On the surface, there are many similarities between the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengal Chad Johnson and the recently deposed Philadelphia Eagles Terrell Owens.
Both are seemingly brash, megatalented receivers at the top of the collective wide out heap. In sports, this combination always produces a strange mix of love and hate. Much like the Sports Frappe itself. You love that we’re almost always right, but hate to admit it.
We love our sports heroes to run their smack, and then go compete and back it up. On the other hand, we have a sick enjoyment in seeing these heroes talk trash and then go out and fall on their face. Much depends on how likeable the personality is and whether or not the player is on your team.
Back in my day, the prime example was Cassius Clay, who became Mohammed Ali. Ali might not have been the originator of smack, but he at least refined it. In his prime, Ali won the mental battle against his opponents well before they stepped into the ring. Up until a couple of years ago, Joe Frazier would still state his dislike of Ali. He got in his head.
Nowadays you hear smack roll out of athletes’ mouths before they’ve even accomplished anything. Some that make this mistake never make a mark on their sport. Used correctly, smack can be used to war against an opponent mentally by distracting them or causing them to lose focus. Concentrate on the player, and you lose track of the game.
Another productive use is motivation for yourself or your teammates. It’s like when you have that big sales call and you check your hair in the mirror right before you go in and utter, “You bad” to pump yourself up to get the close. By the way, make sure you’re alone when you do this. If another dude is around, you’re sure to the “big idiot” look. Worse yet, if you do it in mixed company, or in front of a lady, you’re sure to get the “big alien” look. Remember, it’s a Mars and Venus thing.
Here’s where T.O. and Johnson delineate. While both work hard to keep themselves at the top of their profession and deliver on their words, Johnson has not yet crossed the line to where he seems to thrive simply on showing up his professional opponents, disrespecting the game, or chipping on his quarterback, coach and other teammates.
Where T.O. travels most of the football field after a touchdown and tramples the opponents’ logo in their stadium, Johnson keeps a list of opponents on his locker with a checklist that will get checked if he gets stopped by one of them.
Where T.O. badmouths his coach, Johnson submits to his coach’s authority when his coach replaces a special Ravens list with one of his own. (The Ravens list was made especially for the Ravens because he felt they are the best defense player for player).
Where T.O. disrespects his quarterback in San Francisco and then Philly, Johnson applauds Carson Palmer as one of the up and coming superstars in the NFL.
Both players have end zone celebrations that can either be plain stupid or stupid funny. Resuscitating the football, using the football as a phone, or remote, pulling out a sharpie, or picking up pom poms from a cheerleader and going rah rah.
Entertainment or disrespect for the game?
The importance of team and team chemistry are vastly overshadowed these days by individual accomplishment. My constructive comment when I coached team youth sports was that this is fine. If you’re playing golf, or singles tennis. Trust me, the first week in Little League practice is spent telling little Jimmy to stop telling Little Kevin that he’s better than he is. In youth sports, making the whole team run laps when someone demonstrates non team behavior results in the team regulating the behavior. After some vomiting that is (sorry that I forgot to display the graphic take warning).
I think the pro football showboat test should be as follows:
Anytime we have this question, we send the player back in a time machine to play against Ray Nitschke or Dick Butkus (in their primes). After the player scores a touchdown and does their celebration, send them on a pattern across the middle on the next offensive play. If they get blasted, it is disrespectful. If not, it’s entertainment. Wait a minute though, don’t we consider hard hits in the middle entertainment?
Oh well, I think you catch my drift.