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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Alex Smith's Anger: Snubbed by His Own Team

Posted By on Tue, Mar 20, 2012 at 12:32 PM

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I haven't written a whole lot about football lately. It's partially because I was so fatigued by the season the Rams just went through that football just didn't seem much fun anymore. (Pro variety, anyway.) Another part of it is my personal disdain for Jeff 'Mouth of the South' Fisher, who the Rams hired as their new head coach. (Seriously, can't stand the guy. To the point I honestly don't like the team as much now.) 

The biggest reason, though, has been the simple fact there have been much more interesting things going on in St. Louis sports the past few months than the fate of the awful football team that plays here. Between two college basketball teams both having great seasons, a hockey team that has climbed to the pinnacle of the NHL, and the occasional Albert Pujols something or other, football has just kind of taken a back seat. 

But I have to say, there's a story going on in San Francisco involving one of the Rams' fiercest division rivals and their quarterback, that I find at least moderately fascinating. 

Here's the setup: I'm sure most of you know the name Alex Smith. In case you don't, Alex Smith is a quarterback. A great one in college at Utah under Urban Meyer, Smith went first overall in the draft and proceeded to serve as one of the great cautionary tales of the quarterback religion for the first seven years of his career. Too many different coaches, not enough protection up front, an arm that didn't have quite the oomph it needed to work tight windows or deep seams, and an eventual crisis of confidence all combined to keep Smith from ever making much of himself in the pros. 

Until last year, that is. Under new head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers underwent a rebirth of sorts, and no player benefited more from it than Alex Smith. Smith had an out-and-out good season, and San Francisco was a beast to play in 2011. Heading into the offseason, the future looked much brighter for both team and quarterback than it had in years. 

But then, something happened. See, Alex Smith is a free agent. The 49ers made him a contract offer. He was all set to accept it -- or a similar deal after a bit more haggling -- and then Peyton Manning came on the market. I'm sure you've heard of Peyton Manning. If you don't, um, go read something non-sports related. It would take much too long to bring you up to speed. 

Well, San Fran went hard after Manning, trying to convince him they were the perfect place for him to go and win another championship before his time in the league is well and truly up. (They were probably right, too.) And in the process of going hard after Peyton Manning, the 49ers put Alex Smith and his contract on the back burner. Actually, more like in limbo. 

Peyton Manning chose Denver. The 49ers called Alex Smith back. All was right with the world. 

Except, here's the problem: Alex Smith didn't like being put in limbo. It kind of pissed him off. So he went visiting other teams -- the Miami Dolphins most notably -- and actually started talking contract. And really, who could blame the guy? San Francisco made it clear he wasn't their first choice; taking even the prettiest girl in school to the prom isn't nearly as satisfying if you know she went after Chad with the blonde hair, the starting QB spot, and the trust fund before ending up with your homely ass. Don't get me wrong; it won't keep you from stealing her panties at the end of the night and keeping them in a gold filigree box in your closet the rest of your life (don't look at me like that; I know I'm not the only one), but it does kind of kill the buzz a little bit. 

But, here's the other thing: the Dolphins apparently didn't want Alex all that badly either. They signed David Garrard, who you might recognize as either the Jacksonville Jaguars' old quarterback or that guy who got you your fries at the downtown Jacksonville Burger King. Garrard isn't very good, to be honest, but the Dolphins jumped on him. Now they don't really need old Alex. (Yes, you most definitely should read that last bit in a Malcolm McDowell voice.) 

So where does that leave Alex Smith? Well, probably headed back to the San Francisco 49ers. And it leave the 49ers with Alex Smith at quarterback, same as last year. Except now he's got his feelings hurt. 

I can understand Smith's frustration. Nobody likes to be a second choice. Usually you don't know if you are; companies rarely offer you a job with the phrase, "Well, the guy we really liked got a better offer, so when can you start?" But in a business like the NFL, where virtually everything becomes public knowledge one way or another, it doesn't work that way. You are going to very publicly find out your team is looking in some other direction. 

On the other hand, though, I also don't feel all that bad for Alex Smith, and kind of think him being pissed off is a little silly. After all, the 49ers were trying to throw him overboard, yes, but for Peyton Manning. You don't really have a leg to stand on as far as getting upset when the guy taking your job is one of the best there has ever been or ever will be. 

I mean, don't get me wrong; I would be pissed if I found out the RFT was trying to replace me with some other writer. I happen to think I do a fairly good job most of the time. They aren't all gems, of course; some days just coming up with 500 words on anything is a knock-down, drag-out battle, and every once in awhile I do come up with something really, really stupid. But on the whole, I'm rather proud of what I do here. The RFT is trying to replace me with someone else, you say? Eff them, I'm too damned good for this lousy paper anyway! Nothing but sex ads and socialist propaganda anyway!

But, say that then I find out the ghost of James Joyce has come back to Earth. And he has decided, for whatever reason, that his preferred mode of employment while back on the mortal coil, and the way he would like to utilize his writing talents, is by taking a sports blogging position at an alt journal in St. Louis. (Don't ask me why James Joyce would do this. The guys is obviously nuts; have you ever tried to read Finnegan's Wake?) So the Riverfront Times has offered him a job. My job. 

Now, sure. I'm still pissed, but at the same time I'm not going to really blame the RFT. I mean, if you can get James Joyce's ghost to write angry, drunken diatribes about Colby Rasmus or make up a bunch of funny crap about injury terms, you take that plunge and you never look back. And you don't ask yourself what the guy you're currently paying to do those things is going to think of the Irish ghost you're bringing in to replace him. 

I don't expect this situation to become a train wreck. Smith will probably go back to the 49ers, Harbaugh will make up some BS about how much they love him, everybody will smile real big for the cameras and pretend they don't all wish everyone else in the room was dead. (In my family this is referred to as dinner.) We won't hear much more about it. Still, that's a fascinating dynamic, to me at least. How do you go back to a place when they were so eager to go in another direction? And how, if you're the team, do you build this guy's confidence when two months ago you couldn't wait to get your hands on what you unfortunate-word-choice'd in a series of leaked internal emails as a "real quarterback"? 

But I'm kind of hoping for the train wreck. Watching the 49ers self-destruct with Mike Singletary at the helm was fun. Watching them kick ass this year with that irritating motivational speaker they have for a coach now flat-out sucked. I miss the dysfunction. 

So Alex, maybe you go back to San Francisco, but you don't wear a flower in your hair, hmm? After all, those guys didn't really want you. They were going to offer an alcoholic Irish ghost your job! A ghost! No corporeal mass, and very little pocket mobility! Doesn't that piss you off?! Oh, wait, no, I'm losing my job to a ghost; you're losing yours to a guy who may or may not have a neck at this point. Doesn't that piss you off?! 

It should, Alex. It really should. After all, you're Alex Effing Smith! Just keep mentally screaming that all day every day. It's how I get through the day; I'll bet it works for you, too. 

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