When the lights shut off
And it's my turn to settle down
My main concern
Promise that you will sing about me
Promise that you will sing about me
- Kendrick Lamar, "Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"
The discussion of sports is often an exercise in hagiography and schadenfreude.
That's largely so for two reasons: it's easy, and it's satisfying.
Making a prince out of Tim Tebow early in his career took little effort, and required little thought. Painting LeBron James as some kind of villain after "The Decision" - the same.
Joe Flacco was unable to get the Ravens to the Super Bowl in his first four years in the NFL. Plenty of pundits voiced their opinion that Flacco lacked the capability to deliver his best in "big games." Less than a month and a half ago, he held the Vince Lombardi trophy above his head in the Superdome. He's now, by contract (but due to Maryland's tax laws, not by income), the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.
Hyperbole isn't just welcome. It's the standard operating procedure.
All of us, then -- Rams fans, NFL fans, football fans, sports fans, humans -- should lament the end of Steven Jackson's career as a St. Louis Ram.
In the course of nine seasons in the NFL all for the St. Louis Rams, Steven Jackson has never been a member of a winning team. He's been a part of a single playoff win, a 27-20 wild card round win over the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams were drubbed a week later by the Atlanta Falcons, Jackson's new employer.
He's run for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last eight seasons. Despite the common call that his age has sapped his body of its earlier strength, that the Rams effectively ran Jackson into the ground, his highest number of carriers in a season was 346 in his third year in the league. That year, two other running backs ran the ball more than he did. Rudi Johnson ran the ball for Cincinnati just five times less than Jackson that season.
Jackson out-gained him by more than 200 yards.
Where LaDanian Tomlinson drew the attention of the NFL fan for his fantasy value, and Adrian Peterson did so because of his unique combination of athleticism (first) and power (second), Jackson never captured the visibility he deserved.
He doesn't provide the regurgitation-ready video clip like Chad Ochocinco or Terrell Owens did. He didn't relish the microphone like Terrell Suggs. He didn't tread the balance between entertainment and embarrassment of Twitter like Darnell Dockett. He wasn't the thespian Ray Lewis was.
Steven Jackson was, and is, a football player. A multi-talented one, but one nonetheless. His maturity and professionalism made themselves known throughout his years in St. Louis, a reality made obvious that Stan Kroenke, owner of the Rams, thanked Jackson for his commitment to the team and community.
There are players for whom the spotlight shines brightest off the field, when the emotions and passions of the game have ended. There are those who wait for kickoff before transforming into someone else, a warrior whose temerity off the gridiron matches nothing of the person he becomes when the first whistle blows.
And there are players like Steven Jackson. Players who practice. And train. And lift. And wait.
And when they do so, you won't see much of them on your television on ESPN. You won't read much about them on Pro Football Talk. They live a life that doesn't lend itself to the peccadillo-chasing nature of so much of online media. We shouldn't just ignore this. And we shouldn't accept it.
Steven Jackson never has.
That, aside from all the yards and all the touchdowns amid all the losses and all the lost teammates, deserves notice.
Not the deification so many others receive and not the denigration of a career that has yet to be provided the collective successes so many of his peers of inferior talents have enjoyed.
It deserves acknowledgement that in an age when so many great athletes are so revered, there are still those for whom fate never gave them a chance. Steven Jackson deserved one.
That itself is as lofty a compliment as I can offer.
Steven Jackson earned it.