Thursday, February 04, 2010

Yes Eckel - do tell

Bravo Zulu to Gregg Doyle at CBS. He gets it - and puts Hall of Shame member Eckel in the right light.
If you came here looking for answers, you're out of luck. I have no answers. Not when the topic is New Orleans Saints fullback Kyle Eckel. And not when the question is this: Why is Eckel, who ran for 1,147 yards at Navy in 2004, playing in Super Bowl XLIV instead of fulfilling his military obligation in the United States Navy?

That's a big, meaty question. And I'm but a small, scrawny sports writer, one who cannot answer it. Nor will I fill in the blanks with my version of Right and Wrong. Not this time. Not on this topic. It's too large, too powerful. Too real.
...
U.S. soldiers are dying in Afghanistan. One died just Monday in southern Afghanistan, blown up by an improvised bomb. And I'm supposed to sit here in my cozy media work room in Miami and demand to know why Kyle Eckel is playing football for the Saints while some of his classmates are tiptoeing around IED's in Kabul? Sorry. Can't do it.

The best I can do is try to explain why Eckel is here, in Miami, instead of there, in the war zone. And even then I'll be operating blindfolded, because nobody is illuminating this story, including Kyle Eckel. I asked him, though. Believe me, I tried.
Eckel won't tell because he can handle his shame. Anyway, he has more important things to do than his classmates.

If you need a reminder of what I had to say about Eckel, here is my take back in
NOV 06.

Eckel's shame is something he will have to deal with every time he looks in the mirror. If you want to know who a real Navy Football player is - and one who represents the team and the USNA at its finest - click
here.

22 comments:

Andy said...

Did you know Goyel also wrote an article less than two years ago arguing that Caleb Campbell was "betrayed" by and "urinated on" but the military because they didn't let him go pro.

Also, Doyel is at CBS.  But why bother with facts - you always ignore them anyway.  Or did a mid who doesn't really know anything tell you Doyel was at ESPN?

Anonymous said...

CDR, you may want to reconsider the last sentence of your post.  I will refrain from posting specifics here because I don't have firsthand information, but I think if you do some asking around among your contacts at TBS you'll find that Ballard has gone the way of Eckel.

cdrsalamander said...

Andy,
That was then - this is now.  Read his article.

People can change, ya know.  Also - check the post schmuck?  If you were like another reader and emailed me with the correction - you could light a candle instead of cursing the dark.  Therefore - thanks Mike and Andy - no soup for you.

cdrsalamander said...

Well yes - I have a single source of a rumor .... but that is it.  Here is the important thing - he made the decision to serve.  Full stop.

I will take an imperfect man who is willing to serve when others quit.  That is the point.

MR T's Haircut said...

NO SOUP FOR YOU FOOL!

Anonymous said...

Agree completely, and no question in my mind that Eckel just didn't want to be here while Ballard just made some very bad choices.  That said, when someone makes it to graduation but immediately thereafter demonstrates such poor judgment that it tanks his career, you have to ask yourself whether it is a sign of a larger problem.  This is not an isolated incident.

Andy said...

You can't honestly think Doyel has changed his belief on this in just 18 months.  In the summer of 2008 he said he would take his kids to Canada if any of them ever said they wanted to serve in the military.  It would take someone extremely naive to think that Doyel has suddenly gone from thinking the United States took a huge dump on a cadet by not letting him skip serving for the NFL to being a crusader against the same exact thing.

07Kiddo said...

As someone who personally knew Eckel, I feel safe in saying that he doesn't feel shame. Not even a little bit. Eckel has never been about anything or anyone other than himself. He was one of "those" mids who was only in it for what he could get. He ignored the rules, blew off any suggestion of pride in his personal appearance or professionalism and cared nothing for his shipmates. He's incapable of shame because of his sense of entitlement and full-time occupation of self-adoration. 

Anon said...

I went to Eckel's wikipedia page to see what it said about him.  To my surprise, there was nothing in there about him ever having been in the Navy.  When I clicked the discussion tab, I found out why--he or someone acting on his behalf mounted an aggressive campaign to keep the information off his page, arguing that the various newspapers and blogs who had reported on his administrative separation were not credible sources (which is ridiculous, given that they were quoting a Navy spokesperson).  I can understand wanting to put your mistakes behind you, but you're not entitled to pretend they didn't happen, particularly when you've made a choice to live your life in the public eye.

Anon said...

I met Ballard after he graduated.  Nice guy with the best of intentions and a boatload of potential, but it was pretty obvious to me that the Naval Academy hadn't done much to develop him as an officer.  I got the impression he'd been coddled a bit, and perhaps graduated with the wrong impression about what would and would not fly out in the fleet. 

I don't blame him for that, I blame the leadership at the Naval Academy, which allows the Athletic Department to focus on the Academy's "physical mission" to the exclusion and often the detriment of its "moral mission".  The Athletic Department helped Ballard to become a great athlete, and while I am sure he learned valuable lessons about teamwork and leadership from his time there, I don't get the impression they placed much emphasis on things like the character and judgment required of an officer.  These lessons are indeed taught in Bancroft Hall, but varsity athletes tend to spend more time in their locker rooms than their company wardrooms, which tends to insulate them from what goes on there.  If that's going to be the case, perhaps we should expect more of the Athletic Department.  If we don't, we will continue to squander opportunities like Adam Ballard.  The raw material was there.  The desire was there.  We failed him, and in doing so we failed the fleet.

