WEIR: Can't Live With Him, Can't….
Nov 07, 2007, 2:16:37 AM by Eileen Weir - FAQ
Oh, ye, fickle, fickle infidels. Ye verifiers of Machiavelli, ye mankind that are “in general… fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.” Per Emerson, “We are a puny and fickle folk.” From T.S. Eliot “we chose thee and oppose thee.”
Or, if you prefer, “Can’t live with ‘im, can’t live without ‘im.”
Since about, oh, 7:00 p.m. Central Time January 6, 2007 when the Kansas City Chiefs went down in flames during their fortuitous encounter with the soon-to-be NFL Champion Indianapolis Colts, Chiefs fans and the local press have been on the case of running back Larry Johnson. Putting up record-shattering numbers during the 2006 regular season, Johnson stuttered in his first playoff performance and entered into the off season with cross to bear and an axe to grind. Burdened by the uncertainty of his future role on the KC roster, LJ spent the fairer months weighing his options and wondering about trade rumors.
Despite being selected by his teammates as the Most Valuable Player, because he was the best player on the team, Johnson endured months of uncertainty, left to speculate about where he would be collecting his next paycheck.
Yeah, yeah, cry me a river. Fans have a hard time working up a lot of compassion for millionaire athletes. We can’t feel too sorry for guys who are faced with choices like whether to accept $12 million or hold out for $20 million, whether to stay at home and work out all day long or suit up and receive the praise and admiration of thousands of supporters. How do they do it?
But, nonetheless, it is a high-paying job because people are willing to pay high prices. And LJ was the center of much discussion and dispute over his worth as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. If Johnson was affected by it, we may never know, but plenty of Kansas Citians were hoping for a draft-day trade, eager to bid farewell to his season-saving skills. That’s right. I said season-saving. The 2006 Chiefs literally rode the back of LJ into the post season. Absent him, who know? He was the sole savior of a team significantly on the decline.
So, our boy gets the dough and is back in town for the season start. Happy day. Oh, no, not here. More skepticism over whether or not the Chiefs got their money’s worth. Criticism of Johnson’s leadership skills. Accusations that he is a selfish player who won’t throw a block. Mean spirited snickering that his numbers will suffer because of a dysfunctional offensive line. Predictions, hope even, that he will never earn the money he got.
Granted, it’s been a down year for the Chiefs young star. His productivity has taken a dramatic and steep nose dive. A scrupulous search of some Internet social networks unearthed a rap performance attributed to Johnson. Reporters and ticket holders found the combination of shaky execution and an expletive-laced piece of vocal art too tantalizing to pass up. This proved it. Johnson’s dissatisfaction with his contract negations and his teammates is contributing to his stifled running prowess. Ah ha! Now we have him where we want him. Except the “song” was pulled from the Internet, and a comprehensive admission of its fraudulence was issued.
And how is the young Johnson coping with low yardage? Not well. Collecting a few delay-of-game penalties for demonstrating his frustration through the forceful thrusting of a football into the turf, the multi-million dollar man seems on the brink of implosion. Charged with leaving the field before the game concluded, Johnson was later cleared of all indictments when a television video crew clearly provided footage of Johnson standing near the 50-yard line tunnel with the clock at 00:00.
Horrifying the media with a blatant disregard for professional courtesy, Johnson refused interviews after losses. In a maddening display of consistency, he also remained mum following wins. Vilified for appearing grouchy after the victory in San Diego, Johnson was again condemned for suggesting there was something radically wrong with the Chiefs running game. When the Jacksonville Jaguars came to town the very next week, he was proven right.
On going commentary about the humungous amount of money LJ is collecting each week continued to predominate the press. Imagine the media’s surprise when he decided to spend some, arriving at Arrowhead in a chauffeur-driven Maybach, reportedly costing $500,000 but listed on Automotoportal, an auto industry news site, at a mere $385,250. Had he spent that on a house in Kansas City, he’d be slumming.
Out of the mist, here comes Priest Holmes, rising from the dead to reclaim a position on the Chiefs active roster. Oh boy, Larry’s not going to like that. Awaiting the inevitable rivalry that is sure to erupt between the owner of every team rushing record and the present and future investment, all eyes became trained on LJ so as not to miss a moment of his expected grousing. In a departure from NFL regulations, fans warmed to the idea of painting Priest’s helmet white, and Larry’s black.
Sitting splay-legged on the turf at Arrowhead on Sunday, Johnson may now miss some time because of injury. According to press reports, given by those who apparently moonlight at orthopedic surgeons, this type of injury could be season-ending. What type of injury is it, anyway? Sprained ankle? Bruised foot? Clear out some space on the injured reserve list, here comes LJ!
Without a single nice thing to say about Larry Johnson all year, on the field or off, suddenly he has become the vital ingredient to the Chiefs success. Panic has begun to seep into the voices of radio talk show hosts as they visualize the remaining half of the season without the services of the team’s starting running back. Yearning for Johnson to get served a big ‘ol slice of humble pie, Chiefs followers have become abruptly aware that he is valuable. We do need him. We do want him. He was worth it.
Once the object of empathy for being unfairly relegated to the bench by head coach Dick Vermeil, Johnson has suffered the consequences of success. “Fame,” Emily Dickinson penned, “is a fickle food upon a shifting plate.” Don’t he know it.