You’ve likely seen Michael Irvin’s rant about offensive lineman that aired during NFL Network’s GameDay.
“I know you guys talk about these offensive lineman being athletes and all that,” Irvin said. “I always say this to the kids that I coach. Playing offensive line is as easy as anything. You’re 300 pounds, he’s 300 pounds. Stay in front of him for three seconds they’ll pay you $300 million. Don’t tell me about this being some athletic situation.”
Irvin then got out of his chair to demonstrate just how simple it is to be an offensive lineman while echoing some of his previous claims.
It was entertaining television and also a reflection of just how little Irvin thinks of his audience. As a former player, he is on television to bring insight to the table. By showcasing — or pretending to showcase — complete ignorance of the intricacies of playing the position, he gave up the entire game.
Former players are ubiquitous on pre- and post-game shows because they are in the unique position to tell viewers at home things they may not already know about football. Some bring genuine insight and relay it to the general public in a digestible way. Some do it while not talking down to their audience. Others are incredibly bland but occasionally mine a nugget from their past playing days, yielding substantive contribution.
Ex-jocks have an unspoken power. They’ll win any argument against a non-player with the “you never played the game card.” As consumers we largely accept that dynamic. What Irvin did is an abuse of that power, no matter how small it may be. He said something clearly intellectually dishonest and inaccurate.
The casual viewer at home understands that playing offensive line is far more complicated than Irvin claimed. They likely saw the clownish take and behavior for what it was: clownish.
Perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here, but Irvin’s commentary sure seems born out of some idea that he can say something outlandish and won’t be called on it. Or, worse, that he thinks so little of his audience that they won’t know any better.