It takes a lot to get football people – and I include fans here – to move past old narratives and code words.
Like 49er backup-quarterback-to-be C.J. Beathard, whose surname has actually become an instructional manual since he replaced Brian Hoyer. Now that he is quasi-officially cannon fodder for Jimmy Garoppolo, the new toy the 49ers are still keeping in the shrinkwrap until a later time, we hear a lot about how tough he is, and how he knows that this is all part of being a quarterback.
“That's what's so impressive,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said after Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. “I think those hits affect almost everybody. I haven't seen them affect him.”
Except that he knows that they will. They could make him skittish, or shell-shocked, career-devaluing, but they will not enhance his or his future job prospects. Being the tough guy as a quarterback never gets better, and the credit he gets for taking the weekly poundings never count in his favor later, except anecdotally.
And you don’t get reps with a future team because you provide great stories of individual heroism. Indeed, after a dodgy hit by former 49er Antoine Bethea that sparked a brawl that resulted in three ejections, one of those ejectees – 49er running back Carlos Hyde – won praise from Shanahan.
“I really loved how he went to our quarterback, went and got our quarterback's back,” Shanahan said in reference to Hyde. “And I thought our quarterback had a couple helmets to the head when he was in the pocket a few plays before and then he ended up scrambling and sliding and he got one again. I think our players had had enough.”
You know who else had enough? Beathard. Only he can’t say anything about it. He gets to get out of bed in slow motion, go to work with the same eagerness and know that the same thing is coming this Sunday. And then he gets to lose his starting job simply because the 49ers went out to get a designated savior – as though what they are saving the franchise from is Beathard, which isn’t entirely true.
But that’s the job of being a crash test dummy, and while the idea is that it is noble and honorable, it is also without any reward in the end. You can’t even complain about it.
“That’s one thing — I’m not afraid of getting hit,” Beathard said after the game, no doubt while his inner voice was shrieking at him, ‘THIS SUCKS! THIS IS LOUSY! TELL THEM!”
“That won’t affect me. It never has. I’m tough and I've been able to take things. Obviously if I’m injured I won’t force myself in there.”
Except that he will, and he will do it every time he is asked. Soon, though, if he hasn’t already come to this conclusion, he will realize that sympathetic sentences and statements of admiration from people safe from the chaotic menace cannot be turned in later for fabulous prizes. There is no “A Football Life” for C.J. Beathard. Just more (and this is the last time we’ll be resorting to this particular rhetorical cheapery) hard beatings.