Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
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Recently, in response to the criticism laid upon him by the pundits over at ESPN, Josh Gordon decided to fight back with the mother of all media techniques…the open letter. You can read that letter over at The Cauldron.
In his scathing letter, Josh Gordon proceeded to attack Charles Barkley, Stephen A. Smith (to be fair, we all want to do that) and Cris Carter for daring to have the audacity to speak against him and his poor choices. Gordon also pointed out that Barkley, Smith, and Carter had no grounds for criticizing him by saying, “The thing is, though, you don’t even know me.” (If you don’t like people who don’t know you criticizing your every move, then perhaps professional athlete is the wrong occupation for you...but I digress.)
Now, while sure, those three men don’t have a personal relationship with Josh Gordon, they most certainly know a thing or two about his situation. All three of these men, especially Cris Carter, know all too well the cost that mistakes can have on your career. Before we get to the rest of Gordon’s letter, let’s look at why each man is uniquely qualified to offer up a little advice/criticism for Josh Gordon.
Charles Barkley, with perhaps the most “normal” upbringing of the three, is no stranger to mistakes in his career. Both outspoken and short-tempered, Barkley’s career includes everything from taking money from agents while playing college basketball, to misdirected loogies hitting innocent fans. These mistakes have cost him both money and notoriety, and they most certainly have given Barkley both the experience and the wisdom necessary to advise young up-and-comers in the sports world.
Stephen A. Smith, quite possibly the most outspoken personality that currently receives a paycheck from ESPN, is no stranger to living in a rough neighborhood. He has worked very hard and has made many mistakes on his road to success. Smith grew up in the Hollis section of Queens, which from everything I read, is not exactly Dublin, Ohio (where I currently reside).
Smith began his controversial career in journalism while still playing basketball in college. His career moved on to Philadelphia where he was fired, and then re-hired. Eventually, he made his way to ESPN where he has become infamous for his heated and fancily-worded rants on First Take. He consistently sticks his foot in his mouth and is constantly learning what mistakes can do for a career (he was suspended for his remarks on the Ray Rice situation after all). So maybe, just maybe, Smith might be able to give some advice or criticism that’s worth listening to (or he can tell Frank Caliendo what to say so it’ll be entertaining for the rest of us).
Cris Carter, one of the greatest wide receivers of all time, is quite possibly the pundit who can best speak to Gordon’s situation. Carter grew up in Middletown, Ohio where he was raised by a single mom along with his other siblings. Once at Ohio State, Carter had great success, but ended his run as a Buckeye by signing with an agent and rendering himself ineligible for his senior season. He was then drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, where he was promptly cut by Buddy Ryan for drug and alcohol abuse.
That’s right, Cris Carter, one of the greatest players in NFL history, started off as a great player who was capable of putting up some solid numbers. But he faced a career crisis because he couldn’t keep his nose clean off the field. Does this situation sound at all familiar, Josh Gordon? It should. Carter managed to turn himself around and even went on to have a hall-of-fame career, so maybe his advice is worth listening to as well.
So there you have it: Charles Barkley, Stephen A. Smith, and Cris Carter all have experienced their fair share of setbacks and mistakes in their respective careers. Perhaps their counsel and wisdom could be useful in the guidance of a young player like Josh Gordon…perhaps.
But just to be sure, let’s look at Josh Gordon’s profile for just a moment. He too had a very rough childhood while growing up with a single mom in the rough Fondren neighborhood of Houston, Texas. He was suspended from Baylor in 2010, and then indefinitely suspended from the team in 2011…both for smoking weed.
Gordon was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2012, had a very solid rookie season, and appeared to have put his past behind him. Then in 2013, everyone’s suspicions were confirmed as Gordon was suspended for two games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. In 2014, Gordon ended up missing the first ten games of the season for a DUI and yet another substance abuse violation (one he claims was due to second hand smoke). He then missed the last game of the season for missing a team walkthrough. Then, most recently, he failed his alcohol screening (a result of his DUI) and faces a year-long suspension from football.
But according to Gordon’s letter, he blames nobody but himself for his mistakes…or does he? Sure, he says, “I’m not a victim here; I never claimed to be one either.” He also says, “I acknowledge that the repeated transgressions that have led up to this point have damaged my credibility, and for that, the only person to blame is me.” But for me, it’s what he says after hinting at his hard childhood that is particularly disturbing.
Here’s the quote: “So then how did I get here, you ask? That’s easy, I messed up. But to even begin to understand why I messed up, you need to understand the Josh Gordon that existed before the NFL.” Don’t worry buddy, we understood that version of Josh Gordon before you were drafted (players don’t typically end up in the supplemental draft when they have squeaky clean records).
But I hear you loud and clear, sir, when you basically say that nobody who grows up in a single-mother household in the roughest part of town can be expected to ever pass a drug test, right?
Surely he couldn’t be saying that. Surely he’s got to be more mature than that. So I read on, and three paragraphs later, Gordon solidified his point when he said, “So Charles, Stephen A., Cris – you judge me now, but what if you came from where I come from?”
There you have it. Josh Gordon clearly doesn’t blame himself for his actions. Instead he blames the mean streets of Fondren; he blames growing up in a single-mother household. In doing so, he essentially claims that he is just the result of some skewed equation created by a bad situation.
What’s ironic about this is that he contradicts himself again in the very next paragraph when he says, “Again, I make no excuses for my past. That culture didn’t make me do anything I didn’t want to do, but when you judge me without actually knowing me, you deny the existence of the world I come from.” Apparently that culture had nothing to do with your actions, but according to your words four paragraphs ago…it kind of did.
You can’t have it both ways Josh Gordon. You can’t blame yourself in one breath and then say that you couldn’t help yourself because of your upbringing in the next one. Better yet, what would you say if nobody would have taken you in the draft because you came from a crappy neighborhood and grew up without a father? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Again, you can’t have it both ways.
Situations don’t make people. Situations amplify the people that are in them. Your childhood situation, as terrible as it was, amplified your tendency to make bad decisions when you are unsupervised (by the way, we all have that…and yes, we all have to constantly work against it). Should you have been left unsupervised like that? Absolutely not, but people have to do what they have to do to survive. It’s most definitely not a perfect situation by any stretch, but that lack of supervision didn’t make you who you are.
Fast forward a few years and your situation is again amplifying your lack of self-control. Yes, this most recent slip up may have just been a result of you not checking the details of your punishment. But guess what, here in the grown up world, we have to check the details…every detail. At some point, we all have to make a go at this thing called adulthood or we end up unemployed…no matter if we’re a wide receiver in the NFL or a burger flipper at McDonald’s (do they even really flip them anymore?). Even if you get cut, wind up completely out of football, and end up selling insurance or used cars somewhere, you’ll still have to handle yourself as a grown up or eventually you’ll starve. In the end, just like the rest of us, you have to show up and do your job, regardless of how bad your childhood was.
I say all that to say this: It’s time for the Browns to cut ties with Josh Gordon. Sure he might become the next Cris Carter, but it’s not happening anytime soon, especially with his current attitude. If you don’t cut him, then maybe you can hire a babysitter (excuse me, an advisor) for him so that maybe, just maybe he can have the supervision he clearly needs in order for you to get another full season out of him…whenever he’s actually allowed to play again.