One of the best examples of pure capitalism in American culture is Professional Football. In the rest of the world where socialism is a much stronger presence, soccer is the game of choice and the differences between soccer and American football are extremely obvious, and have been discussed here before. However, within the game of football there are wonderful examples of teams that are very good and teams that are not. On this issue I have never been shy to proclaim my love of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and since Ronde Barber has announced his official retirement, I want to spend some time reflecting on the Bucs. I love that team because the owners are the kind of people who are always striving for quality, perfection, and innovative dynamics. The Bucs are on the complete opposite end of the spectrum as opposed to a team like the Cincinnati Bengals from my home town who are run by terrible ownership. The differences between these two teams are just as profound as those between a statist government and a capitalist one. The Bengals are run by a top-heavy, power-hungry dictator while the Buccaneers are run by a generally hands off bunch of pure capitalists who are performance based. My love of American football therefore has nothing to do with sports for the sake of evasion, mental distraction or statistical accumulation to be discussed during business relationships. My love of football is because it always gives me wonderfully dynamic examples of the trouble between statism and capitalism as economic systems. And for the Buccaneers there was never a player in American football who exemplified why I love Tampa Bay more than Warren Sapp who has just been inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at a very early age in the balloting. Yet more than that, on a Monday Night Football game against the rival Miami Dolphins in November of 2013 Warren’s number will be retired and Sapp will be placed on the Buccaneer Ring of Honor in the house that he built at Raymond James Stadium.
The trouble with statist governments that are philosophically built on the premise of socialism is that they attempt to operate without defining who the best among them are. Their goal is to determine how they can pull down—or mooch off of others to establish equality among all human beings. But in American football, teams like the ones that the Glazers build are always on the lookout for the “exceptional” individuals who will elevate them into victories. Since the Buccaneers parted ways with Warren Sapp way back in 2004 due to his expensive price tag but aging performance the Bucs have tried to duplicate the kind of teams they had while Warren Sapp played for them, especially during the years of 1997 to his release in 2004. Sapp was an emotional leader who increased the performance of everyone around him, so he was the key ingredient to the Buccaneers classic shut down defense. Broadcasters, coaches, NFL owners, agents and anybody else in the business of professional football tend to believe in statistics using purely mathematical analysis believing falsely that people like Warren Sapp could be easily replaced by new number one draft picks, but even though the Bucs have been very aggressive in trading out coaches, players, and any dynamic they could find with a wonderful facility at One Buc Place in Tampa which watches virtually every college player in the entire country, they have not found another Warren Sapp. They’ve been looking, but there just hasn’t been one.
High school sports coaches in every school in the country have failed to produce another Warren Sapp. Out of the thousands of potential defensive tackles, another Warren Sapp has not emerged in the NFL. But why? Well, the answer is one that I talk about all the time and with Sapp there is not a better example in professional sports.
Sapp’s mother worked three jobs, yet was always there to wake him up to go to school. She set in his mind a work ethic that made Sapp a monster on the practice field. But while his mom was always working and wasn’t home much to care for him, Sapp played football all the time with his older brothers who did everything they could to restrict their younger sibling. Warren Sapp being a young man with an extremely vicious temper and a yearning to win, never let his older brothers suppress his spirit. He worked hard to become bigger, stronger, and faster than anybody else. And if he found that he came up against those who were bigger, stronger, or faster than he was, then he would beat them with superior will-power.
Sapp went on to become a dominate football player at his high school in a suburb of Orlando then was a dominant player at the University of Miami. He was drafted by the Bucs in 1995 at the start of the Glazer era by Sam Wyche—a man who was nearly as colorful as a coach as Sapp was as a player. Wyche used to be the head coach for the Bengals before Mike Brown took over the team upon his father’s death. Sam Wyche was responsible for the famous, “you don’t live in Cleveland” speech to the entire stadium. Wyche didn’t last long under the statist like Mike Brown, so he became the coach in Tampa back in 1992. Wyche had some success in Tampa, and was responsible for many of the draft picks that built the team who would go on to win the Superbowl a few years later. After five years of not taking the Buccaneers to championship form, the Glazers cut Wyche and hired Tony Dungy. It was under Tony that Sapp found a mentor that was perfect for his personality, and the Buccaneers became arguably the best defense in the NFL for a number of years.
