“Officially a vegan now,”such simple declaration is all it took for Houston Texan star runner and NFL all-pro back Arian Foster to ignite a debate the depths and profoundness of which few others can rival.
With that Tweet, the soon-to-be 26-year-old Foster resurrected the age-old question of what comes to be, or at least is fair to assume what might be, when the matter of what appears best for the individual and what seems in the best interest of the team are at such juxtaposed odds.
For their part, the Texans’ minced few words, not only standing their ground but staging an all-out blitz as it were in letting it be known they fear their star’s drastic change in diet and lifestyle might all but guarantee a less than satisfactory return on their newly minted $43.5 million investment in him.
Rarely one at a loss for words, a somewhat chagrined Foster, who counts reading Shakespeare and penning poetry among his favorite pastimes and was once hailed as “the most interesting man in the NFL,” retorted again in Tweet: “People feel so strong about meat and milk. I wish they felt this strong about peace.”
Though history and a slew of highly regarded nutritionist tell us otherwise, Houston seems of the mind a lack of the steak-and potatoes diet stereotypically craved and routinely devoured by most pro athletes will leave 6-1, 229 pound Foster devoid of far too much of the energy and explosiveness that’s made him of the league’s most elusive playmakers in recent times.
Truth is, not only might a healthier diet keep Foster more durable over a longer period— same as Atlanta Falcons Hall of Fame bound tight end and fellow vegan Tony Gonzalez, not to mention the already so honored Joe Namath— Vanderbilt University registered nutrition Jessica Bennett thinks it may aide him and adding yet another gear to his repertoire.
“The biggest challenge for them is getting muscle strength back if they get injured,” Bennett, who regularly works with and counsels the school’s athletes about such matters, told ESPN. “It’s definitely possible to get enough protein, but you have to have the resources. He probably has the resources to do it properly.”
The far weightier issue revolves around many of the very concerns raised by New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden back in his 2006 best-selling novel $40 Million Slaves. Throughout those pages, Rhoden takes issue with what he sees as far too many athletes—star level ones such as Foster among them— being rendered more or less impotent by a system wholly controlled and governed by whites, even though it is largely dependent upon blacks, giving it the look of a modern-day plantation, albeit one on which the “slaves” earn millions, as long as they don’t notice who’s running the show.”
Consider that Arian Foster tirelessly worked his way from the depths of being an undrafted free-agent to his current status as arguably the league’s most versatile running back only now to be chastised to the point of being told he’s so recklessly irresponsible and undisciplined he needs to be forced feed by overseers as to what his diet should and needs to be.
“I don’t think we were put on this earth to pay the light bill,” he said. “I feel like we were put on this earth to learn about ourselves, through and through, everything that a human body can do.”
Yeah, those seem the words of man who’d take to be cavalier when matters affecting his livelihood arise, one pining to now just risk it all on an undisciplined, unfocused and unfocussed game plan.
Glenn Minnis is a veteran sports and culture writer who has contributed to the likes of ESPN, Vibe and the NFL Magazine. He has also been on staff at AOL Sports, the Chicago Tribune and was the founding sports editor for 360HipHop.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.