Dan writes that Matt Cassel will be playing with a heavy heart today, just a few days after the death of his father. It is a sentimental piece that talks about the relationship between fathers and sons. On one level, it is the type of writing that Dan typically excels at. When Dan put aways his petty jealousies of professional athletes and focuses on the human dimension and what he refers to as the "universal truths", he writes well and dare I say sometimes compelling fare? (I am one in the minority who really enjoyed Shaughnessy's book about his own relationship with his son)...so you would figure I would love today's column...buy you would be wrong.
What do I found so problematic? To use a sports analogy, Dan is guilty of forcing the ball into triple coverage. Dan relies heavily on Bob Hohler's story about Cassel's father's history to provide a backdrop of the interesting life Cassel's father lived. Then Dan launches into an idealized portrait of the relationship between fathers and sons, intimating that this Rockwellian bond existed between Cassel and his Dad. It's a great way to think about it but we just don't know if that bond existed...as Shaughnessy himself leads the column, "We don't really know Matt Cassel."
There is no doubt that a strong bond likely existed between father and son but we don't know to what extent...there are so many extenuating circumstances and questions...why was the Dad living in a trouble in what seems almost like a pauper's existence--was he too proud to accept help from his kids? Did the kids offer to help? We don't know. And Shaughnessy doesn't know that either but that doesn't stop him from talking about trips to Dairy Queen and playing Nerf football with the kids.
In contrast, when Belichick's father died, the relationship with his Dad was very well chronicled and you had a strong sense of bond between father and son. In Cassel's case, the picture is just not complete. Shaughnessy tries to complete it ...and he may have hit it right on but again, he may have been totally off. And think I it is irresponsible for him to paint this idealized picture without knowing more, no matter how touching the piece may come across.
Call me a scrooge and call me a cynic but I think this column reflects Shaughnessy's laziness...a touching piece on one level but problematic on many others because "We don't really know Matt Cassel."