Good for Earl Thomas.
I mean, obviously, bad for ET, the way his season ended, again, with the cruel finger of fate selecting him for injury while randomly sparing others. It’s terrible. I don’t think hardly any of us can imagine how it feels. To lose your ability to do your job, to lose millions of dollars, to lose what makes you great, for a while at least. Maybe for a long while. It’s really, really hard to picture how that feels.
But good for him to flip the bird. Because he got screwed. In more ways than might be immediately apparent.
A brief franchise history lesson must precede any elaboration. This wasn’t the first time a Seahawks sideline received the exact same nonverbal communication from an active player. Of course it wasn’t, because... because Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks, where players are encouraged to be themselves, to express themselves, to live in a brotherhood, with everything that entails, positive and negative. That being said, it was easier at the time to excuse one Marshawn Lynch, for daring to
after a certain play-call reached the huddle near the goal line. Since Seattle finished the drive in question with a touchdown, like they tended to do so often years ago, Marshawn’s middle finger became a footnote to yet another victory. A cute footnote to some, an irksome one to others.
However. The result of Thomas’s play, the event that precipitated his own “fuck you” to the sideline, was not papered over with an ensuing score, a validation of the coaches, or any sort of happy denouement whatsoever.
Because Earl got screwed. In multiple ways. It’s why this happened:
Look. To be frank, I’m rather glad Earl Thomas flipped them the bird. He screwed up. They screwed up. Fate screwed up! Fate fucked Earl Thomas in the rudest way, removing his ability to do his job, his prospects of getting paid, and maybe planting new thoughts of retirement in his mind. A middle finger, especially one dripping with the slow-motion contempt above, is how people behave when they care. Good for him, being a real person, with real emotions, out there on camera, in front of everyone.
Thomas messed up. He thought he could force an extension or a trade, and thereby gain a new round of financial security, in a job where... where, well, your livelihood can be snatched from you on any play, through contact or not. He and his agents miscalculated the amount of leverage they held in negotiations, the effectiveness of a holdout, the safety market, and the intentions of the Seahawks’ front office.
Carroll and Schneider messed up. They thought they could get a trade or extension done, finagling some sort of compensation for Thomas during the season or afterward, should they decide to part ways permanently. Now that’s a very unlikely outcome. And unfairly, the player will pay the price with his body. The front office is partially to blame. They earned some of that middle finger. A knuckle or two belongs to them.
Also: Fate messed up. It chose Earl for football extinction, at least as far as 2018 goes. It chose him on a routine play, snapping his leg independent of a tackle or collision. Not that the circumstances make it any better, really. But the randomness here highlights how hideously fickle Fate can be when it wants.
cart. fuck. everything. pic.twitter.com/yBE5B68DCN— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) September 30, 2018
It’s literally the paint on the giant red A that trips Earl Thomas. The best safety in the NFL right now, and a bright piece of turf brings him down? What a cold, dark side to a brutal sport — and the only reason it’s not completely unjust is because the same shit keeps happening to players all across the league.
The middle finger episode (IT’S NOT AN INCIDENT) is a culmination of all those factors, into a single moment. One sad trip on a frickin’ butt-ugly cart, in which No. 29 showed the world how much he cared. And that’s what we should respect. (Or at least I will. Following along with my opinion is the most optional thing you can do today.)
Good for Earl, that in the worst or second-worst moment of his very public career, he let his disappointment, his anger, his exasperation out. Good for him that he didn’t hide any of those very real emotions, those impulses that make us human. Good for him, being real, in the moment.
The entire 2018 season is now in jeopardy; past editions of the Seahawks haven’t defended their opponents all that well without Thomas on the field. Allow myself to quote... myself —
I’ve seen the Seahawks play without Earl. It’s — it’s just not good football.— John Fraley (@johndavidfraley) September 30, 2018
Stats confirm. Thomas missed the last third of the 2016 season, and a Seattle defense that was allowing 15.7 points per game, fresh off a streak of leading the league in points allowed for four straight seasons, fell apart somewhat. Without him out there, suddenly they gave up 23.8 points per game and split their final six contests, including playoffs.
Let’s put away the numbers, though. Thomas’s extended middle finger isn’t for the fans, teammates, or the postseason prospects of the 2018 Seahawks. It’s an expression of authenticity. Because he craved security and nobody, including himself, did their job to make it happen. And now maybe the one thing he’s actually great at, in the one city where he excelled, maybe that chapter of his life is over. What authentic human wouldn’t want to flip someone off when it all came crashing down?