Surviving the heartache: making sense of the Steven Jackson non-signing
By Rourke Douglas Decker
Updated: March 15, 2013Sometimes it all starts out so perfectly, but then it all falls apart and you're left wondering what went wrong.Angel on the dance floor
You’re out for a laid-back evening with the buds. You’re leaning against the bar, waiting for the bartender to bring you your beer, when you catch sight of a beautiful creature down at the other end of the bar. She looks up. Your eyes lock. She smiles. Your heart starts to pound. You can feel the connection from across the room.
You walk up to her. “Hey.”
“Want to dance?”
“Sure.”Even when she’s light on her feet, she can slip right between your fingers.
So nervous you can barely keep from tripping over your own two feet, you lead her onto the dance floor. Your favorite song comes on. It’s perfect. As you sway back and forth to the beat with this beautiful girl in your arms, you start to think she’s everything you ever dreamed of. By the second song, you’re floating on a silver cloud.
Abruptly she pulls away. “This has been nice, but I have to get back to my friends.”
It’s now or never.
“You’re kinda cute,” you manage to mumble. “You wanna have dinner with me sometime?”
“Sure,” she says. She scribbles her number on a piece of paper and turns to walk away. She looks back over her shoulder for one last lingering glance. “Call me.”
You’re so excited that you can barely sleep. At last the appointed day arrives. You get dressed up and arrive at your favorite steakhouse early. You wait patiently for your dream girl to arrive. And wait.
An hour and a half passes as you feel your life is ending. Your cheeks are flushed with humiliation. You sink so deep in your seat that only your nose shows above the table. Finally the sympathetic waiter walks by and says, “May I interest you in a complimentary slice of pie, sir?”
You shake your head, pick up your stuff, and shuffle home to bed.
The one who got away
That’s how a lot of Green Bay Packers fans felt on Thursday evening when it was announced that after a brief and seemingly tepid dalliance with Packers general manager Ted Thompson, free agent running back Steven Jackson had elected to sign with the Atlanta Falcons instead.
So what went wrong? Why weren’t the Packers able to get their man? We’ll probably never know for sure, but we can look to the world of dating and take a few educated guesses.Ego games
As crazy as it sounds to guys, girls sometimes go out on the town for no other purpose than to boost their own egos. I used to have a couple of neighbors who thought it great fun to go to the clubs with the express goal of getting as many men as possible to ask for their numbers — and then handing out fake phone numbers. They bragged about it all the time. (Would it surprise you to know that they were both military wives? Me either.)
It never feels good to be the one that only one person wants. Teams weren’t exactly knocking down the doors to talk to Steven Jackson. Pitting the Packers against the Falcons, if only in a largely illusory contest, may have made him feel better about himself.Playing hard to get
This one is closely related to the ego games. A lot of women want to be wanted. They want to know that men desire them. So they won’t necessarily fall all over themselves to accept an offer the first time it’s made. They’ll hem and haw and equivocate. The problem is that most guys interpret this as rejection and give up, instead of realizing that it’s really a request to try harder. A lot of times, if they would simply hang on a little longer, they’d get the girl.Running back Steven Jackson can be as hard to pin down in the negotiating room as he is on the field.
Professional athletes are proud beings, many of whom are notoriously temperamental and even insecure. Ted Thompson has never been known as the kind of person to be up front with his interest; he goes about everything in a maddeningly indirect and circuitous manner. Perhaps Jackson felt he wasn’t being courted openly enough by the Packers, and the Falcons simply made him feel more wanted.
Just because a girl says “yes” to your request for a date doesn’t mean she’s all that attracted to you. Girls get bored like anyone else. Sometimes they like to collect multiple invitations and then act on the coolest one. You offer a nice meal at the steakhouse; he springs for a bottle of wine. He wins — no hard feelings. Next time offer a Jacuzzi suite on top of that seafood dinner and you might have better luck.
Likewise, it’s possible that Jackson’s decision came down to sheer dollars and cents. The Packers made one offer, the Falcons offered a few bucks more. That may have been all it took. Somehow I don’t see Jackson as being that kind of player, but it’s impossible to know. Then, too, agents have a lot more to do with these decisions than we often give them credit for.
Driving up the price
This is closely related to party shopping. Sometimes women will hang out with people they’d never consider dating, just to increase their perceived value. They might do this by seeking out a crowd of high-status folks — or they may chase down a rival of the guy they really like, just to make their intended target jealous enough to pursue them. It’s shamelessly manipulative and even a little evil, but sometimes it works.
Athletes aren’t above doing the same thing. It’s entirely possible that, despite everything he said privately and publicly, Steven Jackson never had the slightest intention of playing for Green Bay. It’s likely that he already knew Atlanta was interested in him, so he may have simply been trying to wrangle a few extra dollars out of them by flirting with the Packers. If that’s the case, it wouldn’t have mattered what Thompson had offered him; he would simply have taken the offer sheet back to Atlanta and signed there anyway.
Fans are entirely too inclined to take the words of athletes, agents, and front-office personnel at face value. At any given time, most of what they say is sheer smokescreen.You think that just because she is quick to accept your invitation, she's into you? She may have her own agenda, and it may not be one you like.Feelings change
Girls aren’t always the cruel, heartless emotional saboteurs men perceive them to be. Sometimes feelings just change. In the moment, when it was all so exciting and new, she may genuinely have wanted to go out with you. But a few minutes later, when she has a few minutes to consider what she just did, she may wonder what the heck she was thinking. She didn’t mean to hurt you — she was just going with the flow.
The same thing can happen in negotiations too. At first, Green Bay may have seemed like a great destination: passionate and loyal fanbase, the chance to play with one of the best quarterbacks in the game, a deep receiving corps to take the pressure off the box, an elite offensive line to open running lanes . . . it’s enough to give anyone the warm and fuzzies. But on second thought, Atlanta has a lot going for it too: it’s a wild city with lots of attractions, the team plays indoors, they have possibly the most talented receiving corps in the league, the best quarterback of the past decade . . . who could resist?Sometimes you don't really know what is lurking behind that sultry "come-hither" look.
Not to mention, Atlanta is arguably closer to a championship right now than Green Bay is, and Jackson has stated that his primary motivation for voiding his contract was to play for a contender.
There’s no reason to assume that Jackson was being meanspirited or duplicitous. He may simply have changed his mind.
Surviving the heartbreak
The fact is we just don’t know why Steven Jackson isn’t in Green and Gold right now, and we probably never will. It’s possible that Ted Thompson screwed up, an accusation some Packers fans are hasty to bring. It’s equally possible that it was just never meant to be.
Getting emotionally involved in free agency as a Green Bay Packers fan is like waiting six months to ask out that girl you’ve had such a crush on — it makes rejection so much more painful.
Packers fans would be so much happier if they would just grab a beer, prop their feet up, and watch the game from the sidelines. When someone asks them why they have that self-satisfied smirk on their face, they can say it’s because if there’s one thing they have learned in all their years watching football, it’s this:
The shiny prom queens of March usually look like burned-out meth heads by November.