J.J. Watt, I think the world of you, but I'd like to ask you to work on something. I thought long and hard about whether I should bring this up--you already work so hard. But this is important--and not just for me, but for all of us (including you).
Don't get me wrong, I think you're a great kid--I mean, man. At twenty-five years old, I can hardly call you a kid anymore. Your work ethic, generosity, and focus are all at levels that many folks live their whole lives without reaching. You come across as a man who is wise beyond his mid-twenties. I genuinely admire the person you have become.
You weren't always perceived as one who was destined for greatness; yet you have achieved it, both professionally and personally, thanks at least in part to your special combination of discipline and humility. On the field and off, you give for the sake of giving and when you are moved to do so, not with the expectation of good press or popularity points, and not in coordination with the media or an entourage. Because you never lost sight of your middle class values, you are mindful of the problems faced by average people and the obligation we all have to pitch in when and where we can.
Regarding your love life, in a recent interview with Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, you said that you don't currently have a girlfriend because of your commitment to your job.
"I know that I have probably an eight- to 10-year window in this league, and if I want to be what I say I want to be, then I have to commit myself 100 percent. That's why I don't have a girlfriend, because I give my life to this game and I want to be the best in this game, and I know it takes an unbelievable commitment," you explained.
"I know I've probably missed out on some great parties and some fun at the bars, but to me getting sacks on Sunday and the opportunity to be an All Pro and the opportunity to get Defensive Player of the Year far outweighs any party I could go to."
I admire your maturity and levelheadedness--especially considering the world you live in. Let's be honest. You are not a 25-year old accountant studying for his CPA exam who is swearing off bars and parties until you reach your professional goals. There is a qualitative and quantitative difference between the temptations facing you and a would-be CPA. Your restraint is commendable.
All of this is to say it's almost impossible to find anything to criticize about you--and I'm not the type to go looking. But I have nonetheless identified an area where you have an opportunity to improve (and it may well be the only one). Your giving nature and commitment to excellence lead me to believe you would want to know if there's something simple you could do to be an even better person and role model than you already are.
When ESPN's Michelle Beisner asked you about not wanting to have a girlfriend, you replied, "I obviously would love to have a girlfriend but a girlfriend deserves so much of your time and energy," you said. "And she deserves to be treated like a princess because that's how you should treat your girls. And if I can't give them that time and that devotion because of my dedication to football, then I don't feel like I should almost waste their time."
At first blush this statement sounds admirable--and I'm certain you meant it in a good way. A hardworking, nice guy who thinks girls should be treated like princesses and is willing to wait to get into a relationship until he can do exactly that? It's hard to take issue with that.
And yet I do. The problem is that the princess paradigm doesn't result in women getting the royal treatment; it ends up giving them the shaft. It creates unrealistic expectations and denies them permission to use their full power. Dethroning the princess paradigm wouldn't just help women in general; there's something in it for you, too. Modernizing your thinking in this area would dramatically improve your chances at a healthy relationship in the future.
And you know who else it would help? The NFL. Given your high profile status, you are in a perfect position to help the league update its attitudes about women--and God knows it can use all the help it can get. When it comes to women, the NFL's dial only has three settings: punching bag, eye candy, and princess. The princess setting is often perceived as the evolved one, but beneath that fairy tale packaging is a dungeon that traps women in a world of limited possibilities and outdated roles.
What's missing from the NFL's dial is the equal partner setting, and that's the only truly respectful one. You've never been afraid to do what you think is right or hold yourself to a higher standard--even if that's different from what everyone else is doing. And that's why you're the perfect guy to recalibrate the NFL's dial.
All you have to do is this: First, stop referring to women as girls. Just as it's not cool for me to refer to you as a kid or a boy, it's likewise not cool for men to refer to grown women as girls. Then, when you are ready for a relationship, look for a partner, not a princess. A woman who is your partner has the ability to give support as well as receive it. She can be real rather than perfect, strong rather than weak, and multi-faceted rather than one-dimensional. Even if you end up in a relationship with actual princess (and you totally could), you should treat her as a partner. Both of you will be so much better off if you do. Trust me.
I know you already do a lot for others, J.J., but if you dedicated a little of your energy and star power (or should I say wattage?) to this issue, you could enlighten a lot of folks. That would really help move the ball in the right direction. So, think it over. And go, Texans!