Outlaw13 said...

Does it matter if the reporter is a jerk, if he asks a legitimate question?

LT B said...

And, once again, the academy fostered that sense of entitlement.  The Navy backed it up after graduation.  Once again, Naval leadership playing in the toilet and not in the oceans.  Sad.

Grumpy Old Ham said...

Interesting.  I'd never paid much attention to the Eckel case until this post popped up.  He was being interviewed on WUSA last night as part of a SB44 story and spoke rather positively about his USNA experience, although he did decline to answer further questions about his USN career.

As usual, though, the "fact-checked for accuracy" MSM managed to get a key element wrong.  At the end of the story, the reporter stated that Eckel had been dismissed from the Academy.  That doesn't match what I've read here, and I'm more inclined to believe the writing here than the MSM these days.

LBG said...

Graduated from the academy, joined the Navy, they let him attach to a unit in RI so he could play for the Patriots, he got cut, got picked up from Miami, the Navy said, "um, no, we are not moving you, you have an obligation." then he was chucked out of the Navy, but I do not recall if they gave him an OTH or Honorable discharge.  I don't know that I ever heard the reason.  Just rumors. 

MR T's Haircut said...

Thank god he is not in the fleet leading people..

Malachy Marine said...

Not so sure if we failed Ballard. What occurred at TBS was his own actions. Specifically, he had access to a matrix for the Land Navigation final exam, before the exam took place. He used the matrix to get the answers for his boxes. INTEGRITY FAIL. To a degree I agree that there are problems with the institution, but generally the graduates are persons of integrity. Ballard clearly is not. A plebe during I-Day knows that what he did is wrong. It shows a serious lack of character, judgment, and frankly, laziness (in not wanting to complete the exam). For chrissakes they give you 8 hours to find 10 boxes... 7 correct to pass. It's not that difficult. I say shame on Ballard.

JimmyMac said...

"No dead horse goes unbeaten!"  Folks, if you want a football program that can compete with Ohio State and Notre Dame, you are going to have "professional" athletes masquerading as undergraduate amatuer athletes, or in the case of USNA, midshipmen.  The only difference at USNA is that unlike all other NCAA institutions, the leadership of USNA lacks the integirty to admit that is what is required. 

LT B said...

This doesn't happen in a vacuum people.  It is not just the leadership at the academy.  If the alumni didn't give money for football and if their dollars were not spiking w/ winning seasons then this would not be an issue.  There are officers both retired and in the Fleet that drive this too.  Follow the money.

DG said...

I'm not trying to be a jerk, but as a non-USNA grad....why does the USNA have a football team like this? Or such a big varsity athletics program?

I understand intramurals and PT. I don't get having a football team with televised games. Isn't the purpose of the USNA to be a commissioning source? How does this help prep mids for service?

Sdee said...

Agreed. And too bad he took the place of someone who could be out there leading today.

Anonymous said...

It seems that USNA has some interesting things going on with their football program. http://www.navytimes.com/news/2010/01/navy_academy_drugs_update_012710w/

Anonymous said...

Adam Ballard is a total piece of crap. He didn't want to serve his country any more than Eckel, just ask any Marine, like me, who knows him. It kills me that news networks and alumni will go out of their way to showcase a (how did you say it, cdr salamandar?) 'real Navy football player who represents Navy at its finest'...when you wrote that had you ever met Ballard, or talked to Ballard, or spent 5 minutes in his presence? Doubtful. If you had, you likely would have seen the blatant cheating that he did at TBS coming from a hundred miles away. And there were other Navy varsity athletes involved in that same TBS land nav scandal. Quality graduates, those guys. Well representing the Naval Academy, the Marine Corps, and America. And the best was his quote after he got caught: "Why do we even do land nav, we all will have GPS when we get to the fleet." Not only is his a dumbass for cheating, but he is just a plain dumbass. And he was just at TBS, which is a joke. I went from TBS to IOC to Ranger school, and I met Army LCpl's there that have more common sense than Ballard.

The Naval Academy as an institution has its problems. So does the Marine Corps. It is the cost of two wars that attrition in the officer and officer candidate ranks is high, and that the standards have been lowered. We as Marines like to believe the propoganda that we are the shit, we went through TBS (sooo tough, that course is, that it graduates...97% of each class!) or IOC (99% graduation rate!), yet we dont even know what tough is. Its hard to say that everyone meets the standard when there is no standard. The only way to not graduate TBS these days is to cheat on land nav and get caught, or lie, or murder someone. a DUI won't even get you the boot. So lets not talk about the raw material that all these awesome graduates have...sometimes it takes more than raw material to be a good officer. Sometimes, the desire to serve doesn't even coiunt as 'raw material'. Don't take society's easy way out on Ballard, and say that it was the institution, or his mother, or the environment, or who knows what else's responsibility to 'teach him moral mission lessons'...hold his ass accountable for his own actions. He, like so many other Marines, thought he was the shit. Thank god he found out he wasnt before he got a Marine in his future command killed.