It’s not particularly common for a professional athlete to end up on Capitol Hill, but it has happened, no doubt about that. In the House, Representative Anthony Gonzalez was a wide receiver for the Indianapolis Colts, Representative Colin Allred was a linebacker with the Tennessee Titans, Representative Jack Kemp was the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills, and Representative Steve Largent, the Football Hall of Fame Wide Receiver, played with the Seattle Seahawks. There was even a US Senator, Bill Bradley, who played basketball for the New York Knickerbockers. These are what as known as examples of exceptions proving the rule (in the contemporary, unironic sense of that phrase), because, generally speaking, legislation is hardly the jock’s cup of Gatorade.
It should be noted, however, that none of those gentlemen were anything like typical jocks. All of them were, or are, quite clever fellows, that again being an exception that proves another rule, the rule that most jocks are hardly the sharpest cleats in the footlocker. From that rule follows another, namely that both they – as well as members of the American public – are much better off with them chasing balls around in tights and padding or highly stylized underwear, rather than making our laws. And that last rule is one to which exceptions most of us sincerely hope are few and far between, its proof (in any sense) notwithstanding.
Alas, as they say in New England, there are some days so dark that no light can dawn on Marblehead; the dark days in question here being these in which the United States now finds itself, and the marble head in question being the one attached to Herschel Walker, former running back with the Dallas Cowboys, and later, in what has become famous as the worst sports team trade in history, the Minnesota Vikings, and still later with the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as a single season with the New York Giants sandwiched in between.
Recent medical studies have shown that the three positions in American football that receive the highest frequencies of brain concussions are cornerbacks, linebackers and wide receivers. Cornerbacks get the most, while wide receivers are a very close second. On the other hand, the statistics for incidence of severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the medical condition indicating a more or less totally fried brain, are highest, and pretty much the same, at around one quarter of the total for all NFL players who have it, in those who played the offensive lineman, defensive lineman and running back positions. Walker played both wide receiver and running back during his professional football career, and mostly running back. And from the way Walker behaves and talks, it seems he might have gotten way more than his fair share of concussions. Or maybe just a couple of really, really, really big ones that both he and the NFL have completely forgotten about.
And speaking of general rules, in almost all cases when I hold an initial appointment with someone who expects it to be free of charge, that consultation is unexpected and held on short notice. But today saw the exception which proved that rule, because this particular telephone consultation had been scheduled for over a week:
Walker: Huh? Anybody there?
Tom: Mr. Walker? This is Tom Collins.
Walker: Uh, yeah. I was told to call this here number and ask for you.
Tom: Yes, I understand. You’re running for election to the United States Senate in November, against Reverend Raphael Warnock, in the state of Georgia.
Tom: So… what can I do for you today, sir?
Walker: I donno… you tell me.
Tom: Oh… kay… sure. First of all, from what I understand, there have been some… concerns… regarding your… public statements? Correct?
Walker: I say what I think. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
Tom: Absolutely not. I’m certain you have a plethora of insights on your mind, however…
Walker: What’s a… ple… pleth…
Tom: A plethora. A lot of ideas. You have a lot of good ideas.
Walker: That’s right. I sure do.
Tom: But perhaps you need to work on how you tell people about them.
Walker: I tell them with my mouth. What else am I supposed to do?
Tom: I meant, how you express your good ideas. Such as when you were telling your supporters about your mental fitness for office as a United States Senator.
Walker: What was wrong with that?
Tom: I think, perhaps, some of your Republican colleagues may have thought that when you announced, quote, “My bike is not bent so anyone can ride my bike” in response to a question about that fitness, there may have been some… uncertainty… about your message.
Walker: Uh-huh, that is correct. My bike is not bent. Anyone can ride it. I said so.
Tom: Right. So, the problem that was brought to my attention with regard to that remark is the nature of the metaphor, and…
Walker: What’s a met… meta…
Tom: Metaphor. That means, a figure of speech where a word or a phrase is applied to an object or action to which it does not literally apply. So, it appears you may have been using a bicycle as a metaphor there.
Walker: How come?
Tom: Because the word “bike” does not literally apply to a person’s mind, but you were using it that way. Or maybe you were saying that your mind is like a bike, which is a closely related concept called a simile.
Walker: I said, “I have a bike and it is not bent.” I said, “Anyone can ride it.”
Tom: And that’s all? You meant that exactly as you said it? And you were talking about your mental fitness to serve for public office, not some piece of transportation equipment in your garage or something like that? And not as a metaphor or a simile or some other figure of speech?
