Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday's Musings on Sports - Hanging Chad Out to Dry

Over the weekend, the circus which is Chad Johnson (nee Ocho Cinco) exploded in a very negative way. And the media airwaves were abuzz with chatter, all speculating as to whether the talented but troubled WR will get another chance.

Johnson was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the Second Round if the 2001 NFL Draft. After a pedestrian rookie season, Johnson exploded on the scene and average more than 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns over his next six seasons.

Besides his performance on the field, Johnson became well known for his antics off the field. In October 2006, Johnson, whose jersey number was 85, announced that he would prefer to be called "Ocho Cinco" which is eight five in Spanish. It was always quite funny to me that "Eighty-five" was actually "ochenta y cinco" but he got it wrong.

I remember seeing a televised warm-ups for a 2006 game when the back of his jersey read "Ocho Cinco" instead of "C. Johnson". According to ESPN, Johnson was fined $5,000 for the violation of NFL rules, despite the fact that he did not wear the "Ocho Cinco" name tag during the game.

Johnson legally changed his name to Ochocinco in August 29, 2008. He played with "Ochocinco" on the back of his jersey since the 2009 preseason but then last year asked to have it changed back to Johnson again.

Prior to last season, Johnson left the Bengals and signed with the New England Patriots. By all accounts it was a lost season for Johnson as he caught the fewest passes for the least yards of his career. It was no shock that Johnson was released by the Patriots in June 2012, but many felt that his lack of production was based on his lack of understanding of the Patriots' offensive playbook.

Most recently, Johnson signed with the Miami Dolphins and was in their training camp and participated in one preseason game in which he dropped the only ball thrown to him. Within forty eight hours of the game, Johnson was arrested on assault charges related to an alleged incident involving his wife of 41 days. Shortly thereafter, Johnson was released by the Dolphins and this is where the media speculation began.

Some pundits have taken the position that assuming Johnson is not incarcerated during the 2012 season, a team will take a chance on signing him to a contract. Other opinions have suggested that he will be on an "emergency list", meaning that if a team suffers a series of losses at WR, they would ask him to come in and work out with the team.

But other members of the media have speculated that Johnson will not resign with any team, even if he is not convicted during the season. Part of the reason is pragmatic as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has shown a propensity to suspend players, even prior to a criminal conviction. However, a more convincing argument is that a team would not want a 34 year old receiver to occupy a roster spot as a third or fourth receiver when that slot could be given to a younger player who could also play on special teams and could improve with seasoning.

I can't possibly predict what will happen to Johnson, but the speculation as to his future in the NFL which now is dependent on the court case makes me think of Chodesh Elul. We stand less than a week from the beginning of our pre-season as Jews. The month of Elul is a time to prepare for Rosh Hashanah and Tishrei when we will be judged and iy'h awarded another year of life. Elul is about reviewing our past transgressions and making plans to remedy our defects so that we can move forward with the rest of the team. We do not ignore our flaws, but work at trying to minimize their impact so that we can say to Hashem, we are ready to move forward and be a productive member of Klal Yisroel.

We should all be iy'h zoche to a good year.

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