The Test Balloon

“Hey, Hey, what do you say? Someone took your plans away.” — Paul McCartney

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. I began writing columns in my last year of junior high when we had a school newspaper. I continued in high school when I worked on the school newspaper there as well. As an aside, someone on Facebook mentioned that our thirty year reunion was coming up. That wasn’t a very nice thing to do.

I continued writing in college and have written my own stuff and written for a number of smaller outlets in the days since. I currently am writing for two of those. One considers political commentary while the other focuses on the Houston Texans. Many of my pieces there start out here. You might call this my writing lab.

I fully admit that is what you are getting today. A fellow writer suggested I tackle the Jack Easterby angle in one of my next pieces for the football site. It seems it would be a nice corollary to the Deshaun Watson piece you saw in here earlier this week. I don’t know how you condense all of that down to one column. Since many of the readers here are not football fans, I should provide some background in this piece before moving on.

Jack Easterby is currently the executive vice president of football operations for the Texans. It is how he got to that position that is the most interesting. It has been the feature of not one, but two Sports Illustrated exposes. I hardly see how I can do that justice in less than 1000 words.

If you could call him anything by trade it would be a youth pastor. They often get bad names, but youth pastors are important people in a church. They work with and relate to one of the more difficult populations in the church. Kids are constantly exploring their boundaries and most don’t want to be at church. A youth pastor has to somehow relate to them on their level while also teaching them the ways of the faith. It’s not an easy job.

A professional sports franchise it is not that dissimilar. Players and coaches have different levels of commitment. Some want to punch the time clock, do their thing, and then get paid. Others want to be there from opening until closing doing every last thing they can do to get that edge. It’s what happens after the doors close that becomes important.

They don’t call a youth pastor a youth pastor in the NFL. They call him a life coach or character coach. It’s essentially the same job. Ideally what you want is someone that can help young adult men deal with fame, fortune, and adulation. As a teacher, I’ve seen it every day. Teachers give them grades so they can play. Administrators look the other way when they break the rules. I actually had one tell me to lay off a kid because he was good at football. This was seventh grade. Imagine what happens after more than a decade of this treatment.

Eventually, a player does something that can’t be swept under the rug. A team has tens of millions of dollars invested in their biggest stars. They can’t afford to see them transfer to the Grey Bar Hotel. According to tale, Easterby was one of the better life coaches in the NFL. He was reportedly heavily sought after when he was working for the Patriots. A team that saw the whole Aaron Hernandez situation go down knew very well the value of having a guy that could help athletes avoid that.

The story of how he went from that to executive vice president is the one that is the most interesting. We will have to save that until next time I have an extra day in the writing lab.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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