Hello. My name is Jonathan Spazarizzo and I interpret subtext for a living.
The name may be fake, but what I do is very real. You may not realize it, but everything you hear on sports media has come across my desk, or the desks of those like me.
The official title given to me by my bosses at ESPN is "News Intake Analyst" but the payroll department knows my true colors... "Subtext Recognition Specialist II" they call me. The first title is just the facade I hide behind to conceal my more nefarious purpose to the public and my co-workers when they inquire what I do... though what I actually do, is the most important job in sports media.
... but rather their own interpretation of the words that I generate? The reason that guys like Tony Kornheiser, Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless, etc. are the faces you see on television is because they are better in front of the camera than people like me. They provide their own unique spin on the news that we give them.
No one, I repeat, NO ONE at ESPN reports on information they gained first hand. Every rumor, every sound clip, every factual piece of information comes to me and my teammates first so that we can decipher what that person was really trying to say, or what this really means.
But yet, my true purpose remains secret. My title... concealed. My very existence... muted.
I was recruited directly from college, we all are, having taken a host of English and Literature courses where the professor droned on about "What the author was really trying to say." As far as my parents know, I am still a failure... "You'll never make a decent living as an English major dear." said my mother... "How the hell do you expect to get a job?" said my father. "Your major has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world." he said.
And he's right, it does... on paper.
But as any sports fan will tell you, games aren't played on paper. And while my job won't help the English departments' employment statistics, I am very much employed, and my ENTIRE job is quite literally on paper.
So why am I risking my job telling you this, and why am I on a Carolina Panthers fan site using some poor unassuming saps username while he takes a dump?
Because, Panther fans, you're being taken for a ride... a ride that I can no longer sit silently and watch.
Your Quarterback is a patsy.
Your Head Coach is a pawn.
Your GM is a liar.
And your Owner, bless his heart, is a GREEDY OLD MAN.
My subtext editor in chief will not allow me to print this story under the ESPN banner, and has been ripping up my drafts for months. Well, I hope, that in this deep and dark corner of the sports blogging internet... I will be heard, and that maybe what I have to say will reach those who care the most about their team, the Panthers fans.
ESPN recently did an interview with a panel of the Carolina Panthers most important figureheads. QB Cam Newton, HC Ron Rivera, GM David Gettleman, and Owner Jerry Richardson. The interview was not published due to a perceived lack of relevance, since the Carolina Panthers have no interest in Johnny Manziel and no shot at Jadeveon Clowney. I was never supposed to see it, but since ESPN actually doesn't purchase napkins for the breakroom, and instead recycles printed "small market" stories as part of their Go Green! initiative... I did.
On that fateful day, while simply reaching for a napkin to get the ketchup stain off my sleeve, my life changed forever.
The following is the full-text version of that interview, with my subtext seen in bold, to show you the truth.
Carolina Panthers Offseason Round-table by (NAME WITHHELD) on (DATE REDACTED)
Mr. Richardson, Mr. Gettleman, Coach Rivera, and Cam... thanks for agreeing to this interview, I'm sure fans of the Panthers are looking for answers after what can only be described as a hectic offseason.
Let's start with the big story. Mr. Gettleman, would you please explain to us the circumstances surrounding the release of star WR Steve Smith?
Dave Gettleman: "Steve, like all our players, was part of the evaluation process. After watching the film and considering the best interests of the team, we spoke to Steve and agreed that it was time to part ways. You hate to lose a player of his caliber, but in keeping with our teams current direction, it was the right call to make."
"Steve, at this point in his career, was no longer worth the money we were paying him or the hassle we endured to placate him. You can see he has lost a step, and since we are more concerned with money than winning, it was a good idea to let him go. While it's regrettable that the greatest player in the history of the franchise won't play his last down in Charlotte, I'm sure the temper-mental fan base's anger will pass and we'll all live happily ever after when we sign him to a one-day contract so he can ceremonially retire a Carolina Panther. After all, that is the CLASSY thing to do, amirite? (chuckle)"
Cam, how are you going to cope without your favorite target next season?
Cam Newton: "It's a business, everyone here knows that, and I can't worry about that part of it. All I can do is work in the film room and with my teammates to get better. Steve is a great player, and a leader on this team, now it will be up to me and some other younger guys to step up and be leaders."
"Everything is a business. Unlike Steve, I've known this since college, and have grown from simple small time scholarship hustler to building my national brand. Now that I can finally make this team all about me, I can't wait to flash this million dollar smile to the world."
There is more to worry about beyond just who Cam will throw to. The team has lost a couple of key cogs on the offensive line as well with the retirement LT Jordan Gross and current absence of G Travelle Wharton. Coach Rivera, how do you plan to fill in these holes on your line?
