Monday, October 26, 2009

On the Consumption of Processed Meats

I'm never quite sure how much the average professional athlete is cognizant of his/her own iconography. I presume it's accurate to say that some think about it more than others, that there are those who come by their charisma naturally (Tom Brady, LeBron James) and those who seem singularly determined to force their absurdities upon us (Chad Johnson, Ron Artest). And I'll be honest: For most of this year, I presumed Mark Sanchez was more of the latter, based on that vaguely homoerotic GQ spread, based on his impervious hairstyle, based on the fact that he seemed to be consciously channeling the spirit of Joe Namath. And this led me to presume that Sanchez would not succeed in pro football, that he was trying far too hard to cultivate a sense of cool, that he would eventually fall into the same US Weekly vortex of D-list celebrity that swallowed Matt Leinart whole.

And then, this Sunday, during the Jets' pasting of the Raiders, Mark Sanchez did something kind of amazing: He ate a hot dog on the sideline. It may not seem like much, but I think this one gesture is the essentially a litmus test for Sanchez's entire career. Because there are two possibilities here: Either Sanchez consumed a hot dog because he was consciously aware that he would be seen consuming a nitrite-laced slab of meat on the sideline, thereby bolstering his image; or Sanchez told the media the truth after the game, and he ate a hot dog because he was hungry, and because, bizarrely, someone handed him one on the sideline before he could track down a Clif Bar. In which case, he may just be the coolest dude to show up New York since Joe Willie. In fact, if it was a spontaneous act, Sanchez had no reason to apologize at all. He should be congratulated.

Either way, this lone wiener is the most interesting thing to happen to the New York Jets in two decades.

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