Start or Sit Josh Gordon
Should you start or sit Josh Gordon in week three? This might be the most complex question to answer in fantasy football this year. To understand it, we should examine the life of an addict.
We should look at my life.
Josh Gordon’s whiplash-inducing jaunt over to the New England Patriots has fantasy pundits and players abuzz, eagerly debating the question, “start or sit Josh Gordon?” After all, this is the team that takes washed up guys and turns them into stars. This is the team that took a cast-off Randy Moss and gave him the best wide receiver season of all time. People are excited:
These people are all misguided.
Many fans, whether of fantasy or just NFL football, are expressing their hope that Josh Gordon can put down the pot and booze and step into the great career that’s apparently been waiting for him for years, just beyond the gates of addiction:
These people are guided by ignorance.
I don’t mean to say they are themselves ignorant… it’s quite easy to conflate the impact of marijuana as a casual drug with the impact of marijuana as a crutch. As a casual drug, pot is something teenagers get into, then grow out of as the adult aspects of their lives demand a significant amount of mental and physical acuteness. After all, it’s just pot.
As a crutch, it’s not “just” pot.
It’s something way stronger.
No, not dabs. Even stronger than that.
Treating an addiction as “just” something that can be discarded ignores the dependency aspect of the substance used. It’s like saying a paraplegic doesn’t need their fake leg because it’s just metal, or it’s just wood, or it’s just… I don’t know… a sock filled with styrofoam packing peanuts. I don’t really know what people are building prosthetic limbs out of these days.
But I do know addiction.
From 1998 until 2012, I was a functioning addict. I needed my substance of choice every single minute of every single hour of every single day. Without it, I was useless, I was unable to do things as simple as omitting the apostrophe from the possessive form of the word “its,” my skeleton felt like it was jumping out of it’s body. I would be unreliable at work and in relationships unless I was high. Fortunately, my addiction was to marijuana. So, it wasn’t so bad, it’s just pot, right?
I can tell you, it’s not “just” pot.
Like Gordon, I depended on marijuana to get my job done. I don’t play professional football, but I was in a similar high-pressure world of “perform or you don’t get paid.” I wrote comedy, full time. That’s a hard job to get, and an even harder job to keep. 11 hours a day, I needed to come up with jokes and situations that were not only hilarious, but exposed groundbreaking elements of the human condition. Without pot, I’m kind of a funny guy. I can make people laugh but I can’t make people pay for those laughs 250 days a year. With marijuana, I could get my brain around what each joke represented, what the big picture commentary was on modern life, and I could tailor each joke to emphasize these revelations.
With pot, I could keep my job. Without it, I couldn’t.
It’s not “just” pot. I can’t emphasize this enough, if you want to know addiction or even just whether to start or sit Josh Gordon, you have to understand that it’s not just pot.
Not only did it improve my performance to acceptible levels, marijuana also helped me with the extreme stress of being a comedy writer. The cold calls to producers and editors, where I had seconds to elicit a laugh from a grumpy, busy executive who was already annoyed that I had gotten past their secretaries by pretending I was from the utility company and there was a gas leak. The late night, last-minute rewrites that demanding editors always want (and usually make the script far better). The constant, looming truth that if I stopped being funny, I stopped paying rent. To me, pot wasn’t a fun drug I did with my friends on a late weekend night in a back alley of a bar. It was a performance-enhancing drug I needed constantly in order to live up to the high expectations of my bosses, and my even higher expectations of myself.
I had just assumed I would keep up my addiction and career until I died at 50 from a stroke or cancer or whatever long-term effect of addiction would get me. However, in 2012, my twin sons were born. I realized I couldn’t raise them in a household where addiction was second-nature. I needed to figure out how to get things done without my crutch, so I could demonstrate it to them. I needed to live longer than their mid-teenage years.
And, apparently, a guy’s teenage years can now extend into his fifties
So I quit cold turkey. I see what people mean when they say pot is not physically addictive. Sure I had shakes and vomiting and weird psychotic thoughts, but after a few days that all subsided. In fact, after a week marijuana no longer had the beneficial effects I had come to lean on. Getting high after that actually decreased my performance at my job, just like it does for most people. That was that, I had kicked pot simply by putting away the childish behavior and maturing a little bit. Everything was wrapped up nicely.
Except it wasn’t.
Because it’s not “just” pot.
Sure, I had quickly gotten over the substance’s physical effects, but its influence on my life took much longer to replace. In fact, my career never did fully recover. My comedy articles immediately became way less insightful, leaning on the humor of my jokes rather than their meta-commentary on modern foibles of society. That’s schticky, that’s basic, and it doesn’t sell. My articles stopped front paging on sites viewed by millions. They devolved into trite listicles that became part of millions of trite listicles bloating the corpse of the main humor-writing format of the Internet.
It was 2013, and I no longer had a career. Because it wasn’t “just” pot. It wasn’t even “just” a crutch. Marijuana was a vehicle that got me where I needed to go. It was the only way I knew how to get where I wanted to go.
I back-burnered the writing, doing a few listicles and jokes-on-commission each week, but putting most of my focus into teaching. For five years I was sober (at least at work). I built up a career in a new industry. Naturally, education doesn’t pay as much as jokes, but rounded out with the trickle of comedy writing I still did and my hardworking wife’s income it was enough to support our family and pay our mortgage.
