Twitter has opened up a new world to sports junkies, and if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly waiting for Adam Schefter or Pro Football Talk to break the latest NFL rumor.
Many big names in the NFL—Mark Sanchez, Patrick Willis, and Shawn Merriman, to name a few—tweet on a regular basis, much of which is in regard to their jobs, being professional football players.
But the league’s all-time touchdown celebrator, and arguably the most entertaining and colorful character in the league seems a bit more focused other things—namely, being a Hollywood celebrity.
Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco has over 785,000 followers on Twitter (New Orleans’ Reggie Bush is the only NFL player with more). Ochocinco frequently tweets about football, but often regarding issues that are more about putting on a circus show in Paul Brown Stadium, such as playing alongside pal and free agent receiver Terrell Owens, than he is about getting better on the field and helping his team win a playoff game, let alone a Super Bowl.
I’m not saying that you have to tweet every time you lift or practice routes—but the old Chad would have been more about improving his game than finding clubs in Los Angeles and finding his next television gig.
Don’t get me wrong—I love Chad. I own his jersey and his Fat Head is stuck to my wall. I envy his life and know that he has worked hard to get where he is. He deserves to be in the position he is in.
But I also knew the football player he was when he went by the name Chad Johnson.
I’ll never forget the day when I knew he was going to be great. Obviously irritated in practice, it was early in his NFL career, a training camp video showed Coach Marvin Lewis walk up to the then Chad Johnson, and with a combination of determination and frustration in his voice, Chad told Coach Lewis, “I wanna be better than Rice.”
His teammates praised his work ethic and for a four-year span, the guy was as good as anyone in the league, leading the AFC in receiving yards for four consecutive seasons, and being named first-team All-Pro twice.
Now, Rice’s numbers are out of reach and Ochocinco is making a bid to go to the Oscars instead of Canton. He’s gone from NFL Total Access to Access Hollywood.
As Carson Palmer is getting synced up in late Spring and will do so up until Fall with the rest of the receiving core—including free agent signee and potential future No. 1 receiver Antonio Bryant—Ochocinco is gearing up for ABC’s Dancing With The Stars and a preparing to become the new host of a VH1 dating show.
In the past, Ochocinco hasn’t made it to non-mandatory camps, and that’s been fine. But as he gets older (he turned 32 in January) and as younger receivers such as the 29-year-old Bryant and 24-year-old Andre Caldwell continue to develop and build an on-field relationship with Palmer, Ochocinco’s chances of no longer being in stripes are mounting.
Being a player in this league requires guys to work year round; being a superstar in this league, like Ochocinco has become, requires guys to work year round twice as hard as everyone else. But if Ochocinco’s production lacks this year and he’s holding his teammates back by not showing up until training camp, Coach Lewis might not give as much leeway or have enough patience as he’s had in the past.
The man who used to call himself 7/11 (because he’s always open) might be thrown into a free agent market, where aging receivers with potential to cause unwanted off-field distractions haven’t been well-received in past years.
Reality stars are a dime a dozen—All-Pro wide receivers are usually about 10 million a season. I hope Chad enjoys himself in Hollywood—but he better realize that lights and cameras of the Not For Long league will be gone as quick as they found him if he focuses too much on producing on the big screen and not as much time focusing on what he can on the field.