By Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — Ndamukong Suh must understand something:
Nobody outside of his inner circle gives a rip about his private life and intimate thoughts. As long as he abides by the same laws as the rest of us, what do I care what he does or thinks? Why should any of us care?
But he’s a public figure, regardless of whether he likes it. That’s the price paid when you become one of the brightest stars on the most popular reality-TV program in the country: the NFL.
Unwanted microscopic attention comes with the fat paycheck he draws twice a month, as well as the commercial endorsements that have transformed him into a transcendent, atypical football figure.
That requires him to be more openly accountable for his actions than the anonymous.
It’s not difficult to figure out.
Suh has the right to stonewall if he chooses, but he can’t chastise those keeping alive a story that he insufficiently buried. If Suh can’t appreciate the interest in how he assumes responsibility for his missteps, there’s the door right over there. He can walk away from the game and the limelight at any time. Nobody’s holding a gun to his head.
But the problem is that Suh wants it both ways. He wants the acclaim of celebrity without the annoyances, namely reporters seeking a little more clarity to cloudy issues and talking heads playing basement psychologist.
If that’s the case, NFL star is the wrong occupation for him.
This is the league that craftily romanticized controlled violence by using media to its advantage. The NFL just announced its new television-rights contract extensions with CBS, Fox and NBC. When you factor in the recent extension with ESPN for “Monday Night Football,” it’ll generate more than $2 billion annually, further solidifying the NFL as the gold standard in television entertainment. That means more money for the players, but it also means more exposure and more light on players’ perceived blemishes.
Don’t blame the media, Ndamukong. Blame the business you chose.
This league creates personalities who become larger than the person.
Tim Tebow has become the 13th apostle. If there’s ever a new New Testament, there will be a Book of Tebow. He has become something much bigger than a strong-willed quarterback of limited passing aplomb. In some hearts, he has become the embodiment of a higher, mystical force.
And you don’t think the NFL loves this?
There’s no doubt that New England vs. Denver on Sunday will be the most watched regular-season game this year, if not one of the most watched nonplayoff games of all time.
And I suspect there are those within the NFL who privately appreciate Suh’s stubborn unwillingness to fit a specific prototype. Telling the media where to stick it certainly can endear one to a public that conveniently points a finger at the media for all political and social ills.
But it doesn’t help Suh understand that buying into the NFL publicity machine means sacrificing some personal privacy. He wants to move on from his two-game suspension. No kidding. Fans want to move on. And trust me on this one: The media wants to move on, too. But Suh needed to get called out for his apparent indifference to his responsibilities as a private man in a very public business.
©2011 the Detroit Free Press