In athletic parlance, it refers to an individual and a status, allowing for a fifth year of eligibility when the rules mandate a restriction to a four-year period. The word itself is quite malleable, and reflects well the technicality involved in avoiding the direct letter of the language. Being a redshirt (noun), a redshirt freshman (adjective) or redshirted in his first year (verb) reveals to us the capacity of language to jump like grammatical forms of hopscotching that amazes and intrigues; and the cautionary prelude to a wink-and-a-nod is prefaced with, “You are being too literal”.
It only proves the point, doesn’t it — of the age-old adage that rules are created with the intent of being broken; or, at least bent in order to fit? For, once such rules were imposed in order to allow for “fairness” in collegiate sports, the “legal technicians” (i.e., lawyers) went immediately to work upon coming up with novel interpretations, strategies for avoidance, and advice to extend beyond what the limitations allowed.
“Redshirting” was one of the devised methodologies – of allowing for everything up to the critical line of demarcation: that of playing in a game itself. Thus, the redshirt can practice with the team throughout that entire year of eligibility, but such actions do not count; the redshirted freshman can attend classes, be a full-fledged partner in the “college life”, and yet his participation is not marked against him or her; and to be redshirted in that year of eligibility allows for growth, maturity, advancement in development – all without “using up” a year of eligibility by being sacked a hundred times during the season and becoming a shattered soul devoid of self-confidence and losing assurance of one’s talents and skills.
It is, within the athletic community of college consortiums, a brilliant strategy to deftly avoid the burden of rules; for the greater society, it reflects the essence of what is wrong, precisely because it is a deliberate attempt to avoid the literal language of the rules. Yet, that is true of almost everything in life, is it not?
Careful study; identifying the loopholes; then initiating the strategy to maneuver around landmines and obstacles. Is it any different than a hunting party tracking a prey, sniffing out the signs of predatory confirmation and taking in information and adapting accordingly? Rules, regulations and laws may well be designed, initially, at least, to address a specific problem; and, out of the cauldron of an enacted statutes, comes multiple other problems and issues because of the malleability of words and imprecise linguistic pauses.
Preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application is no different. It is a necessary prerequisite to identify the legal language of eligibility; define the issues; identify whether or not the Federal or Postal employee considering such an option “fits into” the legal criteria circumscribed; then to proceed to “redshirt” one’s own situation and devise a methodology for eligibility.
Compiling the evidence, formulating the proper narrative, and presenting an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, can thus be likened to the redshirting of a freshman – in order to extend one’s life beyond the debilitating medical conditions otherwise shortening the career of a promising Federal or Postal employee.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire