When trying to determine the motivations of individuals, whether in the sports world or otherwise, a wise man (or a cynic) once said “follow the money”. Clearly the curious case of Ndumakong Suh is another instructive reminder of this.
To the average fan, it would seem that the salaries that NFL players are enough to motivate them and make their wildest dreams of financial success come true, and most don’t begrudge the players this. Short careers and danger of permanent injury would be compelling cases that they deserve what they can get. Once on this pinnacle, though, players are continually presented with arguments from friends, hangers-on, and particularly agents that they should be getting more, more, more.
In Suh’s case, it’s fairly well documented that he has never been well liked by teammates or opponents. Despite the well spoken exterior, his actions at Nebraska and in his brief NFL career seem to be self explanatory; he can’t control himself on the field and his coach, Jim Schwartz, has no interest in discipling him. He’s continually misbehaved without any real consequences. Why would he think that he should ever have to change his habits?
The answer, of course, is money. Suh’s unsolicited meetings with Roger Goodell were never set up due to a real concern on his part that he wanted to change. What he (and undoubtedly his agent) wanted was to obtain more lucrative marketing opportunities for himself; endorsements, commercials, and all the “extra” money that stars in the NFL rake in. Suh and his connections worked hard presenting himself in a positive light; the soft spoken, rational man, the gentle giant, the thinker. The Goodell meeting was meant to be the capper to this calculated approach to the media, and the action opening the door to the car commercials.
The problem is that Suh isn’t that person, and all the endorsement money out there isn’t enough to make him that person. The whole cynical campaign came to a halt in the worst possible way; in front of a Thanksgiving audience of potential believers, Suh permanently ended any chance for major advertisers to buy in to his fiction and open their checkbook. For anyone who feels that this is premature, take a look at the video of Suh attempting to snap Jake Delhomme’s neck last year, or talk to his own Nebraska teammates. We haven’t heard the last of Suh; we’ll see him over and over again over the years committing one atrocity after the other. He can’t stop. We’ll see any number of self serving interviews about how he is a changed man (note how quickly he backtracked from his postgame comments on Friday). But the only question will remain is how long the Lions and the NFL will wait before taking decisive action; and who will get hurt until then.