Tom: Alright then, now see, when you say things like that literally in response to question about your mental fitness, it makes people wonder about just that.
Walker: About what?
Tom: Your state of mental fitness. You see, doctors, neuroscientists and psychologists know that when people start confusing the names of objects and the meanings of other words or phrases, say, for instance, mixing up “bike” with “mind,” and “bent” with “damaged,” and “anyone” with “I, myself,” and “think” with “ride it,” while they speak a sentence, as you did, like that, it indicates a significant problem with their brain.
Walker: I’ve always been very transparent about that. I’ve been very transparent and I will be a champion for mental health because I’ve helped so many people that had a mental health problem.
Tom: I’m sure you have, but when you put it that way, you see, it sort of overlooks the issue that most people have about someone who wants to go to Washington DC as a member of the Senate to make their laws, attend security briefings, respond to national crises, ratify international nuclear arms treaties, participate in Congressional hearings on television and so forth, representing, as you will, the Republican Party.
Tom: Because they are… how shall I put it… somewhat uneasy… about having a US Senator who has, let’s say, an unusual way of assuring the voters he is not… well… struggling with certain issues of a mental nature.
Walker: Who’s that you talking about?
Tom: Well, uh… that would be you, sir. You said those things – about the bike and so on, and so forth.
Walker: Oh. Yeah. That’s right. I said that. My bike is not bent. Anyone can ride it. I said that.
Tom: Yes, well… moving along then, there are…
Walker: They can continue to bring all this – what they want to do against me because the people know what I stand for. Herschel Walker is still standing.
Tom: That’s another point that was mentioned. Speaking about yourself in the third person.
Walker: Third person? Somebody else on the line? They ain’t supposed to be!
Tom: No, no, when I say “in the third person,” I mean, there you are, speaking to the crowd or the studio audience or the radio interviewer broadcasting what you say out to the world, and…
Walker: What you going on about? I’m here talking to you.
Tom: Yes, yes, but when you are speaking to a crowd and so forth, and you are standing or sitting right there in everyone’s presence…
Walker: I don’t bring no presents to my rallies. That’s illegal!
Tom: No, no, the point is, you are right there. Everyone can see you. And you start talking about yourself as if you were not there. That’s speaking in the third person.
Walker: I don’t hear no third person speaking! What you talking about?
Tom: So, all right, let’s discuss another thing your colleagues in the Republican Party are worried about, that you make stuff up.
Walker: Like what?
Tom: Such as, for example, when you sent out a Tweet showing a picture of a photo card with your picture on it claiming to be an Honorary Agent and Special Deputy of Cobb County – something that is obviously of a ceremonial nature – and claimed it proved you were a member of law enforcement.
Walker: I am member of law enforcement. It says so right there on that card. And I have been for many years!
Tom: Sir, that card doesn’t make you a real Sheriff’s Deputy any more than the badge Richard Nixon gave Elvis Presley made Elvis an honorary DEA agent.
Walker: Elvis Presley was in the DEA?
Tom: No, he was not. He had a token, like yours, that made him an honorary member of the organization. He had no bonafide federal police authority anywhere in the United States, just as you have no bonafide police authority in Cobb County. And that isn’t the only instance. You also claimed to be an FBI agent.
Walker: I went to Quantico!
Tom: You visited Quantico. The fact is, you are not and never have been a member of any law enforcement agency. And, furthermore, you claimed to have graduated from college in the top one percent of your class, when in fact, you never graduated from college at all. And moreover, you claimed to have a spray mist that cures covid, which you hawked to the television audience on the Glen Beck show. You said, quote, “Do you know, right now, I have something that can bring you into a building that would clean you from covid as you walk through this dry mist?” Then you went on to say, quote, “As you walk through the door, it will kill any covid on your body; EPA–, FDA–approved.” Mr. Walker, that simply wasn’t true. It was complete fantasy.
Walker: So what? Trump makes stuff up, don’t he?
Tom: Yes, he makes up a lot of things. But that hasn’t done him any good, has it?
Walker: Sure it has. He makes things up and people believe them. Now he’s President. I could do that, too.
Tom: No, no, Mr. Walker, your… Republican friends, they don’t think you should make up things about yourself.
Walker: Why not?
Tom: Well, frankly, unlike Donald Trump, they don’t think you’re very good at it. And then there are these instances of disinformation promulgation, such as that story about the Communist Chinese being behind Black Lives Matter, where…
Walker: What’s pro… prom… promul…
Tom: Promulgated. It means to make something, like an idea, widely known.
