This is going to be a post about Joe Mixon, specifically, how I feel about the Bengals drafting Joe Mixon, my reaction to the Bengals drafting Joe Mixon, and your reaction to the reaction to the Bengals drafting Joe Mixon.
Maybe you're tired of hearing and reading about Joe Mixon, or maybe discussing Joe Mixon makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps you just want to move on and talk football.
If all along you've been okay with the idea of the Bengals selecting Joe Mixon, then you've accepted the fallout that would inevitably come with them taking him. If you embrace the guy who once punched a woman in the face with such ferocity that her jaw was wired shut for six months, you accept the scrutiny, criticism, and discussions that result.
Accept Joe Mixon, and you accept the shitstorm that comes with drafting him.
I was shocked at how shocked I was. We've had time to brace for this. It's not like the Bengals taking Joe Mixon was some completely unforeseen development that came from nowhere. They were one of the first teams connected to him, and it wasn't hard to assess their roster and draft position and conclude that Cincinnati - like it or not - would be a sensible landing place for him.
And yet, when the words Joe Mixon came out of the mouth of Anthony Munoz - the juxtaposition of him being the guy to make the announcement was striking, by the way - it was jarring. I felt instantly uneasy, dirty even. It felt like finding out that your best friend is screwing around on his wife and has asked you not to tell. I didn't like it.
I still don't.
Frankly, my feelings aren't that much more complex than that. I don't like the fact that the team I root for was the one to give Joe Mixon a chance to play professional football.
You may not share my perspective. That's fine. You may only care about the Bengals winning and the things that can help them toward that goal, and you may only Joe Mixon through the lens of what kind of impact he can have on the field. I don't view things through that lens - and there was a time in my life when I did - but that viewpoint is cut and dry, and steers clear of the way others have talked about Joe Mixon.
What I can't deal with is the excuse-making and victim-shaming that results from the mental gymnastics that so many people put themselves through to justify the actions of an athlete or feel better about their favorite team adding a character that they'd ordinarily find to be reprehensible. There are a lot of ways to get me to engage with you about Joe Mixon, or men like him who've struck at women. You have no chance at getting me to participate in conversations that includes things assigning blame toward the victim, or trying to take me down a path that ends with you justifying what Joe Mixon did.
Ah, but we were all 18 once, right? That's a frequent comeback I've seen too. Who among us that passed through that awkward and complicated stage of life when you're an adult in name only didn't make a mistake?
I could write a how-to book on how to fill your college years with bad decisions, poor judgement, and regrettable behavior. Shit, I could walk you through all the remorseful missteps I made in my 20s and the things from my 30s I wish I could do-over. I've hurt people emotionally. I've permanently fractured friendships. I've been a poor excuse for a husband, boyfriend, employee, coworker, brother, son, and friend. You will never meet someone who's more in touch with their flaws and deficiencies than I am. Everything about my life has been shaped by a series of things I wish I could either un-do or try again.
I've never broken bones in a woman's face.
But ultimately, what am I gonna do about it? More than a few of you have asked me that. Will I root against the Bengals or find something else to do with my Sundays? Am I opening up my rooting interest to the other 31 teams?
I like watching the NFL. Watching pro football is what I like to do for entertainment, and I get great joy from watching the Bengals in person, and rooting for them (sometimes, obviously, less than others). The fact that I'm uncomfortable with the decision the Bengals made is deeply connected to the fact that - despite their best efforts to alienate me - I care deeply about them. I, maybe unlike you, can reconcile my feelings for the Bengals drafting Joe Mixon with my passion for their product.
I'll root for Joe Mixon, but that has nothing to do with football. I'll root for Joe Mixon because it does no one any good for him to continue the pattern of behavior he established when he hit Ameila Molitor, forever changing her life as much as his. It does no one any good for Joe Mixon to confirm the worst fears people have about him. It does no one any good for more women to be punched in the face by Joe Mixon.
I didn't want Joe Mixon in Cincinnati, and it's going to be a long time before I'm comfortable with him being on my the football team I root for, but now that he is here, I want him to take me down a path where eventually, I look back on the 2017 draft and think that, yeah, the Bengals got it right. I want him to do things off the field that convince me that he was deserving of the chance the team has given him and that he's making the most of that opportunity.
I wasn't very open-minded about whether the Bengals should've drafted him. I'll be open-minded enough to allow him the chance to ultimately make me feel good about the fact that they did.