Then, in October of 2017, the firm my wife worked for was restructured and she found herself without a job. This unemployment persisted for longer than we expected, primarily because my wife had struggled to make it in a glass-ceilinged male-dominated industry for so long, she kept applying for similar jobs to the ones she had without realizing she was really overqualified.
So I took on more teaching work. I worked 60-80 hours a week, but it’s hard for a teacher, even working double time, to provide enough income for a mortgage and two kids. I was tempted to drink or smoke weed, anything to keep my body and brain working long enough to do more. I decided that it was more important to stay sober at work (I was a teacher, after all) and just deal with the mounting debt when my wife found work.
No, I know: All of your teachers were pot-smoking alcoholics,
just… stick with me, here
Then, last June, something horrible happened. Something that sent me rushing back into the throngs of addiction, something that only happens to those bearing true tragedy… or those unlucky enough to win the lottery:
Everything came up wonderful at the same time.
My wife got hired at a much higher level than she had been at, higher than the position she actually applied for. At the same time, I got “hot” as a writer again: I got a book deal. I got offers to write several video games. This here site I co-own, a passion project me and several internet friends decided to make because we wanted to say things about fantasy football, both humorous and analytical, that other sites weren’t saying, got almost a million hits in two months. It was almost as if… I had been struggling on the Cleveland Browns for years and I suddenly became part of an organization built on winning.
See, I worked in the issue of whether to start or sit Josh Gordon.
That’s good writing… I think… I can’t really tell because I’m sober
My career kicked it into high-performance in all aspects. Even my teaching job saw me getting a record amount of perfect ratings from students. My whole life was yet again becoming a dream come true. And I was in no way ready or prepared without a vehicle. Without a crutch.
This was because, at least until my wife got settled and we paid off our debts, I was now doing a 60-hour teaching job with a full-time writing job on top of it. Throw in full-time childcare for twin 5-year-old boys, and my days were packed from sunrise until after midnight, seven days a week. I grew fatigued quickly. Not wanting to turn back to pot, I turned to alcohol. Again, it’s performance enhancing… I’m not a mean drunk, or a dangerous one… I’m just a guy who has worked 14 straight hours, and a few or six drinks gave me the energy and mental calm to keep working another 5 hours. Every day. I stayed sober for most of the day, not drinking until the evening, but then I wouldn’t be able to stop until after midnight, until all my work was done.
Because it’s not “just” alcohol. It’s a crutch, a vehicle, a steroid that gives me superhuman powers to get my daily to-do list completely checked. You try working/watching two screaming, growing boys 19 hours a day, seven days a week, and see if there’s enough caffeine in the world to get it done. I can tell you: There’s not.
Similar superhuman performance is what is expected of Josh Gordon, ever since his incredible 2013 breakout season. Now, obviously I’m not Josh Gordon: He’s an athlete performing at the top of the highest stage there is. I’m just a comic writing for a few dozen thousand people a week. Comparing the roughness of his career to mine is like comparing sandpaper to Charmin. But that’s my point: I’m not Josh Gordon, and I couldn’t do my job without a substance.
And that’s with five years of practice doing my job sober. I couldn’t do it when the pressure intensified.
So why are so many expecting Gordon to do it in a week?
I thought I’d foreshadow the answer to “start or sit Josh Gordon,”
for those of you who just spent five minutes scanning the article.
Just saved you the trouble of reading for twenty more seconds, you’re welcome
Thankfully, I’ve been able to scale back a lot of my non-writing work (and curb the drinking) due to my wife’s new salary, and that brutal work schedule only lasted 3 months (not counting the 6 months previous of 60 hour work-weeks). But I got through it because I’m not tested for drugs or alcohol, hell people practically expect writers to clock in with a buzz.
Josh Gordon is being tested. And if he fails once more, it’s likely all over.
Several experts here at Football Absurdity, including genius analyst Jeff Krisko and my own addiction-certified psychologist father, Jonathan Hart, expect the more rigid New England system to be a benefit. Their arguments have merit: Gordon’s struggle is one that frequently requires rigidity and constant structure. Cleveland could never provide that like New England can. And frankly, at the risk of pejorative, it seems like it’d be easy to become an alcoholic when you play for the Browns. In the long term, I can’t disagree with the assessment that this could be a net positive for his life.
In the long term.
But in the short term, Josh Gordon, who found the preseason to be too much pressure to revert back to substances, now has a harder road. He plays for a team that expects victory, for one of the most demanding coaches in history.
And they’re starting him with less than a week to learn the playbook.
I hope Josh Gordon and the Patriots work to find a long-term plan for his success. But this article isn’t about the long-term prospects of Josh Gordon. It’s about whether you should sit or start Josh Gordon week three. This week. I can only think of two things that happen… the Patriots keep him on a severely limited snap count, which is what he needs in my opinion… or they throw him more deeply into the gladiator ring than he is ready for. He might score a touchdown, and salvage the week for anyone who starts him. But that’s his ceiling. The answer to the question of whether to start or sit Josh Gordon, as far as I’m concerned, is a resounding sit.
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Evan Hoovler is a full-time teacher, writer, and father. His newest book: “Comedy in the Art of Teaching,” comes out March 26th through Kaplan Press. For more of his random utterances, follow the Football Absurdity twitter or become his Facebook friend
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