This is the first in what I am going to write as an occasional article in a new series. I’m still not sure what to call it … will be something like, “Tack THIS on the Wall” or perhaps “The View from inside the Fish Bowl.” I don’t know, but this is the first edition.
The idea is to ponder what an athlete must wonder about what is publically said and written about him or her. They live in a fish bowl world – public figures where anyone can, and will, say just about anything about them, especially when the circumstances involve diminished numbers or performance. Athletes at some points must be furious about what they hear – becoming annoyed to the point of pinning it on the wall for incentive. Other times it must amaze them and leave them shaking their heads in disbelief or laughter.
If I was new Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, I don’t think I would be very pleased about the remarks his most recent coach – Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera – said about me. “He’s got a lot of football left. He’s not the vertical speed guy that he was. He still has the speed, but not the vertical, top-end.”
That is sort of like a girl hearing that her ex-boyfriend said, “She’s just not as pretty as she used to be. Oh, she’s pretty in an ordinary sort of way, but not in the stylish way she used to be.”
Rivera also suggested that Smith needs to chill out a bit on his intensity, particularly on the practice field – you know, for his own good, so that he doesn’t get hurt and lose his speed. Though the official word from North Carolina is that Smith was not some sort of intensity distraction, I certainly prefer the positive spin from Coach Harbaugh on this characteristic, saying, “He’s going to be great with our young receivers. He’s going to show them a little bit of the way in practice how to compete on Sunday. I’m excited about that.”
According to Charlotte-based writer and reporter Darin Gantt in this NBC Sports article, Steve Smith will indeed use these Rivera remarks as a way to build incentive … “That sound you hear is Smith hitting ‘print’ right now, so he can tack this on his personal bulletin board in anticipation of the ‘blood and guts’ game the Ravens play against the Panthers this year. Smith has always used perceived slights as motivation, even if he had to invent them. This just makes it easier for him.”
And it must also leave Smith texting or tweeting a #SMH to it all, as he is committed to the Charlotte area in his community work and continued choice for his personal residence.
Smith can still be another threat with the deep ball, and beyond that, he’s not the only Smith on the Ravens who corners and safeties are going to need to keep in front of them. And we haven’t even mentioned the Joneses and Browns.
In any event, the game this coming season between the Ravens and the Panthers is going to have a lot of anticipation and print – enough for Steve Smith to wallpaper a room. Like this additional Rivera dandy, “I know he’s going to be 35, but I still know he’s going to be a very competitive guy. He’s going to will himself to do some things. But I think as the season wears on, if he hasn’t taken the time that he’s needed off between the games, he might slow down.”