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The Great Kylerby and The Valley of Ashes

NFL: APR 25 2019 NFL Draft Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On the night of the 2019 NFL Draft, Kyler Murray had the temerity to wear a pink suit.

Having served as high school English teacher for over three decades, it immediately made me think that Kyler was emulating Jay Gatsby. Yes, the Jay Gatsby who showed up at Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s house on the hottest and most fateful day of the summer donning a pink suit.

One parallel that made a whole lot of sense was that, if Kyler Murray was indeed going to be the first player taken in the draft, then Murray, like Gatsby, was about to become one of the nation’s instant mega-millionaires and the newest manifestation of the American Dream.

On that first night of the 2019 NFL Draft, even though the Cardinals had played the coy mistress throughout the long weeks heading into the event, it appeared certain that, in a New York minute, the Cardinals were going to make Kyler Murray the new face of the much-beleaguered franchise.

But, why then, I asked myself, wasn’t Kyler dressed in cardinal red?

Was Kyler was trying to add to the mystery surrounding the Cardinals’ #1 pick?

Yet, I started to wonder whether Kyler had ever finished reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel or whether he had perhaps fallen asleep during the movie about the time when Daisy Buchanan (played by Carey Mulligan), the disgraced wife of billionaire Tom Buchanan, whom Gatsby spent his entire adult life obsessing over, took one look at Gatsby’s pink suit and said, “You look so cool. You always look so cool, Jay.”

You see —- at that point in the novel, it was starting to look like Gatsby had an excellent chance of wooing Daisy away from her boorish philanderer of a husband. After all, on that blazing hot summer morning, Daisy took the risk of kissing Gatsby when Tom was staring out the window pondering why the sun seems to grow hotter every year.

Back at the beginning of the novel, as is the habit of the Chorus at the beginning of a Greek tragedy, Nick Carraway offers us a gloomy harbinger when he says, “No —- Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams... ”

Nick also reveals, early on, what he believes to be Gatsby’s most salient and admirable virtue:

“It was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again.”

Thus, it’s not difficult to picture why Kyler, a masterful creator on the football field, would appreciate Gatsby.

In the romantic sense, Gatsby is virtually the only character in the novel who stays true to his loved one. When night after night he stares at the green light on the end of Daisy’s dock, he comes across as a man of mysterious nobility.

It would also make a lot sense as to why Kyler would identify with Gatsby’s habit of staying in the recesses of his mansion during his lavish parties. The irony is that Gatsby. like Kyler, is not a partyer. He doesn’t like to drink.

The image of Leonardo DiCaprio holding up a martini glass amongst lavish fireworks bursting in the background is misleading because Gatsby’s glass would not have been filled with vodka or champagne. It would have been filled with seltzer water.

Kyler has made it clear that he likes to hang out at home and is averse to taking in the club scene.

It would also appeal to Kyler that Gatsby’s main reason for hosting such extravagant open house parties was in the hope that one of the parties would allure Daisy to come see for herself what all the hoopla was all about.

You see Gatsby never really attended his parties, which is why there were so many rumors about him. The only appearances he would make would be incognito —- solely for the purpose to see whether Daisy could be found among the guests “who came and went like moths among the champagne and the stars.”

After numerous parties came and went without a sign from Daisy, Gatsby asks Nick to invite Daisy over to Nick’s bungalow, where Gatsby could finally reunite with Daisy for the first time in five years. It is a highly awkward but glorious reunion, one which Gatsby nearly chickened out on wile standing in the rain outside of the bungalow thinking that “this is a terrible mistake.”

On that fateful day at Nick’s, Gatsby chose to wear a white suit with a silver shirt and gold tie. Ah, yes, the colors of money.

Yet, it’s at the Buchanan’s mansion, when Gatsby was clad in pink, that he says something very telling to Nick. Gatsby’s statement comes just as the valets were fetching Gatsby’s yellow convertible (with the splendid green leather interior and elaborate mirrors) and Tom’s blue coupe in preparation for the group’s drive to Manhattan.

It’s is at the precise moment when the cars had been brought up to the front of the mansion that Gatsby turns to Nick and says, “Her voice, old sport, is full of money.”

OK —- so let’s go back to the romantic scenes where Nick sees Gatsby staring out at the blinking green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. The romantic would be apt think of the blinking of a green light as a metaphor for hope.

However, a realist, now having heard Gatsby say that Daisy’s voice “is full of money” might be more inclined to think that the green light is a metaphor for money. Fittingly because, in Daisy’s case, there is lots lots of it. Piles of it.

Thus, a crucial question of the novel becomes, is Gatsby obsessing over Daisy because he genuinely loves her —- or —- is he obsessed with her vast wealth?

One could expound at this point about the conspicuously pathetic aspects of Daisy’s character —- but, as they say, “love is blind.”

Yet, the novel takes a drastic turn when Tom insists that he drive Gatsby’s car to Manhattan with Jordan Baker and Nick huddled next to him in the front seat, while Gatsby and Daisy travel in Tom’s coupe.

When Tom stops for gas in the Valley of Ashes, that “fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat” under the “brooding eyes” of Dr. T.J. Eckelberg over the “solemn dumping ground”. Tom learns that his mistress Myrtle and her husband George are planning to move west, because George says that has “suddenly wised-up to something.”

Myrtle, who is locked in the squalid apartment above the garage, sees Tom and thinks that the attractive woman next to him is Daisy and she freaks out to the point of punching her hand through the windowpane. Had Myrtle never seen Tom in Gatsby’s car, then she never would have run out in the road later that night when she saw the yellow car returning at high speed.