Sapp is one of only six defensive players in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl, be named Defensive Player of the Year, and win a Super Bowl or NFL title. The others are Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White and Sapp’s former teammate, Derrick Brooks. He is now reckoned as the prototype three-technique defensive tackle; ever since his retirement NFL teams scouting defensive tackles have reportedly been looking for a “Baby Sapp.”
He was selected to 7 Pro Bowls, was named a First-Team All-Pro four times and a Second-Team All-Pro twice, while adding a spot on the 1990s and 2000s All-Decade Teams and, most impressively, earning Defensive Player of the Year honors after an amazing 16.5-sack season in 1999. Sapp was a key player for the imposing Buc defenses of the late ’90s and early ’00s, truly the cog that made that defense go.
Sapp played the game of football like a gladiator in a Roman arena. He relished the combat of daily play and always understood that for every admirer, he had many who wanted to take him down, so he never let his guard relax on or off the field. He was often careful to eat food in restaurants in towns where the Buccaneers visited as he was concerned that enemies of his might tamper with his health and he had practice customs before each game that involved skipping through the enemy team’s side of the field to show his dominance over them before a game. Warren Sapp was geared up for conflict at all hours of every day and he relished it. It made him better, stronger and faster, a regiment that had started with his mother who worked hard 24 hours a day 7 days a week, and older brothers who constantly challenged him. Sapp had an extremely colorful career with the Buccaneers and a fighting spirit that other players like Ronde Barber, Derrick Brooks, John Lynch, Mike Alstott, and many others would rally behind to become one of the most animated, and technically proficient sports teams to ever take a field. But it all started with the extreme charisma of an individual in Warren Sapp which led to many controversies.
Mike Sherman confrontation
On November 24, 2002, at Raymond James Stadium, Sapp drew criticism for a cheap shot on the Green Bay Packers‘ Chad Clifton during an interception return by the Buccaneers. Clifton was jogging down field, away from the main action, and was blindsided by Sapp. Clifton suffered a severe pelvic injury on the play. The hit sent Clifton to the hospital. He was hospitalized for almost a week and could not walk unaided for five more weeks. In 2005, the NFL Competition Committee agreed on new guidelines for “unnecessary roughness”, making hits such as that suffered by Clifton illegal.
In an exchange caught by television cameras following the game, Packers’ coach Mike Sherman approached Sapp and said to him, “That was a chicken shit play.” In response, Sapp screamed repeatedly at Sherman: “You’re so tough? Put on a fucking jersey!” Sherman later called Sapp “a lying, shit-eating hound. … If I was 25 years old and didn’t have a kid and a conscience, I would have given him an ass-kicking right there at the 30-yard line.” Sherman later said of Sapp: “The joviality that existed after [the hit] when a guy’s lying on the ground, with numbness in his legs and fingers, I just thought that wasn’t appropriate for any NFL player.”
The skipping incidents
During pre-game warm-ups of a December 23, 2002 Monday Night Football game at Raymond James Stadium, Warren skipped among the Pittsburgh Steelers players during their pre-game warmups. Steelers running back Jerome Bettis shoved Sapp, and this was followed by a heated argument between the two teams. Sapp felt that he was made an example by the NFL by being fined for that first skipping incident. “That’s all this is about,” said Sapp. “In my nine years in this league, no one’s been fined for verbally abusing officials. It’s unprecedented.” The Buccaneers had been earlier ridiculed by Steelers’ Lee Flowers as being “paper champions.” Despite losing to the Steelers in that game, Sapp and the Buccaneers went on to win Super Bowl XXXVII five weeks later.
In 2003, during an October 6 Monday Night Football game against the Indianapolis Colts, Sapp was scolded for skipping through and disrupting the Colts players, who were spread out on the field, stretching during pre-game warmups. There was much anticipation and national interest going into the game, which was the return of former head coach Tony Dungy to Tampa. The Colts wound up erasing a 21-point deficit in the final four minutes, and defeated the Buccaneers 38-35 in overtime, initiating a downslide for the defending champions.
A week later, on October 12, 2003, prior to the game against the Washington Redskins, Sapp was running onto the field when he bumped into an NFL referee. The incident drew a fine of $50,000. Sapp’s response to the fine: “It’s a slave system. Make no mistake about it. Slave master say you can’t do it, don’t do it. They’ll make an example out of you.”
Ejection for unsportsmanlike conduct
On December 23, 2007, Sapp was involved in an altercation with NFL referees near the end of the second quarter of the Raiders’ game at Jacksonville.
