So I guess I have to write about Albert Haynesworth.
I am not going to regale you with the history or the facts that you can get those a million different places today.
If you want a quick, concise overview though, here is the best single piece I have seen yet—it has all the salient news and most of the salient quotes. Be sure to watch the video as well. There are some player quotes in there that haven’t gotten much play in print that you’ll want to see.
What I would like to say, as much for my own sake as anything, is this:
As a fan of the Washington Redskins, Albert Haynesworth's decision to play the spoiled brat role to a degree rarely seen in professional sports was actually a welcome surprise.
Sure, like many, I had an initial angry reaction, but it was more outrage at the simple gall of the man than it was related to the best interests of the Washington Redskins. The anger was quickly replaced, however, by a clear sense of...relief.
See I had been reconciling with myself all spring with the idea of having to root for this guy again on Sundays this fall. And I wasn't happy about it.
You know the inner dialogue:
"Hey he's a great player when he wants to be. Maybe he'll be in shape and play like he actually meant what he said about wanting to be remembered as the best ever."
Yeah, I know. Tastes like something stuck to the bottom of your shoe.
Well, I was resigned to having to chew on that again.
I was prepared to feel like I did last year trying my damnedest to cheer when the man made a good play, then mentally look the other way as he lay exhausted on the field after making it. Pretending, all the while, that I didn't notice the bile churning at the back of my throat.
I didn’t like him. I didn’t want the overgrown spoiled man-child on "my" team; but dammit, he was on my team, and on Sundays when the game was on and the fur was flying and the blood was boiling, he was wearing burgundy and gold...and so I pretty much wanted him to lay waste to the opponent.
I was never really proud of that semi-voluntary paradox.
I wasn't thrilled when it was Deion Sanders or Bruce Smith sporting the Redskins colors either—although in their cases they were generally considered decent teammates, and not even in the same league as Albert Haynesworth in terms of being the "bad guy."
Yesterday Mr. Albert relieved me of that unsavory prospect for 2010, and this morning all I feel for that is a certain relieved gratitude.
I should note here that yes, there is the suggestion in some quarters that he could still be back come training camp. And it is at least possible. If Haynesworth is still technically a Redskin come July 29 and should it play out that by failing to report he stands to lose the one thing we know he does care about—the money—he will probably show up and make the requisite empty scripted mea culpa’s .
But I don’t see it.
Whether Shanahan has told them as much directly or simply implied it, Haynesworth's teammates and coaches have been as openly critical in a big way, suggesting to me they know he won’t be back.
Anyway, that's what I am convincing myself of.
His talent is undeniable. His potential to be dominant is also undeniable. But science has yet to invent the instrument sensitive enough to measure his professionalism or value as a teammate.
Albert Haynesworth is a child. A spoiled, oversized child with no concept of why his actions make him look as bad as they do, or why they have created such a fuss. In Haynesworth's mind, even amidst the din, it’s the rest of the world that doesn’t get it.
That is a child’s mentality, pure and simple, and only an adult can see it for what it is.
Well, silver linings come in all shapes and sizes.
Maybe this is the “lesson” many still feel owner Dan Snyder needs to learn about the risks of signing high-priced free agents.
Maybe the fact that London Fletcher—the embodiment of professionalism in sport—is the adult voice being heard today is a sweet irony not lost on anyone.
Maybe Mike Shanahan will be able to use Haynesworth's adolescent cheese-stands-alone act as a rallying point for the rest of his team.
Even better, maybe the team will use him as their own rallying point and not need Shanahan to tell them anything.
Maybe DeAngelo Hall, another overgrown baby, will finally learn that sometimes what you don’t say is more important than what you do.
Well, probably not. Nice thought though.
As for your humble Redskins fan scribe, Albert Haynesworth unknowingly did me a favor yesterday—he relieved me of the prospect of having to ignore my brighter angels and cheer him, through gritted teeth, ever again.
His absence, and the reaction to it by teammates, coaches, commentators, fans and the world at large, has been a welcome breath of cool fresh air; one that has all but blown away in a single day the ill wind that brought this object lesson in narcissism to town a year ago.
Yeah, maybe it's "only" football. But dammit, sometimes you want to feel like you care about more than just the final score.