Monday, September 15, 2008

Losing Games, Wrecking Homes, And Ruining Lives

One word, two syllables. Fav-ruh.

He is the Iago to my Othello. The Pharaoh to my Moses. The Gargomel to my Papa Smurf. And, as we all know, he is trying to ruin my life.

There has been such an air of celebration since his arrival in the City, such a sense of unbridled glee. And I must confess to having felt a little bit lonely. Was it really the case that I was the only one who felt personally affronted by the fact that Farvil hadn’t just stayed in Wisconsin? Who were these bandwagon Fav-ruh fans, and how did their brains work? Was there an actual thought process that precipitated the donning of the green cheesehead? An internal struggle? A wondering, “Why?” Or merely a willingness to abandon all reason? Whatever the case, I had come to the painful revelation that perhaps, when it came right down to it, I was alone in the world.

But it turns out I was wrong.

You see, someone else in New York was a little less than thrilled to see Pennington displaced by Farvil, and that some was Laveranues Coles. And after weeks of silence on the subject, he has finally decided to tell the media all about it.

Coles has said of his relationship with Pennington that it “goes deeper than just football.” That they have a “special” connection. And anyone who knows anything about Coles knows that he is not reckless in declaring any relationship to be “special.”

In 2005, Coles went on Oprah to reveal that he had been sexually molested at gunpoint by his stepfather. His mom worked the night shift, and his stepfather abused him when she was at her job. Not surprisingly, Coles became angry as he moved into adolescence, acting out his rage in ways that often got him in trouble, occasionally with the law. But truth will out. And it did—thanks to an exceptionally perceptive police officer who suspected that there was something underlying Cole’s rebellion. With some persuading, Laveranues eventually opened up to the cop, and his stepfather was finally put away for nine years.

Laveranues was deeply traumatized by the events of his childhood. He went through his life as a loner, confiding in few people. "If I had a problem, I dealt with it internally," he said. "I was in my own little world for a long time." Clearly, it is in Coles’s nature to want to conceal himself, so his decision to go on Oprah is a tribute to his character and bravery. He said that, as a public figure, he felt it was his duty to speak out. "Here I am, a professional athlete, with the opportunity to say something and maybe reach one child that this is happening to, and give him the courage and the strength to come out and say 'this is happening to me and this is wrong.'"

Since his stepfather's arrest, Coles and his mother had never discussed the abuse until the two of them went on the show together. But if anyone was going to get then talking, it was Oprah. I won’t rehash the details for you, but let’s just say, there was a lot of healing. I mean, obviously—Oprah.

Despite the fact that Coles is described as winsome and likable by his teammates, he still has a tendency to keep people at bay. In 2006, he built himself an $8 million dollar home made of concrete, which he described as a “place where he could hunker down.” One got the sense that he was attempting to build a physical fortress—using one of the most impenetrable of all materials—to protect himself. Coles has said, “I try to extract myself from reality.” Considering what he’s been through, and how it has shaped his experience of the world, it’s not so hard to understand.

In Pennington, however, Coles has found a friend in whom he feels he can instill his total confidence. And for a guy like Coles, who has struggled all his life to feel close to people, to trust them, that’s pretty major.

Both Pennington and Coles were drafted to the Jets in 2000, and Coles describes their connection as being instantaneous. "We had it the day we walked through the doors." Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger ain’t got nothin’ on them. Other than Scientology and, in Renee’s case, the uncanny ability to always look like she just ate a lemon.

Coles went onto say, "We had special chemistry. We never sat and watched film and never really did a lot of things together. We just knew." And when you know, you know. But as someone who was a fan of the Jets for the past several years, reading this, I sort of feel like, well, it actually would have been nice if maybe, just once in a while, you had watched a little film together.

Given the depth of their relationship, you can see why Coles would have been less than thrilled to have Pennington cast aside. And though he would never say so explicitly, one gets the sense that Coles is a little resentful towards the guy who made it happen: F-A-R-V—Farv, Farv, Farv!

In football, it is fairly customary for players to laud their quarterback. And Farvie has gotten nothing short of a royal welcome from his teammates on the Jets. Cotchery, in particular. While Coles has certainly not spoken ill of Farv, focusing most of this week’s comments on Pennington, he did have this to say about Farvil, "I don't have a feel for him and he doesn't have a feel for me. That's one of the things I am going to have to deal with. In the past, I always knew when the ball was coming. Now, you don't really know. It's totally different for me as a player. It is what it is. He's getting adjusted and I'm trying to do what I'm supposed to do." He also added, in reference to Pennington, “To be honest, I would never expect to have the same relationship with anybody that I had with him.”

Now call me crazy, but those sort of sound like the words of someone who is not particularly happy. Someone who has been robbed of something incredibly important and meaningful to him. Someone who, like me, has had his life ruined. By Brett, well, you know his last name.

But that’s not to say that Coles and I are the only ones who are going through it. Fav-ruh himself has had his share of woes since his courageous decision to unretire. (Other than yesterday’s loss to a Brady-less New England.) That, incidentally, as a refresher, was the decision that ruined my life—and Vernie’s. After his fifth practice, Farvil commented, “I wondered this morning what in the heck am I doing.” (Yeah, so do we.) “The answer to the question is: I love to play. I hate to study. At times I hate to practice, but I love to play.”

So, even I have to admit that the guy has it a little rough. You know, having to do all that hard work when all he wants to do is the fun stuff. There’s got to be some well-meaning, nerdy girl out there who is willing to watch his game film for him, no? Even if he fake promises to take her to the prom?

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