As Jordan Baker once ominously said to Nick, “it takes two to make an accident.”

As the group convenes in the sweltering Manhattan hotel room, the tension between Tom, Daisy and Gatsby comes to a head when Gatsby demands that Daisy tell Tom that she never loved him. Here is the extraordinary scene:

The key is —- when backed into a corner, all that Daisy can say is:

“Oh, you want too much! I loved him once, but I loved you too.”

It is from this point on in the novel where Kyler may want to re-write the script.

He cannot and should not let Daisy drive his car back to East Egg.

Kyler may want to ask whomever is driving his car to pull over at the nearest roadside inn so that he can chuck the pink suit and take command of the wheel. Just as, alas, Gatsby should have done.

The valley of ashes is approaching and the football gods are watching.

What the football gods are apt to appreciate is the sacrifice and hard work that Kyler and his teammates made to bring the Cardinals out from the darkest of ashes and into the light —- all of whom believed in the “green light” of a potential Super Bowl run, while some even accepted pay cuts or lower salaries in order to stay on board.

That green light is flashing most vividly right now because if the Cardinals keep improving as they have each year since Kyler Murray arrived, then the Super Bowl window is about as wide as it has been since 2008 and 2015.

The Cardinals have the 8th worst salary cap situation —- which means that every player, especially Kyler, who wants to keep pursuing the ultimate goal with the Cardinals, needs to help the club manage the cap without jeopardizing the team’s capacity to mange the cap for years to come.

Also, the Cardinals need to do what Jay Gatsby failed to do —- which is to see the true person in the mirror.

No Super Bowl winning QB over the past 6 years has counted more than $26M on the cap. Matthew Stafford’s cap hit in LA this year was $23.5M.

Following the bitterly disappointing 34-11 loss to the Rams, Kyler, when informed that J.J. Watt has just called the season a colossal failure, you said, “I agree.”

Then you said, “You know, I play to win the Super Bowl. That’s the goal, that’s the mission, is to win the Super Bowl. Not to make it to the playoffs or go to the second round, you know. The goal is to win the Super Bowl. We fell short of that. So yes, I’d agree.”

How in the world, if you are being honest with yourself Kyler, can you make these lofty statements and then a couple of weeks later, erase all photos of you with the Cardinals from your IG account? How can you make the lead-in to the Super Bowl week all about you?

Now, after all the commotion and attention you brought on yourself, yesterday you finally came out from the shadows long enough to say that “All of this nonsense is not what I am about, never has been, never will be.”

But, Kyler, who generated “all of this nonsense”?

You state how you love your teammates —- and up until the past week there was no reason whatsoever to doubt this, yet you refused to join them on the field at the end of the dreadful playoff loss —- and then a couple of weeks later, you scrubbed all of your images of you and them off of your socials —-

When you say “All of this nonsense is now what I am about” —- tell us —- who then is driving the car?

Is it your agent, Eric Burkhardt? Is it Tyrann Mathieu? Steve Keim?

Who advised you to make the Super Bowl week all about you, through surreptitious means?

Ben Shpigel of The New York Times ended his “Inside the Mind of Kyler Murray” article in the following fashion:

Sometimes, when he needs a break, he turns his eyes elsewhere, either to video games or to his favorite movie: “The Great Gatsby.” It inspired the pink pinstriped suit he wore to the N.F.L. draft. The first time he saw the film, he said, he was hooked. The themes of hope and love and the American dream resonated for Murray. So did the title character, Jay Gatsby, a complex and inscrutable stranger.

“The fact that he could throw these huge parties, nobody’s ever met him, nobody knows who he is, nobody knows what he looks like,” Murray said.

“That, to me, was so, so cool.”

Kyler —- your greatest fans are your Nick Carraways. Like Nick, we treasure your “romantic readiness” whenever you turn a broken play into a display of sheer, breathtaking brilliance. We see your “extraordinary gift for hope” when you put every fiber of your being into throwing the ultimate Hail Murray.

Like Gatsby’s lavish parties, every time you play a football game the entire NFL world accepts the invitation to come dance to the music, to revel in the pageantry and to soak up all of the fireworks...

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

However, on the eve of this brand new season, you are leaving us in the dark, Kyler. As Chapter VII begins, “It was when curiosity about Gatsby was at its highest that the lights in his house failed to go on one Saturday night...”

Kyler, what you really need to do —-is re-write the final three chapters of the novel.

Unlike what Nick said at the beginning of the novel, Gatsby does not turn out all right at the end —- “it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams” —-

What’s preying on you Kyler seems to be so much more than Aaron Donald and Von Miller.

Please re-take the wheel, Kyler. Come back home and turn all of your lights back on.

When you make things right with yourself, with your Cardinals and your millions of fans, then everyone can rejoice in the way Nick did, after learning that Daisy was the one driving the car. It wasn’t Gatsby, after all.

Not only did this knowledge re-assure Nick of his belief in Gatsby, it inspired him to turn to Gatsby and shout across the lawn, “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole dam bunch put together.”

Tragically, those were the last words Nick ever spoke to the hopeful man whom he had befriended.

If you re-write the last three chapters, Kyler —- you —- your Sunday afternoon and Monday night parties —- your friendships —- and all of the fireworks —-can last forever.

Please chuck the pink suit, Kyler. Besides, you look much more snazzy and dazzling in red.