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We’ve all been there – that moment when we finally feel we’ve been welcomed into our second family. It could be a fraternity or sorority, a happy hour drinking group (where like it or not, a lot of business gets done), or a sports team that’s starting to gel. That integral time is not when people start looking at you in earnest, silently saluting you with their eyes. No – it’s when a group starts to needle you, poke some good natured fun at you, speak freely if not affectionately about your peccadillos and eccentricities; this is when you get that feeling that you’ve been fully welcomed into the warmth of a comradeship’s embrace. Based on the razzing promising third-year Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has received after his recent appearance in GQ magazine, it would seem he has reached those hallowed grounds.
However, the U.S. sports media seems to feel a little differently about Sanchez’s new stead. On Wednesday, several sports publications took a straight faced and solemn interpretation of Aaron Rodgers’ quip on ESPN Radio Milwaukee that Sanchez’s GQ magazine poses were “embarrassing.” In fact, if one were to do a Google search for “Aaron Rodgers Embarrassing,” from most of the headlines, you’d think that Rodgers took affront to Sanchez’s photos as an insult to the inegrity of players throughout the NFL.
Apparently, what is to be gleaned from the quote is that the 2011 Superbowl MVP winner Rodgers, remains quiet and workmanlike in the offseason, while the flashy USC graduate Sanchez is primping it up for GQ magazine before even having reached the promised land. However, Rodgers’ statement – which was made in a mild fit of dry laughter as one may hear from a mid-20-year-old who engages in sarcasm – was the stuff of fraternal jocularity:
“Look at this. That’s embarrassing. Page 94 of the GQ thing here [referring to Sanchez in skin-tight white pants]. That’s terrible.”
Rodgers, in addition to being one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, also has one of the dryest senses of humor in the league. This is the same guy who recently participated in a seven-minute interview with the American Mustache Institute to discuss the virtues and shortcomings of wearing a stache. Rodgers’ quote, taken in its entirety, is nothing more than a good natured fraternal razzing from a well liked NFL quarterback to another.
If Mark Sanchez was a mediocre QB or a merely a putative team captain with just the fortune of having some aesthetically pleasing features, it’s doubtful that GQ magazine would do a shoot of him, that his teammates and coaching staff would happily tease him about it, or that Aaron Rodgers would know the magazine’s page number where Sanchez’s outfit looks the most “terrible.” The quiet office malingerer, the overly serious tee-totaling frat brother, or the underperforming QB never gets ribbed like that. How many times last year did Eli Manning’s teammates or other players in the league poke fun at him?
One of the reasons Sanchez’s photo is getting so much attention is because he belongs in the NFL’s fraternity of well-liked players – guys who compete hard on the field, and who stand-out as likeable off it. Sanchez most likely will not become the same quality QB as Rodgers, who statistically speaking, is having a Hall of Fame career thus far. However, Sanchez does have the fearlessness and composure of a leader on the field: as a second-year starting QB, Sanchez performed superbly during the Jets defeat of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC Conference semi-finals last January. During his sophmore campaign at QB in 2010 regular season, Sanchez’s numbers improved in a manner indicative of a player who is going to be a quality quarterback in this league. His teammates and coaches all exhuberantly laud his work-ethic and competiveness. That in addition to these accomplishments, Mark Sanchez has drawn some fraternal teasing from his teammates and a top NFL QB in the league translates into his affability: a key attribute to being a leader in any walk of life.
And how did Mark Sanchez handle the media when asked for his response to Rodgers’ statements?
“I think he was, obviously, making a joke out of it,” stated Sanchez.
Yes – that would be “obvious” to someone who is actually in the fraternity.