Fooch's Note: We've discussed Alex Smith in every manner possible. Here's a great look at him through the eyes of the movie Gladiator. Definitely worth a move to the front page.
When we learned about ancient Rome in school, we read about the lust for blood that consumed the masses as the Thousand Year Empire entertained itself (in part) to extinction. We heard about their preoccupation with the games, the coliseum, and the gladiators, and we saw it illustrated for us in Russell Crowe's The Gladiator back in 2000. However, I think we can all attest to the fact that we were significantly more affected by the life of Maximus than we were about the gladiators of ancient Rome we read about in school. We read about the gladiators on one page of the history book, but we were still half-mindedly preoccupied with Confucius on the page before. And when we turned the page a few seconds later to read about medieval Europe, we quickly forget about both Confucius and Rome. Who were those gladiators to us? Words on a page, and not much more.Our experience was significantly different as we watched The Gladiator, however. We saw Maximus the Gladiator, honorable, committed to his country, loyal to his king, devoted to his family, a fearless warrior driven by principle, Maximus the man, and we were enraptured with respect for him, and ashamed with ourselves that we are not more like him. We watched in disbelief as he was betrayed by those closest to him, and sold like a common goat out of envy of the worst kind. We felt with him as he saw with his own eyes his family brutally murdered and his property destroyed, both of which he poured himself into, cared for, labored for, sacrificed for, lived for, and gladly would have died for. From our couches and our seats in the theaters we saw how blind, ignorant, and shallow the crowds really were as they drunkenly, feverishly cried for the blood of someone, anyone. They didn't care if it was Maximus or not; they didn't know who he was, or his story, or his situation. They just wanted to see some blood and would go home happy if it were his, and would never in their lives give a second thought the fact that he was a man, like them, and had a family, like them, and a story, like them, and a desire for meaningful existence, like them.
But we knew him, and his family, and his story, and we had a certain glimpse of a real life that had been carefully cultivated for years and years, and then was viciously trod upon in a heartbeat by fools. This man, a man that we knew and were intimately acquainted with, was to the masses a nameless, faceless nobody. But we knew him, and had invested ourselves in him, and we knew his story. We knew he was a man, like us, and we hoped for him.
So what's my point in all this? My point in all this is that very often I am impressed with the reality that Alex Smith is not really a man to the masses, to most of us. He's an idea, and not a very good one. He's a concept, a thing with height, weight, and physical measurables. He's an image on the screen and on the page, like the gladiators of ancient Rome, and we are the masses who are totally detached from them in our own self-absorption. He's a number, an action figure made of plastic, like army men, and most of us ascribe to him the same garage sale value. As a matter of fact, most of us, as we sit on our lofty thrones of football omniscience, probably would feel insulted if someone tried to sell him to us at a garage sale price.
For my own part, I wonder how difficult it has been for Alex Smith to have his dignity trampled upon and his integrity as a man despised... and for what? Because he hasn't thrown a football the way we'd like, which is, after all, the basis of his self-worth and his value as a human being. I wonder how many times his wife has comforted him in the privacy of their own home as the whole world has gnashed their teeth at him, written him off, and castigated him. I wonder how many times he's felt like a failure, and agonized, and questioned himself with despair, and felt like quitting. I know how it feels when I feel like a complete failure (especially when all the evidence points to that reality), and how it feels when it seems like my wife is the only one in the world who is for me and who believes in me. Times like that are hard and lonely.
I guess those are all irrelevant questions, however, because he's not a human being, right? He's Alex Smith, quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, and he never existed before I first heard about him the day he was drafted out of Backwoods State. He's an idea that was created for my entertainment, and not a very good one. He's not a man.
This has gone on long enough, and I need to wrap it. So I'll close with a few observations:
First of all, as I've watched the masses tear him down with an ever-increasing fevered pitch over the last five years, and seen him continue to respond with nothing but selflessness and humility, I really am amazed at the kind of character he has, and the kind of man he is, and I have nothing but admiration for the guy. If Alex Smith is anything, at least from the distance of my own insignificant perspective, he is a man, and he's a man of character.
Secondly, I don't think that the public would get from me what it's gotten from Alex Smith under the same circumstances, which makes me ashamed, because I think of myself as someone who is under obligation to value things like integrity, humility, selflessness, persistence, and a strong work ethic.
Thirdly, he's a quarterback and his job is to throw the ball well, make good decisions on the field, and win football games. I get that. If I don't perform well at my job, I get fired and replaced. I understand that, and as one who is a lifetime Niner fan and will be to the death, I'm all for getting the right guy behind the center. I also miss the glory days, just like the rest of us, and want more than anything to get back there.
Fourthly, it will be interesting how Alex Smith performs this year with stability at offensive coordinator for the first time in his career, an offensive system that is willing to tailor itself to his strengths, a genuinely strong supporting cast for the first time in his career, and a lot of lessons learned and knowledge gained by a trial of serious fire (which is, though painful, the best path to maturity). The guy is so sharp, so smart, and that, coupled with the integrity he's shown, has got to count for something, right? I just think it would be worth it for us, unthinkable as it may sound, to show a little bit more patience. I personally am willing to hold out a little bit of optimism this year.
Fifthly, Alex Smith is a man, a real individual with a real story, and I think if we were to watch his movie just like we watched Maximus' movie, we'd have a different take on him. I am sincerely persuaded that our personal attitudes toward him as man matter in reality.
Above all, I personally have a tremendous amount of respect for Alex Smith, and I even feel a certain degree of gratitude that he plays for my team, even if it becomes obvious by the end of this coming season that he's just not the guy who should be behind center. He is a man, and I acknowledge that, and I respect him as one.