When I ran across Deion Sanders’ interview on the NFL Network this morning, I was gonna let it go. Notwithstanding my skepticism about officially clearing the air via an interview on your own network conducted by a sympathetic colleague, I was all set to ignore the spectacle.
After listening and watching Neon for a while, it does seem like Deion Sanders achieves a lot of good for underprivileged kids in the Dallas area. Not only that, it seems the good deeds come from a place of sincerity.
That’s very commendable, and if more professional athletes and celebrities used their wattage to help the forgotten communities in the country, we’d ALL be a lot better off.
But then Prime Time flubbed a no-brainer. Emphatically and unapologetically.
Asked if he would do anything differently in his handling of Dez Bryant and, to a lesser degree, Michael Crabtree, Sanders replied in the negative. According to the former two-sport star, he didn’t do anything wrong.
Sanders professes to care deeply about these two kids. He claims to be all about helping them, mentoring them, and guiding them to greater glory in the arena of life. He spent 99 percent of the interview trying to convince his audience of just those things.
Yet both wide receivers are currently sitting on the sidelines instead of playing football. The game is their ticket to that better life (although it’s not a guarantee) and they aren’t cashing it in at the moment.
Crabtree is getting closer, but who knows how much damage he’s already done to his stock?
In the face of this, Neon Deion sees no problems. Nope, wouldn’t change a thing. He didn't do anything wrong—something that I'm not disputing—so it doesn't matter that the two young men under his wings have had their lives knocked off-course.
That’s because Deion Sanders is, ultimately, all about Deion Sanders.
Sure, he’ll help some “African-American” kids (I guess the poor white kids around Dallas don't rate) and offer them a shot at a better life. He’ll do exactly that ... until it starts to reflect negatively on Prime Time.
Once that happens, it’s all about Deion Sanders damage control—regardless of whether it hurts or helps these athletes for whom he has such unconditional affection.
If you embarrass Prime Time, look out.
Damage control is why Noel Devine “fled” back home (again, Sanders’ words) to his family instead of sticking under the tutelage of Deion. The loquacious former defensive back wanted to “adopt” Devine, but the running back decided to head back home where his family was coping with existence having lost both parents.
It is in Sanders’ insecure world when your direction is away from him.
Damage control is why Neon was careful to put the Bryant situation on the table in clear terms and point out HE wasn’t the liar. That’s awesome, Deion, except the unavoidable and obvious inference is that Dez Bryant is a liar.
I guess that wasn’t Deion Sanders the Mentor speaking.
This duplicitous nature even reared up and bit Sanders, himself.
The long-time Atlanta Falcon kept bemoaning the masses' focus on what he does and not who he is. The implication being that what he does is not the true reflection of his character, but only those who really know the individual know what he’s genuinely about.
Sounds good—not perfect, but the kernel holds up to scrutiny.
Of course, then Prime would rattle off a bunch of violin strains about youngsters he’d helped and reiterate, “this is what I do.”
Uh, didn’t you just say what you do is not really what you’re about?
The former Dallas Cowboy also used his air time to point out he didn't just look out for the high-profile, superstar types.
His bleeding heart drips all the way down to the last man on the roster. It's not just about the Crabtrees or Bryants or Maurice Jones-Drews or Adalius Thomases or Chad Johnsons or Champ Baileys (all of whom made it into the interview from Deion's lips).
Sanders cares about the "53rd man on the roster" every bit as much.
He just doesn't name any of them.
If you saw the clip, you know Neon Deion made a very earnest argument that he wants nothing from his subjects because he's already been blessed with so much. Again, the kernel is probably true—he probably doesn't want monetary things or special access.
What Prime Time does want and has always wanted is FAME, and he can't get enough.
An ego like his will NEVER have enough of it, but these active NFL luminaries and blue-chippers can offer Sanders enough reflective shine to feed his starving reserves.
Do you think the correlation between closely associating with current phenoms and television-time is lost on the shrewd self-promoter?
What's worse, do you think Deion Sanders really minded having the cameras basically to himself on Sunday morning for a good 10 minutes?
Not one bit, because it doesn't matter to him WHY he's on camera, he just loves seeing the little red light.
Consequently, you get the polished delivery under a more strenuous questioning than I expected (pretty nice work by Jason La Canfora under the circumstances). You get the Jesse Jackson/Jackie Chiles act—trying to overwhelm plain observation and common sense with bombast, hyperbole, and sheer volume. You get the ingratiating, too-easy smile that says, "yeah, I ate the canary, so what?"
Watch the man and tell me he wasn't having a good time.
Does any of this make Sanders evil, malicious, or morally repulsive? No, no, and no.
As I said at the outset, the dude does seem to sincerely care about the unfortunate and vulnerable. If more people of means followed some of Prime Time’s lead, the world would be a better place.
However, as long as his ego and deeper insecurity run rampant, Deion Sanders will be as much a man to avoid as one to follow.