thought about that… and you’re wrong. I asked for an interview, and asked to share our conversation. He gracefully declined and actually asked that I respect him by not quoting him. Well, you won’t find any quotes from him here, but here’s what I learned from him.

I learned that athletes have to deal with crazy fans all the time… pumping gas, checking out at the grocery store, at the movie theater… and they deal with it, accept it… it’s the price they pay for money and fame. They sign autographs, take pictures, and carry on pointless conversations. It comes with the territory. Although you and I may be very rational, intelligent people in our normal lives, when it comes to our fanhood, something changes in us. We get a little crazy when it comes to our sports teams. We want what’s best for us, and what’s best for us as fans is a championship, no matter the cost. Imagine how you’d feel if someone came up to you and told you what to do with your life, what job to take, what city to live in, and if one psycho that struck up a conversation with you didn’t like the way it went down… watch out, you just might get blasted in a blog. Vincent knows he’s made some mistakes off the field, mistakes he doesn’t intend to make again, but he also knows his value to this league and whichever team is willing to pay him what he’s worth. From what I hear, he’s a great locker room personality and his presence and value on the field is undeniable. So, were my harsh words for Vincent merited? At the time, I certainly thought they were. Today, I can unequivocally say I was wrong. I certainly didn’t think VJ would read my words, or that he’d present his point of view to me in regards to our conversation. Did he ask for an apology? No. Did he ask for a redemption story? No. He asked to be respected in the same way you and I want to be respected. So, here I am, clearing my own conscience, doing my best to mix integrity and blogging. Sorry, VJ, for judging you when you didn’t deserve to be judged. Thanks for taking the time to unknowingly teach me a character lesson in humility.

Sports blogging is a funny thing. Bloggers walk a very fine line between playful ribbing and painful ripping. Bloggers will always poke fun at athletes, and generally athletes accept that, but sometimes, it can hit a little too close to home. Playful ribbing brings smiles, laughter, and shock value to all. Painful ripping brings hurt and sadness to those on the receiving end, and maybe a laugh to the readers. Clearly, my blog toward VJ was the latter, so let me make myself clear…my hope is a selfish one. I hope the Bolts put a franchise tag on him. I hope AJ and VJ set their differences aside and sign a long term contract so that Philip Rivers can have VJ as a target for many years to come. Wishful thinking, I know. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to keep blogging, not setting aside integrity in my pursuit of comedy and quality…playful ribbing. As for you, Vincent Jackson, wherever you land, rest assured the city and the team will be better with you there… but who am I kidding? You already know that.

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12 Responses to Vincent Jackson’s Redemption Song

  1. AJM says:

    You aren’t the only one to have been critical of VJ. I have said similar things based on my perceptions of him. From where does my perception stem? From his actions both on and off the field but an even larger part of my VJ opinion comes from listening to him on XX last year after the Jets loss. He was a guy who took very little responsibility for any of his shortcomings and showed that he wasn’t too high on accountability. To call him a dick… I think would be fair.

    Fast forward…. VJ meets you at a charity event and has an opportunity to mingle with fans and what does he do? He says something that is beyond dickish! Your comment was complimentary towards him and a simple “I appreciate it” would have been the right thing to say. After all, you help to pay the salary that he forfeited.

    Did you go overboard with your condemnation? Yea probably. But the fact of the matter is we’re judged by what we do and what we say. Vincent Jackson is an educated man and he should know that.

    I applaud your decision to “be accountable” for what you wrote. Accountability is an under-rated character trait….

    For the record:
    I have no issue with any blogger/human type eviscerating an athlete when it is warranted. We’re all fair game when we eff-up.

    • LobShots says:

      fair game, indeed. appreciate your comments…and as you pointed out, i did go overboard, but i can only speak for myself, and in this case…just trying to right a wrong. i’m sure there will be plenty of times in the near future where i dish out warranted criticism, and it’s not retracted. this time just wasn’t one of them. take care, my man.

  2. John says:

    Appreciate what Mr. Jackson and his fellow NFL’ers have to endure for their fame and fortunes. To be in their shoes would be difficult and doubt I would have any patience with the ‘public’. They are employed in a violent game and probably take most of their frustrations, with the public and media and general managers, on each other on the field. I agree that they should try to make the most money they can while they can. As “entertainers” their careers don’t usually last long.
    One point of contention I do have is this – don’t call playing football a battle or war – it is neither. If you had been subject to either you would know the difference, everytime I hear that I feel as if I have been smacked in the face – I know battles and I know war and it is not a game.
    To validate their earnings they say “my career could end in one moment”, so does the careers or life of everyone and most don’t make millions in a lifetime let alone ‘per year’. Whether your NFL career last one year to twenty – enjoy the time you have – it is a priviledge not available to most of us. You show you have what it takes to get to the NFL, you practice, you workout, you train, you eat right, you do all the things to ensure your physical and mental preperation is ready for this job. We as fans respect the efforts you have put forth. As fans we watch the games and follow the NFL because it gives us a chance to be part of a winner, yes we feel we are a part of any win and are therefore a part of the losses too, because it is “our team”. Many of us stick with our team through the losing years and well as winning years. It is this loyalty that sometimes bothers us, we know it is a business for players, agents, GM’s and owners………for fans it is a game to watch, a team to root for, and players to cheer on year after year. In the end all we want is to win the big one and thereby gain bragging rights in support of our team.

