Ashburn, Va - Mike Shanahan may have landed his dream quarterback when he drafted Robert Griffin III in the first round of this year's draft, but there's another dream the Super Bowl-winning coach still seeks: a world in which the bullying of tanorexics is a thing of the past.
Tanorexia, also known as tanning addiction, is a syndrome in which a person has a physical, emotional, or psychological addiction to outdoor tanning or tanning beds. The bullying of tanorexics is thought to affect as many as one to two people a year in the United States.
"It's a problem," said Shanahan, coach of the Washington Redskins, after yesterday's offseason team activities (OTAs). "Bullying generally affects kids and teenagers. Tanorexic bullying, on the other hand, is different. It's largely an adult problem. And the ugliness has got to stop. It ends now."
Shanahan said he usually doesn't mix football and social issues, but he decided to take advantage of the media attention Griffin has brought to the team to focus less on the intricacies of the zone-blocking scheme, and instead, more on the topic of tanorexic bullying, after watching video of the infamous "Tan Mom" making the rounds on the internet and on television. "People don't understand how addictive a nice base tan can be," said Shanahan. "It makes you feel like you can think like a champion. People see that all that self confidence and they want to take shots at you."
Shanahan is no stranger to UVA controversies. During his tenure as head coach of the Denver Broncos, there was rampant speculation that Shanahan's face had actually turned to leather as a result of hitting the Denver tanning salons like a crack addict. While Shanahan never admitted to being tanorexic, he did manage to produce several 1,000-yard running backs, a feat he says stemmed from being overconfident in his appearance. "Let's just say when I walked into a room, I commanded the players' attention in the same way George Hamilton did in Zorro, The Gay Blade."
Maximus Solis, Executive Director of the Center Against Tanorexic Static (CATS), praised Shanahan for his bravery and courage. "He's standing up for those who can't stand up for themselves, or who have, through no fault of their own, gone on to develop addictions to self-tanning lotion."
Solis, a former tanorexic who was bullied constantly in his early twenties, believes the problem of tanorexic bullying is well known by many Americans, but everyone would rather sweep it under the rug. "No one wants to admit it's an issue," he said. "They think that if we simply ignore it, the problem will just go away. But it won't. As long as there are people willing to strip naked several times a week and put themselves into ultraviolet coffins, there will be those in our society who ridicule them."
Washington Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan knows full well the problems that tanorexics face. He remembers, as a kid, seeing his father being made fun of by Daryl Gardener, a former Broncos defensive tackle. "Gardner kept calling dad 'Mike Tanahan'," he said. "Finally, dad got so upset, his face looked like a tomato. Oh, man, he was mad. Dad had [Broncos executive] Joe Ellis and [Broncos VP of PR] Jim Saccomano make up a story about Gardener punching a guy out at an IHOP so dad could rid himself of the guy. Saccomano can arrange for anything to happen, you know. After that, no one dared talked about the problem. In some ways, it only enabled dad more."
The elder Shanahan believes those days are well past him. "I'm into spray tanning now," said Shanahan. "It's actually much quicker. And wearing a thong actually feels kind of cool. Sort of like that time I inserted Griese ahead of Bubby Brister or pulled Jake Plummer for Jay Cutler. The rush is the same."
Solis isn't so quick to dismiss the lure of sunbathing and tanning beds. Further he fears that those who fall prey to their addictions will also be preyed upon by bullies. "We think that these two people a year are just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "This sort of bullying could affect as many as five or six people annually in the United States. It's possibly a dozen worldwide. The numbers are still coming in from Australia, which we consider ground zero for tanorexics."
And what about "Tan Mom"? Coach Shanahan says he's already reached out to her and invited her to a Redskins game this fall. "I think I could mentor her," he said. "Once she saw the benefits of a good bronzer, I'm sure she'd give up that old life. You know, the peace you feel when you know all of those fat asses and jealous types aren't dogging you any longer because of your base tan, I don't know, it's just amazing."