Mr. Chad Johnson is, perhaps, the most infamous attention seeker in American professional sports if Mr. Terrell Owens is not. In fact, since Mr. Owens went to the Dallas Cowboys, he has dropped out the sports headlines, perhaps because he feels appreciated by the management and his team mates. He has, it seems, abandoned the field to Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Johnson is nothing if not inventive. Last season, he engaged in an unneeded leap into the air to catch a 3 yard touchdown pass which in the words of the Commissioner of the league,represented a "flagrant display of athletic ability was 'gaudy' and 'went beyond the bounds of good taste.' Certain actions on scoring a touch down have ling been regarded as unwanted such as doing flips into the endzone, diving into the endzone when it was not done to evade being tackled, and making gestures of various sorts that are seen as instances of one upmanship that are regarded as taunting. However, Mr. Johnson's action was performed while engaged in doing what he was supposed to do, namely catch footballs, preferably in the end zone. The odds are that this was a premeditated action waiting for an opportunity to be performed, as so many of Mr. Johnson's actions have been.
Johnson's unnecessary leap might be viewed as the football equivalent of dunking a basketball in some elaborate manner. If it goes in, not too many people will complain at the athleticism displayed in dunking a ball. The football commissioner's reference to Mr. Johnson's display of "bad taste" is comical, as it seems to situate football in the same social space as, say, a tea party where someones engaging in an staged loud fart would be said to be in bad taste. Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but it is a funny choice of language by the commissioner.
Mr. Johnson makes the most of the few props available to him. Once he pulled up an endzone pylon and used it to putt the football he had carried into the endzone. In another case he pulled out a sharpy and signed the football and gave it to a fan (if I recall correctly). The problem many have with Mr. Johnson is that football is a quintessential team game. Mr. Johnson is drawing attention to himself on a touchdown reception without regard for the fact that the quarterback had to throw the ball he caught, the other receivers ran routes that drew defensive backs away from him, and sundry linemen and running backs will have blocked attackers trying to sack the quarterback before he could throw the ball. From this perspective, Mr. Johnson's antics are deplorably self-promoting however entertaining they may be. The commissioner knows that if he does not fine the man, his opponents on the field will one day display their unhappiness by taking out one of his knees.
I have long watched the NFL fight against touchdown displays and such things as dances made by linebackers around a quarterback they have sacked. Initially, the celebrations were pretty mild, but were never liked by old white guys. In my opinion, African Americans and White people take a different view of what is a reasonable public celebration. And in sports, where once Whites, but not African Americans were allowed to play, a very rigid code of sportsmanship emerged, too rigid for the tastes of the African Americans who began to be allowed to play such games. I think there is a real cultural difference between Whites and Blacks in regard to what is acceptable behavior on the field of play and what is not, which is not to say that there is not a great deal of variation in attitudes within both groups. The first quarterback sack dance was done by a White guy, for instance. The first "high five" was done by a Black person. Interestingly, as the "high five" has evolved, Whites have chased after each variation of celebratory hand gestures that has emerged as Blacks keep changing them to stay ahead of Whites (in my opinion).
This is a long-winded path to my title, "Mr. 85." The most recent "antic" by Mr. Johnson has been to legally change his name to "Chad Ocho Cinco." Someone seems to have told Mr. Johnson that the number of the back of his jersey would be pronounced "ocho cinco" in Spanish. His first effort to get "Ocho Cinco" on the back of his uniform was nixed by his coach I believe. In this case, it was easy for Mr. 85 to comply for it was a tear off addition to his uniform. But having changed his name legally, there is nothing anyone cand do to stop him. However, the joke is on Mr. Ocho Cinco. The English phrase "eighty five" is translated into "ochenta cinco." Moreover, "85" in Spanish is, well, "85." So, I propose that the sporting world begin calling Mr. 85 by either "Mr. 85" or "Mr. Ochenta Cinco" in the interests of language correctness.
Labels: American football, Chad Johnson, Ocho Cinco, sports celebrations