Walker: Right! That’s why I told everybody that BLM is run by the Commies. Because it’s widely known!
Tom: Okay, strictly speaking, you didn’t make that up, as much as you jumped to a completely absurd conclusion from a set of inaccurate data, but it’s just as bad as making it up, because you’re spreading a lie. Just like when you tweeted about that picture on the Internet of an envelope containing an absentee ballot application addressed to a county jail in Georgia. You tweeted, quote, “So now we find Georgia mailed ballots to prisons?”
Walker: Well, yeah! What up with that, huh?
Tom: What’s up with that, sir, is Number One, it was a ballot application, not a ballot, and anyone in the state of Georgia can print out and mail a ballot application, so there was no evidence in that photograph that the government of Georgia had anything to do with it in the first place; and, Number Two, it’s perfectly acceptable to mail an absentee ballot application to a jail as long as the recipient isn’t a convicted felon, and there are plenty of people locked up in jail who haven’t even been tried yet, much less convicted of anything. So not to put too fine a point on it, Mr. Walker, all you did with that tweet was announce to the world that you’re very ignorant and not particularly smart. And unfortunately, there are a lot of other tweets like that you have sent out that do the same thing.
Walker: Trump tweets things that aren’t true doesn’t he?
Tom: Not anymore, actually. He was thrown off Twitter for tweeting things that weren’t true. See what I’m talking about?
Walker: Yeah, that Twitter was unfair to Trump. Everybody knows that, too.
Tom: Well… all right… be that as it may, there’s…
Walker: Be what as it may?
Tom: All of it so far, it seems. As I was about to say, there’s also the question of the… I guess… “plausibility” is the best way to put it… of your pronouncements of opinion.
Walker: Too many long words.
Tom: Very well then, for example, when you responded to a question about your opinion of gun control laws after the mass murder shootings of school children in Uvalde, Texas, you responded by saying, quote, “What I like to do is see it and everything and stuff.”
Walker: That’s right – that’s what I like to do.
Tom: You do understand, don’t you, that your response was a complete non sequitur? It…
Walker: Non what?
Tom: It’s gibberish…
Walker: Too many long words!
Tom: It’s nonsense.
Walker: So? I’m a politician. Nothing wrong with that.
Tom: You should know that some of your potential Republican colleagues in the Senate might disagree with that. Then, there is this remark you made about the environment at one of your rallies, which was, quote, “Since we don’t control the air, our good air decided to float over to China’s bad air. So when China gets our good air, their bad air got to move. So it moves over to our good air space. Then – now we got we to clean that back up.”
Walker: Yeah, I said that.
Tom: Can you explain it?
Tom: Well, you see, that’s another one of the issues your colleagues wanted me to discuss with you. I guess, um… let’s see here… did you by any chance ever see that movie, Bambi?
Walker: Everybody seen that movie.
Tom: Remember Bambi’s friend, the little rabbit, Thumper?
Tom: Remember what Thumper always said?
Tom: Well, Thumper always told Bambi, “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Walker: Politics ain’t about being nice.
Tom: No, it’s not. But it is about people seeing you as strong, decisive, and smart. So I would paraphrase…
Tom: I would put it this way: “If you can’t think of anything that makes sense to a picnic ant, then don’t be saying nothing at all.”
Walker: Huh. Maybe I’ll think about that.
Tom: I recommend you do, because your colleagues think that would be a good idea.
Walker: You know what? You talk out of a book all the time. I’m bored. You got any other advice?
Tom: Yes. I strongly advise that when you are elected US Senator from the State of Georgia, and arrive to take your place in the Senate, you should do exactly what Lindsey Graham tells you to do at all times from the moment you arrive.
Walker: Uh… Okay.
Walker: Hey, wait a minute!
Walker: I got your number from Lindsey Graham. Did he tell you to say that?
Tom: Do you mean, are the Senate Republicans afraid you will actually win; are they absolutely terrified about what you might do when you get to Washington; are they desperate to find someone who can explain to you how you should behave in the Senate; did Mitch McConnell tell Lindsey Graham to pay me triple my usual fee for a consultation about you ten days ago to discuss what to speak with you about today; and, during that discussion, did Lindsey Graham let me know that if I didn’t get anywhere with you, I should just end the call by telling you that?
Walker: I don’t know, do I?
Tom: I can’t say.
Walker: Yeah? What can you say?
Tom: At this point? Goodbye!