The incident began when linesman Jerry Bergman mistakenly assumed that the Raiders wished to decline a Jacksonville 10-yard penalty. Sapp, the defensive captain, began speaking with referee Jerome Boger, indicating that the Raiders instead wished to accept the penalty. The conversation became heated, with Sapp gesturing and swearing. This resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct call by Boger against Sapp. Sapp and his defensive teammates continued interacting with the officials after the penalty was called, resulting in a second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Sapp and another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty assessed against teammate Derrick Burgess. Finally, the coaches and officiating staff entered the field and began physically separating and removing the arguing players. Boger claimed that during this time Sapp “bumped” him; Sapp denies making physical contact. Regardless, at this point Boger levied a third unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Sapp and ejected him from the game. Sapp did not play in the second half and was eventually fined $75,000 by the NFL; Burgess received a $25,000 fine.
Being the best took its toll on Sapp. He made a lot of mistakes off the field, particularly with women. He had nobody in his life who could prepare him for what society would do to him while being the best. He was playing a capitalist game, but the society at large was hell-bent on socialism leaving them empty husks looking to be filled by his beaming personality. Naturally women threw themselves at him and he accepted causing him and his wife to separate in 2003. The alimony to all the mothers of his children would eventually bankrupt him once his playing days were over in 2008. His hard life and multitude of enemies had caught up with him. As a player who had once had millions of dollars in his pockets, had less than $1000 dollars in his bank account in April of 2012 when he had to finally file for bankruptcy. Warren’s big problem is that he failed to understand that the world would mooch off him to the extent that they had, and he did not put a stop to it with the same aggression he displayed on the football field.
But he wouldn’t be the first, and he won’t be the last to find that the world is filled with personalities who attach themselves to strong individuals for safety, security and just a fragment of charisma. They will take, and take and take until there isn’t anything left of such people—and once they’ve done that—they will kick you to the curb and look for someone else to loot, pillage, and crush. That is the ways of socialism, especially in modern America where a mixed economy allows such things to occur. When people like Warren Sapp who have hearts as big as their tempers and try to do so much for so many people, but fail to recognize that there is no way to ever stop the perils of socialism when the methods of capitalism are removed from their lives, then the game is truly over. And for Warren Sapp, it ended in bankruptcy.
But Sapp is a fighter, and he has gotten right back up again from his hard fall in the post football era of his life. As terrible as the news for him was in 2012 he is now a Hall of Famer during his first year of eligibility and he will now be in the famed Buccaneers Ring of Honor. He is being brought back into the culture of the Glazer Buccaneers to mentor young players into emulating him so that the Bucs can rise once again to the kind of team it was under his previous leadership. I have often said I would rather have a man like Warren Sapp on the sideline even if he was a quadriplegic—just for his mind and passion than a whole army of first-round draft picks. I’d take Warren Sapp for my football team as just a talking head before I’d take a team full of Heisman Trophy winners any day of the week. Warren Sapp is that special of an individual.
So Warren, I will be there with you when you get your Ring of Honor. I will be watching. You are a very special person, especially to my daughter and me. I have thrown televisions out the front window of my house watching you play for the Buccaneers in anger over calls made against your actions. I have jumped so hard in my living room that I have cracked the ceiling punching it after one of your sacks. I have yelled myself hoarse after Buccaneer games that you played. I have rooted for you as an individual spark that ignited a Buccaneer domination of the NFL and it is because of this era that I still hang a banner dedicated to the Buccaneers in the foyer of my home to greet all who enter. My daughter and I have enjoyed your life so far and we look forward to many more years of your entertainment. I watch the NFL commentaries just to see what you have to say because I trust your opinions over those who do not think with the same passion, and determination. You played the game the way I think and for that I will always be grateful.
Football is a game of capitalism. What happened to Warren Sapp is his fault in that he didn’t recognize that socialism rules the world outside of a football field, and he discovered tragically that his beaming personality and wonderful work ethic could not generate the kind of income he had become accustom to without a football field under his feet. When he was allowed to be a gladiator in the arena, the world was his for the taking, and he took it, but outside the stadium, the world took from him, and he gave it away thinking that his dynamic personality and work ethic could always provide what he needed. But it didn’t. However, a part of him will always be hanging in Raymond James Stadium, so in a way, Warren Sapp will return to the arena of football to stay. The Buccaneers will never let another player wear the number of Warren Sapp again—and they never should. Because it is unlikely that another player like Warren will ever take to the field again, because he was one of a kind, and still is.
You can visit Warren Sapp personally at his website by clicking the link below.