I’m sure that, at some point, I’ve written at least one CSTB post complaining about Rick Reilly. It was then, and it would be now, a waste of time. Not just because Rick Reilly is going to keep making a lot of money — A-Rod money by sportswriting standards, and something like Chris Capuano money by actual-world standards — no matter how corny his stuff is or how eloquently blogger types criticize it, but also because a responsible critique of Reilly’s signature blend of golf-related dad jokes and general soporific nuttiness would involve actually reading said dad jokes/soporific nuttiness. And I’m not going to do that. I don’t have health insurance, and the risk of facepalm-related injury is unacceptably high.

There’s a funny thing about Reilly, though, and it has nothing to do with the Wouldn’t It Be Crazy If columns he burps up on the weekly or his proud features on his sons’ beer-pong prowess. (I actually read that one, because I needed proof that such a thing could really exist). That funny thing is that, if you mention Reilly to anyone who has been reading about sports for any period of time, that person will say something like, “Yeah, but he used to be great. Have you read…” and then they’ll name a Reagan-era Sports Illustrated feature that they still remember. Which, honestly, is not a bad thing for a writer to aspire to — not the well-compensated, phoned-in sinecure at a high-profile publication (although I wouldn’t turn that down), but writing something that people remember a couple decades later. That Reilly inhabits the same body as This Reilly, of course, but it’s very difficult to see one in the other.

For the most part. While Reilly’s most recent ESPN column isn’t the sort of thing anyone will tell their kids/callow writer types about decades hence, and while it still is a bit on the quip-heavy side, it’s the first reminder I’ve seen in awhile that the guy might still have some heat on his fastball. That Reilly resolutely refuses to pitch overhand in most of his work conceals that pretty well, but Reilly’s dissection of Jay Cutler’s singular approach to jerkery is both good and clearly written by someone who is trying to write something good. It helps to have a subject that’s this intriguing and this ripe for a ripping, of course.

Cutler could own Chicago if he wanted. In a city that has had as many good quarterbacks as Omaha has had good surfers, Cutler could have his name on half the billboards and all the jerseys. My God, the kid grew up a Bears fan! But he doesn’t even try. He has zero endorsements and doesn’t want any. If there is such a thing as a Jay Cutler Fan Club, Cutler is having a membership drive — to drive them out…

So why is Cutler as popular as gout? Is it because he never makes eye contact? Is it his seeming inability to answer a question without using “y’know”? (He once used it 57 times in a five-minute interview with the NFL Network.) Is it his penchant for making things difficult?

Reporter (after a game): What happened on that first interception, Jay?

Cutler: I threw the ball.

Reporter: Right, but what did you see developing there? Take us through it.

Cutler (archly): It seemed like a good place to throw the ball.

Then there was this:

Reporter: When you were a kid, which quarterback did you look up to?

Cutler: Nobody.

Reporter: Nobody? You didn’t look up to anybody?

Cutler: No.

If he’s lying, it makes him a miscreant. If he’s telling the truth, it makes him a miscreant.

Thanks to David Williams for the link, and thanks to Reilly for giving a shit for once.