By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) The NFL Draft Combine is one of America’s more dystopian functions. Let’s take the products of lucky genetics, mix in some weight and pills and powders and personal trainers and then make the large young men prance and yawn and turn and cough to determine who’s worthy of the master race of America’s religion.
But it’s not just the physical that separates the elite from the neighborhood guy at the end of the bar who once got a tryout with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The combine infamously involves a cavalcade of quack psychology to best determine whether potential draftees can equally pull off a wheel route while pondering life’s deeper questions.
About a year ago, former Bears defensive lineman Austen Lane tweeted out a few of the questions scouts asked him at his combine, which included the oedipal and preferred method of murder. Dez Bryant was famously asked pre-draft if his mom was a prostitute. And then there’s the supremely flawed Wonderlic test that’s supposed to be confidential but always has its scores leaked and mocked.
What all the mental poking and prodding has to do with the ability to hit hard or be elusive, most can’t really explain, but damn if pro football won’t find ways to strip players of humanity and individuality. That’s the ideal player — the cyborg, the apolitical, the non-sentient drone, the kind of devolutionary thinker who believes a hot dog is not a sandwich.
This bothers me. A young man who understands that a hot dog is a sandwich is exactly the type of leader I want on my team. And it is a sandwich. It’s No. 53 on the Periodic Table of Sandwichry, which hangs in my classroom because I’d fail as my job if I didn’t convey difficult truths to my students. NASA says so. So does Wikipedia. Jim’s on Maxwell St. and any other restaurant worth its tubed meat agrees.
Ditto Eleanor Roosevelt.
Webster’s defines a sandwich as “two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between.” Hot dog-as-sandwich is standard English. Arguing against this has already approached historical foolishness and Kyrie-esque flat earth fizzy thinking. And yet if an NFL Draft prospect were to be so progressive as to affirm such an obvious fact, it would give a team pause. It’s not just a football issue either.
This is just another shot at potential pro athletes who are forward thinkers, who are creative, independent spirits, who don’t bow to fallacies of tradition. Marquette King is a punter. Why do you know who King — an otherwise lowly punter — is? Because he’s outspoken and funny. He bucks the trend of punters as interchangeable faceless legs. He also knows that a hot dog is a sandwich.
Who doesn’t believe a hot dog is a sandwich? Chris Johnson, record-holder for 40-yard dash time at the combine. Johnson made the Pro Bowl in his first three seasons and not a one in six seasons since. This just goes to show that such thinking can’t sustain. It’s illogic, like a stale bun, and falls apart.
Anthony Rizzo knows a hot dog is a sandwich.
All Rizzo has done lately is be the leader of the first Chicago Cubs team to win a World Series in 108 years. The NFL talks a lot about the need for leaders. Well, here’s a leader for you – someone willing to step out from the idiot blob and say, “No, a hot dog is a sandwich like any other. We need to stop judging based on two pieces of bread or even ‘bread’ at all. Yes, even a taco and a quesadilla and a wrap. They all have worth, and I am not one who will discriminate so coldly.”
I want a player on my team who can enter a huddle and say, “Why not a pizza as sandwich? If I fold it, it’s a calzone, right?” To paraphrase Shylock from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, you persecute not the open-faced sandwich. How does it differ from a pizza? Hath not a pizza bread? Hath not a pizza cheese, sauces, vegetables, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, sliced with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, eaten by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a hoagie is? If you prick a pizza, does its sauce not bleed? If pizza is like your sandwiches in the rest, pizza will resemble them in that.
That dude can run my two-minute drill any day. Because that’s the kind of leader we need on the field and off in this era of fascism, sandwich and otherwise, an era with the obtuse, antiquated clinging to the pixelated, stacked thinking of bygone Burger Time where the weiner is the villain.
A hot dog is a sandwich. A football player who understands this is a thinker, which might scare NFL teams who bank on brainless doers. To hell with that and a win-by-attrition mentality that throws body and body into the breach.
Don’t talk to me of leadership in scouting if you’re going to be regressive and hypocritical and spurn true leaders.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.