The man, formerly known as Chad Johnson has a message to the world for the upcoming NFL season. Via twitter: http://twitter.com/OGOchoCinco “They love it when someone good fails, but what happens when failing causes them to become great, I failed as JOHNSON but became great as OCHO CINCO.” There aren’t many people who would deny his greatness, but often it’s the same greatness that gets muddled along the way and is often confused with selfishness, which is as troubling a characteristic in the team first atmosphere of the NFL as it gets.
Read into that statement anything that you’d like, but I’m taking it at face value. Chad Ocho Cinco has spent much of the off season in a boxing facility improving his exceptional skills as a receiver, but the subliminal message behind the gloves is clear and it’s that he will coming into the 2009 season swinging and is planning a triumphant return to the glory he once enjoyed when he was known as the play-maker he was born to be. It should however be noted that along the way, he seems poised on knocking out the myth that his personality is any way detached from the success he enjoys on the field. Take his twitter account as an example towards this mission. @OGOchoCinco can be found posting updates by the minute. Following last weeks mini camp wrap-up he posted this:
“This was the funniest part of the day, practice ended at 11:45, it seemed like the entire team cleared the locker room by noon to head home to their residing state, I am excited about this year, I am still sitting in my damn locker, I don’t want to leave> Love The Black Mexican”
He engages his followers with responses to many of their questions and with over 17,000 followers that’s a huge undertaking. Interacting directly with his followers gives him the opportunity to challenge their opinions about him and explain his motives as a player. And when he’s not discussing football he provides them with daily humor as the self-proclaimed “Black Mexican.”
Rarely are we allowed into the minds of famous athletes and other celebrities in such casual environments. Which is why the thought provoking conversations Chad engages in via twitter has given great insight about how he views not only his team, but also his football career and performance over the past few years. It’s no secret the Bengals have had a tumultuous three years following their 11-5 playoff season in 2005 which ended abruptly after Carson Palmer went down with a torn ACL. The next year the Bengals produced an 8-8 record and followed that up with two back-to-back disappointing seasons ending 2007 with a 7-9 record and going 4-11 just last season. During the 2009 off season things didn’t get much better with the departure of the teams second best wide receiver TJ Houshmanzada, add to that the character issues that still plague many of the teams current players, and looming over the teams success or failure are the many questions surrounding Chad Ocho Cinco’s heart and desire to play the game selflessly and rise to the promise of what a veteran leader should be for his team on and off the field. With a healthy Carson Palmer and a focused Ocho Cinco there’s no doubting this teams success on the field. However, after the antics, the trade talks, and the unsuccessful seasons fans have grown tired of the potential with Chad and are waiting for the success of 2005 to grace its presence again. With that said in any sport winning heals all wounds which begs the question of whether this is even a conversation if the Bengals were winning and Ocho Cinco was well still Ocho Cinco.
The myth, in defining exactly who Chad Ocho Cinco is and what he’ll leave as his legacy in the football world has been misinterpreted by many over the past few years. Since his actions border on what many call “selfish behavior” he’s often compared to team cancers like Terrell Owens. The difference however between the two players couldn’t be more obvious. And while I’m no public critic of any NFL player it’s helpful to make clear the major differences between Chad and T.O. On a number of occasions his followers on twitter have questioned his performance and that of the Bengals over the past few years; and from my account Chad has chosen to take the high road in accepting responsibility for his own shortcomings. His tone has been pitch perfect in striking the balance that is consistent with that of a player who accepts responsibility for his share without placing direct blame on any one player including himself.
“I am always consistent until now, but I don’t control it, only a small part of it, an engine has many pieces for it to work”
“The lack of results after one year, we failed as a team, not just me, you don’t hear the Bengals failed, you hear I failed, why?”
“Point here is, how do I go from one of the best to, well he had a bad year so he doesn’t have it anymore, he controls is outcome, I don’t. Do ya’ll get what I am saying here?”
From my perspective there seems to be a genuine understanding and acceptance of his role as a leader on his team, but he also makes no qualms about things one way or the other. It’s in this spirit that separates him from the negative labels placed on many other players in the league. Leaders step up take the heat when their team isn’t successful, they don’t place blame and come back the following year with the mindset of correcting past mistakes and changing the history of seasons past. To date Chad has done that and much more earning him a true chance at redemption this season.
The legend, right now seems a bit premature to discuss as the veteran is only 31 and still has a lot of prove both on and off the field to many critics. However, there’s no denying the ground work that he’s laying in becoming part of future conversations, you know the stuff that “legends” are made of. The closest thing I could compare to what I’m watching unfold while following Chad Ocho Cinco is watching a politician as they prepare to run for office. They scope out a region where they’d like to establish their base and before the opposition has a chance to fully dig their heels in the dirt they’ve already won. Right now on points alone Chad is winning. What Iowa was to Obama is what twitter is becoming to Chad. On most days you can find him casually hanging out…creating words for followers to use, asking questions and posing riddles, expressing boredom and enlisting his followers to keep him company. He’s engaging and consistent in his approach and it’s going far with his popularity which seems to grow daily. To those who don’t know him he has become more than football player in the unlikeliest of circumstances. If mobilizing a “grassroots organization” were to be defined by followers on twitter, Mr. Ocho Cinco would be well on his way to establishing his very own movement of supporters which will invariably benefit him when the villains of the sports world come after him this season. His platform is that of “the people’s player” and he’s gathering fans who are getting to know the man behind the helmet and pads. Every day they feel a little closer to him and more removed from the picture painted by the media, and with that he’ll become the legend that I believe he’s destined to be.
(XI Khai is also the Creator and Co-editor of http://exclusivityinc.blogspot.com/)