Sanity wins on football field this week

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

I never have and probably never will meet Chris Jones, but the man has inspired me in his “Complaints: Football Coaches” column.
“I’m not sure when, exactly,” Jones wrote in this month’s Esquire, “Motorola headsets started coming with a license to act like” a word which I will replace with “glass bowl.”

Likewise, I’m not sure when a pair of Reebok gloves came with a license to act certifiably insane. Consider this column, “Complaint: Wide Receivers.”

I speak of Chad Ocho Cinco, formerly known as Chad Johnson. The Cincinnati Bengals receiver proved his insanity this summer when he legally changed his name to reflect his uniform number, 85. He changed his name not to glorify a god (like when Lew Alcindor legally became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), but to glorify himself (like when Laurence Tureaud legally became Mr. T).

And he proves his insanity every time he gets to the end zone. Ocho Cinco touchdown celebrations have included a Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the Riverdance, and a “Santa Chad” routine where he handed out presents — which isn’t that crazy until you find out it was his backup plan when he couldn’t ride a reindeer.

(I know you’re saying, “What about Dallas Cowboys egomaniac receiver Terrell Owens?” Trust me, I’d love to discuss him, but my editors have told me this has to fit on one page.)

The NFL can fine Ocho Cinco for these celebrations and it has done so, but this method has obvious limits. A $10,000 fine doesn’t do much when Ocho Cinco’s salary is 300 times that. A one-game suspension tells fans it’s worse to celebrate a touchdown than it is to be convicted for DUI (Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu played in Sunday’s opener despite his June guilty plea).

Fans are more forgiving for two reasons. First off, the stuff is somewhat amusing, and you need a laugh when you’re paying hundreds to watch grown men catch footballs.

Second, the numbers don’t lie. Ocho Cinco is the Bengals’ career leader in receiving yards, touchdown catches and 1,000-yard receiving seasons.

My point? Let’s go back to Jones. In Jones’ column, he said the biggest problem was coaches who emulated the off-the-field crankiness of Bill Parcells without emulating his on-the-field success. My concern is less-talented receivers spending time devising touchdown celebrations when they should be focusing on how to be a better receiver.

I can only take solace in knowing Clovis native Hank Baskett won’t fall into that trap. The third-year Philadelphia Eagles receiver isn’t well-known outside of Philadelphia or New Mexico, and what fame he does have benefits charitable causes in Clovis.

Baskett’s growing stature has not been met by a growing ego. When he scored on a 90-yard sideline route Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, he simply flipped the football over the goal post — he let Philadelphia and Clovis celebrate for him.

So let’s look back at Week 1 and remember, the numbers don’t lie. Chad Ocho Cinco: 22 yards receiving, no touchdowns and a Bengals loss. Hank Baskett: 102 yards and a touchdown in an Eagles win.

For at least one week, sanity wins. No complaint here.

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Freedom New Mexico. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by e-mail:
kevin_wilson@link.freedom.com