Ron Rivera: "Let me say first off, that you can never fully replace a guy like Jordan. He had a phenomenal final season for us, earning a Pro Bowl berth, and you can't just replace that in one offseason. However, we have some young guys on the roster we feel good about. Byron (Bell) is going to get a chance to slide into Jordan's old spot, and we got some great production last year from Nate Chandler. We'll also have some guys coming back from injury that we like in Amini (Silatolu) and Edmund (Kugbila). Plus, we all know that Cam is a mobile guy, and we'll use that to our advantage."
"Jordan punked out on us because he wasn't happy about the way Dave does business. He still had lots of good years left, but has decided to leave us in a tough spot. Now we are going to have to give Byron Bell a chance so we can continue to perpetuate the notion that he is an NFL offensive tackle. We really like drafting guards, so chances are you'll see us take one in the 2nd round from some place you've never heard of, and we'll make sure he's injured so that Nate Chandler keeps getting his blackmail money. Thank God Cam is a freak of athletic nature, because he's going to have to run his ass off just to stay alive, let alone throw a pass."
Mr. Richardson, your interaction with fans is somewhat unprecedented in the NFL. You have been known to make personal phone calls and write letters to fans who have contacted the team with complaints. Why do you feel this is important?
Jerry Richardson: "You have no team without fans. We talk about the business aspect of this league, but none of it exists without paying customers. I realize that for many folks coming to a game is a luxury, so their experience is important to me and my organization. That is why I make those calls and write those letters, sometimes it takes a personal touch to let people know you care."
"You have no income without fans. If I'm ever going to finalize the sale of this team to Los Angeles, we have to make it more valuable, and one way to do that is to increase your customer service ratings. That's why we employ both a professional voice actor and a handwriting specialist to make it seem like I am doing all this petty BS that makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside."
Mr. Gettleman, let's talk about your promise to make the Panthers cap-solvent. Why was this important in your hiring, and how can you build success with limited funds?
Dave Gettleman: "When I was hired, Mr. Richardson and I talked about sustained success. My time with the Giants taught me about how to be more clinical when evaluating the talent on the roster, and that you can achieve greater success with good drafting, a few stars, and mostly solid role players."
"The old man wants to sell the team, and no one will buy it until we liquidate some of our assets. Sometimes you have to break a few eggs to make an omellette, We need to have a young core in place so that we can make a splash in the L.A. market. By tanking this next season and not surrounding Cam with capable talent at WR and OL, we can sign him to a cheaper contract and get a nice high draft pick to select a capable OT for the long haul out west."
Cam, this is a contract year for you, and the Panthers have exercised the 5th year option on your contract. You're worth more than that, can we expect a hold-out?
Cam Newton: "No way, I don't believe in those things, the best way to show your worth is to play well and make the team better. The business side of things will work itself out."
"You are 100% crazy if you think I'm resigning with this team in 2015. Jerry Jones has already offered me $200m dollars, a white Bugatti, and a "real texas woman" to ride shotgun. Besides, take a look at this MADE suit I am wearing, or have you not seen my Gatorade and Under Armour commercials. Cam Newton ain't hurtin. Cam Newton always fine. (smile)"
Coach Rivera, you've lost a lot of free agents this season. Beyond the ones we just talked about, who do you expect to step up and replace them?
Ron Rivera: "Well, you know, the roster is far from finished. We've already signed some guys we like. We still have the draft coming up. Everything is still taking shape... I think fans should be excited about the team that will take the field this season."
"That damn Yankee they've got in the front office screwed everything up. Next thing you know my wife will be starting at Right Tackle. Since we overachieved, all the top talent in the draft will be gone by the time we pick, so we'll probably swing for the fences with that kid we really like out of Surry County Community College. Fans of bad movies are really going to enjoy this season. Seriously. If you liked Caddyshack II, you're going to love this sequel."
Mr. Richardson, anything you would like to add?
Jerry Richardson: "I couldn't be more proud with the team Ron and Dave put together last year under the circumstances, and I look forward to having playoff football return to Charlotte again next year."
"Ron, if you think winning coach of the year bought you any leniency, you are dead wrong. Miss the playoffs next year, and I'll make sure you reunite with every San Diego Charger and recruit out of Cal you could possibly want when you are the defensive quality control consultant in California next year. Dave, I love ya, you grinder-eating S.O.B. you are saving me money hand over fist! Marty just wanted to spend spend spend... something about "loyalty" or garbage like that. Keep handing out those one year contracts and help my bottom line!"
Thank you all for your time, and good luck in 2014.
So, Panthers fans, as you can see from the implied subtext of this interview. You are being LIED to by your beloved organization. Everyone from the top to the bottom is part of a giant ponzi scheme to milk your sweet tea clogged hearts into giving every dime you possibly can to this organization before it moves to Los Angeles. I could not believe the level of deception until I read it and wrote it myself.
If you want my advice, now is the time to become a fan of a team in the Dallas, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, or greater New York area if you want a good honest organization. As an experienced subtext writer, I can assure you that large market teams such as these never mislead their fans in the way that you have been wronged.
I hope that you heed my advice, and god speed.