Unlike some teams, the Patriots did hold a practice today. In fact, they had a previously schedule intrasquad scrimmage in the stadium, complete with a clock and game officials. One veteran who did not participate was Devin McCourty. Not due to sitting out in protest, but because of an issue he called "separate" from current events when he spoke to the media afterwards. Which I guess we can take to mean he's dealing with an injury or it's a maintenance day or something.
Predictably, the issue of the chaos and unrest came up. And McCourty's response is one of those moments where you realize an athlete is speaking for a lot of us.
Let me interject here and say I'm not one who looks to athletes, coaches, entertainers or celebrities of any kind for guidance. The last time I took an athlete's advice I was a kid choking down Wheaties instead of delicious, sugar-packed Lucky Charms because Bruce Jenner convinced me they would help me be a better ball player. Since they didn't, I decided to let my philosophy be my own and form my opinions based on information from experts I respect. No offense to anyone making speeches from the podium on Oscar Night, but I feel like that's served me well.
But when a player is speaking with this much frankness and honesty about how he feels, how he doesn't have answers any more than you or I do, you can't help but take it to heart. The despair in his voice is something I think is universal at this point. We're all from different backgrounds and different perspectives, and it's like the one thing that we all have in common is not having a clue how to bring us all together. Or if that's even possible. And yet he goes in front of a webcam and has to answer questions about what to do like he's a world leader instead of just the leader of a football defense. And all he can do is throw up his hands, because what else is there?
And to me the most compelling point McCourty made was when he talked about wanting to practice just as an escape, and feeling sort of guilty about it. I don't know anyone who's not to some extent diving into our jobs or watching sports or Netflix or goofy YouTubes for some escapist entertainment. Because your brain and your soul can only take so much terrible reality. And as far as boycotting games to make a statement, “If we boycott Week 1, does it matter if we come back and play Week 2?" he said. "I don’t know.”
None of us do.
What makes this all the more powerful is that McCourty is just a few weeks removed from his wife losing a pregnancy at eight months, which is one of the heartbreaking things imaginable that two human beings could go through. And now he's like the rest of us, watching the world burn. Except like most 33-year-olds, he gets asked to address an impossible situation because he's got a high profile job. And all he can do is apply a time-honored football aphorism to world events by adding, "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse."
I think we can all agree are definitely not getting better. But in the case of Devin McCourty today at least, this is one athlete who does speak for me.