Yeah it's time. I've needed to write this piece for months. This article is not meant to offend, so please don't take it seriously. However, I'm going to write this in one take, no editing or punctuation either. Needs to be authentic.
For the large majority of football fans, when they hear "#85" they immediately cringe, spew venom, and cry foul. The general public has come to see #85 as more of a nuisance, a virus, or a scapegoat for their team's failures. However, I ask what is it that you really see and/or hear when they talk about #85? What do you really hear when you hear #85 speak? Do you see his actions? We'll see here in a minute.
The Cincinnati Bengals, in so many words, suck. They do. For a long period of time they were (and maybe still are) the laughingstock of the NFL. Be not for the efforts of the Raiders in Oakland would there be a clearcut #1 ugly duckling of the NFL. When #85 was drafted by Cincinnati in 2001, he was exactly what Cincinnati needed, someone to make them relevant. Within 3 seasons he made his first pro bowl appearance, and became the face of the franchise. Never known to shy away from the limelight, he brought some flare to a drab Bengals franchise. Endzone dances, golds consistently in his mouth, a defensive back execution list. A superstar is born.
What was the residual impact for the team, the city, and the greater NFL fanbase? Chad has been the #1 jersey seller in Cincinnati for years. When the "Ocho Cinco" jersey drops, it will be a top seller. (Just like he predicted) When was the last time you would pick the Bengals to play with on Madden? Don't worry, I'll wait. More than anything else, you waited with baited breath to see what he was going to say or do next. #85 had everyone in the palm of his hands. Cincinnati was improving, he had a QB that could get the team to next level, a coach on the rise, and a rabid fanbase that had been previously untapped since Boomer Esiasion, Anthony Munoz, and Ickey Woods ruled the land in the late 80's.
Then tragedy struck.
Pittsburgh vs. Cincinnati. Carson's down for the count. Bye-bye Super Bowl run. Chad, you are now in the crossroads.
In the following seasons, the Bengals went 19-28-1. Chad in the two seasons following the Palmer injury, continued to perform at an all-pro level. (Third season, he broke his collarbone in training camp, still played in 13 games this year. More on this in a second) However, he wasn't happy. The team was struggling, the organization (which is known for being inept in their ways) was not putting any effort into improving the team, and Chad felt he wasn't in a place to win.
Now, here is where it gets dicey, and I tend to have to get in defense mode when it comes to #85. Your organization that you work for is failing to improve the team, if this were a job, you'd probably start looking for different work. After Chad went to his organization and asked what they were doing to make the team better, he didn't get a good response. He asked to be traded to a winner, or pay him more money. Its somewhat ludicrous to ask for a new contract after you just signed one in 2006.
From Wikipedia: On January 13, 2008, Johnson was a guest on ESPN's Mike & Mike radio show. During the interview, he addressed how the media and team treated him during the 2007 season, saying, "I was labeled selfish and a cancer, and it hurt...Fingers were pointed at me this year. If the team and the organization wants to further itself (make the playoffs), I think you need to get rid of the problem...It hurt me. To do me that way and not to have my back. Things were said, and nobody came to my defense."
(Yep, that's my school. Langston University stand up.)
I'd want to leave too! Who hasn't been in the same position at a suck @ss job? Yeah, we'll there to play the game. You're right, but please believe if he had an opportunity to go elsewhere he would've. He might've been happy, maybe not. The opportunity to win was big for him. If he was going to have to be miserable, then he wanted to make more money. I'm not mad at him for that.
Here are other points to consider with his actions:
- Everyone forgets that the Bengals are the new-age JailBlazers of football. They had something like 15 arrests in a 2-year period. Some thought Chad's antics were a good deterrent to some of the major issues going on in the locker room and the performance of the team as a whole.
- Changing the name to "Ocho Cinco" makes all of the Bengals fans have to buy the NEW Chad jerseys. Little Timmy doesn't want the C. Johnson #85 jersey, he wants the Ocho Cinco #85 jersey. Sounds like a profit gain for Chad and the Bengals to me.
- It would be one thing if Chad were a bad player, but he's exceptionally good. Plus, he doesn't get enough credit for what he did in 2008. He knew Carson wasn't coming back, and then he broke his collarbone and played 13 games and put up decent numbers (53 catches, 540 yards) with a bum backup QB. He didn't have to do that, he could've milked that injury, he didn't. He toughed it out.
- Finally, you know you enjoyed each and every single one of his TD celebrations. If you didn't, then you need to re-evaluate your fun quotient. LOL
Now reports are surfacing Carson and Chad will be residing in the same residence. Carson's place. He says he's in the best physical shape of his career. He feels like he has something to prove. Does he? Does he really? I say no, just go out there and do you @OGOchoCinco, we got our eyes on you. Make the world love you again. Some of us never stopped.
**UPDATE - Ocho Cinco's thoughts via twitter on today's post, "@edthesportsfan Wow, dude that article was awesome man, thank you and i really enjoyed that, headed to the boxing gym, again thank you." You can find Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson on twitter at twitter.com/OGOchoCinco