If there is one sportswriting device that I’ve really grown to dislike over the years, it’s the extrapolation from the way a player performs one unrelated activity to the way he handles his sports career as a whole. Here’s a completely fabricated example of the kind of thing I’m talking about:
Brett Favre does not mow his lawn in neat rows like you or me or your next-door neighbor. No, he rides his mower in haphazard patterns, zig-zagging from one corner to the other, sometimes stopping for three days as if he’s done before changing mowers and starting again. It’s the way he mows his lawn, it’s the way he plays the game … and it’s the way he lives his life. It may look crazy to you, but as I sit behind Brett on this rumbling John Deere, it all starts to make a certain kind of sense.
That kind of thing. I find it contrived at best, insanely overwrought and pointless at worst.
And yet it’s all I could think of when I found undrafted rookie center Edwin Williams doing the rope ladder climb at Six Flags last night. The game is simple, like all good carnival games: climb the shaky rope ladder to the second-to-last rung, ring the bell, and win the big Redskins bear. And, like all good carnival games, the barker can do it again and again and again as if it’s the easiest thing on Earth, while the marks fail and fail again.
As with any failure, there are two ways to view it: each time, you’re a little closer to the time you’re going to succeed; or each time, it just goes to prove that the barkers know a trick that you don’t.
I’ve talked to Williams several times before — he’s the rookie I’m informally following throughout this process of trying to make the team — and I know how he approaches things. So when I showed up and he was on his second assault, I had no doubt that there were more attempts to come.
I left shortly after that, and he still hadn’t made it yet, so I caught up with him after practice today to see how things had finished up.
Williams: “I probably spent about twenty or so bucks on it, at three dollars per try,” he said.
He shook his head.
So you never actually fully made it?
Williams: “Nope. I was so close so many times, though.”
I saw an autograph mob forming as I left. Was that your first time getting that kind of attention as a Redskin?
Williams: “Yeah, as far as Redskins fans go. I signed some autographs at Maryland, but it was maybe a hundred fans or so. I would’ve stayed longer, but my sister was on the rides and I had to wind it up. When it was time to go, the cops had to escort me out — I couldn’t even leave. I would sign autographs all night. I mean, it’s a little overwhelming at times, but it’s all good.”
What have you been doing since we last talked? Have you been living the big-time NFL life?
Williams: “Not at all. I’ve actually been here working, really, for the past two weeks. Buges [Coach Joe Bugel], he really pushes us hard and keeps us working And my man Mike Williams, he’s been trying to help me out, too”
What’s he taught you?
Williams: “We’re just doing different drills, medicine ball drills and speed drills and stuff. All the guys definitely help me out and tell me what I need to do, but it still takes my part to actually go out there and do it.”
And how’s everything going out there after two practices in this OTA?
Williams: “It’s good, man. I’m definitely getting a better feel than in minicamp, but … you know, it’s just inch by inch and I’ve got a long ways to go.”
What’s the toughest thing for you right now?
Williams: “Just trying to be more aggressive as far as blocking the down man — using the technique that they teach. It’s very aggressive, and you have to –” at this point he pantomimes a twisting uppercut move “– use your hips, something I never did when I was in college.”
Do you feel like you’re getting it?
Williams: “I feel like I’m doing it, but — like I said — it’s still inch by inch, and I need to be making more strides in, like, feet. I want to get way better, you know, in bigger increments.”
Unlike with the ladder game, there’s still plenty of time to learn the tricks.
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