With "Suicide Squad" arriving in theaters, I've been thinking a lot about villains.
The NFL has a bad-guy problem. Well, let me clarify that. The NFL certainly has some bad guys, but I'm not interested in the legitimate rotten apples. I'm talking about a bad guy who's generally a solid contributor to society, but who also has the ability to feed off our collective hatred and turn that into intrigue.
Maybe it's the combined effect of image consultants, brand ambassadors, spiritual advisors, "mental coach guys" and the unblinking eye of social media. But no one seems to want to wear the black hat anymore.
Maybe this is just the price to pay when your resting face is set at "Chronically Apathetic" and you're actually the 21st-best quarterback in the league, despite years of hype suggesting otherwise.
This week, The Notorious Bennett Brothers (they should tour college campuses under this moniker) went HAM on Cutler in an ESPN The Magazine profile, calling the Bears veteran the worst quarterback in football. This felt like the equivalent of Batman flipping the bird to Bane after the musclebound anarchist was already lifeless on the floor.
Cutler The Villain is dead. He's a JAG now. Just Another Guy. How about we show some mercy? Bullies like the Bennetts should pick on someone their own size.
So who will rise? Bill Belichick is The Hooded One, but he's too taciturn to get worked up about. Tom Brady may be the NFL's Talented Mr. Ripley, but good luck getting him to publicly lean into his most devious tendencies. Ndamukong Suh has a nice hook, with all the holiday stomping and nards attacks, but the act feels tired.
What we might need is a dramatic heel turn. Back when I was a kid, Shawn Michaels pulled off the greatest good-to-evil pivot I've ever seen, before or since. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of professional wrestling knows exactly what I'm talking about ...
Before Shawn Michaels put Marty Jannetty and his absurdly tight jeans through the Barber Shop window, he was a genial playboy with modest career success. But after he turned heel, The Heartbreak Kid's career exploded like a superkick to the face. Michaels is now universally hailed as one of the greatest, most charismatic wrestlers ever.
Let this sprinkle of '90s pop ephemera serve as a lesson to you, the restless NFL star who has the goods to be a phenomenon but feels like there's a glass ceiling blocking your ascent to ubiquity. There is another path.
And when you read this column to your agent, be prepared for him to tell you I'm an idiot. Then he'll pitch you an insulting cameo on "Ballers." Fire that dude on the spot.
Let me be the bad angel on your shoulder who reminds you the good-guy act gets stale. The respect, fame and prestige -- i.e., all the stuff you want -- is more readily available on the dark side.