    • LobShots says:

      hey john – you made some good points. one point of clarification though, I don’t believe I made any parallels to war/battle in this post when it comes to athletes doing their job/playing a game. if i did, apologies, it was unintended. if you’re just making a generalized statement in regards to athletes, well, then… I agree with you on that point…no comparison.

    • Darnell2B says:

      I don’t know why people like you refer to work as a “priviledge”, but i hear it a lot from the right. Instead of reacting the usual way when I am dumbfounded by the right, I’ll ask you to explain instead. Why do you think your work and other’s work is a priviledge when somebody else is gaining something from your labor, time, skills, talent, knowledge and/or creativity??

  3. Jeff Holmes says:

    Nicely written!! Well done!

  4. Sugar Jones says:

    Wow… you really did tear into him after that short interaction, didn’t you? 😉 I can see how your frustration from the season as a fan shot out like that, though. I, for one, had no love for a certain kicker from our Chargers the two years prior to this season.

    What’s fascinating to me is that the two of you had the patience and understanding to continue the dialogue. You could have just stuck to your words and ignored the “man up” comment. He could have just ignored your further communication, especially after being called all those lovely names. Not sure why, but we all seem to let our insults fly a little more freely on the blogs and on-line. Maybe because even though we’re not really anonymous, there’s no one right there at that moment? Sometimes, the back-and-forth can get really ugly. I can see how a sports blogger and an athlete might have turned this into a really nasty fight.

    Way to be gentlemen instead.

    • LobShots says:

      thanks, i really appreciate your insight, sugar… and the retweet as well.
      and you’re right… it could’ve gotten ugly fast. honestly, even if he never responded to my email, i was pretty impressed he gave it to me in the first place… a big leap of faith, considering i could’ve just cut/pasted the whole thing into a blog and ripped him some more.
      thanks for making san diego a better place. take care. -brady

  5. Ali cosh says:

    Whoa there, sounds likas excuses to me. As a fan you never get to know your teams players on a personal level. So it is his stupid short-sighted actions that he is judged by; that is how I judge him. I would love to seem him on the road to redeeming himself in whatever city he lands, but is SD he has a long road. So go pump gas and go get groceries with a smile and a pen to sign every piece of memorabilia shoved in your face. VJ dug the hole, time to dig himself out.

    You didn’t go overboard, i feel stronger about his actions than you wrote. The snub was just the salt in the wound. VJ doesn’t need a new city, just to understand his actions are all we know of him

  6. John says:

    note: you did not reference ‘war /battle’, it is usually done by game announcers and players.
    I was pleased as peach when SD drafted Mr. Jackson…..I had him on my draft wish list and was hoping that AJ would pick him and was excited when it happened. Have appreciated his play and abilities.
    p.s. also wanted the team to draft Ben Roethlisberger but am very happy with Mr. Rivers

  7. Darnell2B says:

    It’s crazy to see how far you had to go to get back to reality and common sense. At least you figured “it” out in the end and “man’d up”. What is “it” you and some of these morons may be asking?? Well…. “it” is celebrity, athletes, fame, wealth, etc.. Things you clearly knew very little about, until after you acted the way you did, got a reaction from your target and finally figured it out. I’m not going to go on and on but, I am giving you props for owning up to your mistakes and putting it out there for these other morons to possibly learn from. I refer to them as morons because of how judgmental and “know it all” sports fans and Bolt fans can be. Glad to see you’re on “our” side now pal! 😉

  8. See, I agree and disagree with this post. Athletes are celebrities, but they are not gods. They’re just normal people – and yes, they HAVE chosen their profession and to be in the public eye.

    And I think of athletes I have met that have been gracious and nice – almost every NHL player out there – and those that have not been – almost every baseball player I’ve met. And I think of Charles Barkley, who has a mixed reputation but was sweet when my Mom went up to him to say hello. But that might be the thing: she apologized for interrupting him, told him she enjoyed him as a player in Phoenix and that she thinks he’s funny and great on TV. He smiled, laughed and thanked her … and she went away, didn’t ask for an autograph or anything.

    Yes, it sucks to be in the limelight. But they get paid for it. If anyone needed to man up, it was the athlete at the celebrity event with fans. And yes, we all have bad days.

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