Friday, April 04, 2008

Products of the System

Chad Johnson is in the news again. The timing makes it clear that this is by his own design. Chad’s making a lot of noise but when you get right down to it he’s just not saying much. Apparently he’s unhappy in Cincinnati which isn’t unusual. The Bengals have a long history with disgruntled players, which makes it clear that the team is horribly mismanaged. After an 11-5 run a couple of years ago Cincy has found its losing ways and seems poised to wallow in the depths of mediocrity for another decade and a half.

I can’t blame Johnson for wanting out. There are those who will demand that he shut his mouth and honor his contract but I submit that he signed his contract believing that the team would strive to get better. Also, players see their contracts terminate by teams all the time so I believe that players have every right to sit out and wait for more money. If they are willing to risk unemployment for the duration of the deal then they have that right.

I don’t know that I even have a problem with Chad taking his grievances public. If the team isn’t working with him he also has the right to put public pressure on them. Freedom of speech is an important right and people should exercise it.

My issue is that Chad is doing a lot of talking but he isn’t saying anything. He’s unhappy in Cincy but he’s not sure if he wants out. He wants the team to get better but he doesn’t have the guts to say what the problem is. It’s all very abstract which makes it pretty clear that this is all about attention. Chad’s a spoiled little brat who wants people to know he can pee in the big boy potty. And we’re the doting parents who spoiled him.

Chad’s been an unmitigated ass from day one. He’s been drawing attention to himself from the start. He gets cut too much slack because, unlike many of his Bengals teammates, he doesn’t tend to get arrested and he does seem to play hard, of course he will start rounding out his cuts and jogging through his patterns if the ball isn’t put in his hands early and often.

Chad is all about Chad. Everything he does draws attention to Chad. Chad is very aware of his personal accomplishments and will happily tell you how many touchdowns he’s scored. What he won’t tell you is that his dog and pony show is a constant distraction for the team and Chad’s infatuation with Chad prevents him from being a team leader.

Football isn’t just about talent. Football is about 53 guys being on the same page. That’s Why Terry Bradshaw has more Super Bowl rings than Dan Marino and Brett Favre and John Elway combined. Team is why Emmitt Smith rushed for more yards than Barry Sanders. Team is why Jerry Rice didn’t win Super Bowls after he left San Francisco.

Johnson thinks that his personal stats are all that matter but what about his behavior in the playoffs a few years ago when Carson Palmer went down with a knee injury? Did Johnson step up and lead his team through adversity? Nope. He pouted for the rest of the game because Jon Kitna couldn’t throw the ball as far as Palmer.

Chad cares about Chad. He wants people to look at him and because he teammates actually put the team first they won’t call him out on it. That’s the catch-22. Donovan McNabb sat there and took every nasty comment TO hurled his way without reacting because he wanted to put the team first. You’ll never get 52 guys to admit that one is bringing them down. That’s why teams hire General Managers and coaches.

Sadly, the NFL and it’s media partners create people like Chad Johnson. How many Fat Head commercials have you seen Marvin Harrison in? How many deodorant commercials has Hines Ward shot?

Check the ESPN studio and you’ll find Keyshawn “Throw me the Damn Ball” Johnson and Michael “Pass the Crack Pipe” Irvin getting paid a lot of money to talk about the game they made a mockery of. The reality is the jerks get rewarded.

Much of the blame falls on the NFL. The players who keep their helmets on and play with a little class blend into the background. No matter how brilliant they are on the field, the NFL owns them. Players like TO and Chad Johnson defy the NFL and create individual personas that become marketable outside of the NFL’s realm. So Jerry Rice settles for Dancing with the Stars while Shannon Sharpe get’s a studio assignment. It’s not fair.

Guys like Chad Johnson, TO and Randy Moss have been rewarded for being jerks and their predecessors continue to reap the rewards. The question isn’t why Chad Johnson acts the way he does, the question is why more people don’t.

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