Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ocho En Serio?

I am going to hit you with some basic math. You know, just to get everyone thinking on their toes. What is thirty multiplied by two plus twenty-five? En Espanol. If your total equals the attention-starved Bengal formerly known as Chad Johnson, you are correct. For those of you who got the answer wrong, let me break down the equation. You see, Cincinnati’s favorite media-whoring wide receiver has gone and changed his last name from Johnson to Ocho Cinco—legally. (Don’t worry, Chad. Your thank you note is on the way.)

Ocho Cinco, for those of you who don’t know, was Johnson’s nickname before it was a waste of Broward County’s time and resources. Unlike most nicknames, it was not one that was given Chad by friends and loved ones. Rather, he concocted it all on his own and tried to force it on the people around him. It is his number. Translated into Spanish. Real clever. He awarded himself the name a couple years back in honor of Spanish Heritage Month. Well, Chad, since you seem to care so much about, you know, Spanish stuff, I thought you would want to know that eighty-five in Spanish is actually ochenta y cinco. Not ocho cinco. Oh, well. It’s just, uh, your legal name.

Not surprisingly, the people around him were not receptive to the nickname. Like I said, nicknames only tend to stick when they are given to us by someone else. They are, in a sense, a gesture of familiarity and intimacy, whether flattering or not. There is Big Papi, who described the creation of his own nickname by saying, “They call me Big Papi. Because I call everyone Papi. And I’m big.” I love a guy who gets to the point. There’s Magic Johnson, who earned his nickname by wowing a sports writer on the basketball court at the young age of fifteen. There is Pudge and, as we have already established, no one chooses that on his own. Then, of course, we have the Chowda for whom this blog is named. It’s true; he made the idiotic mistake of carrying on his asinine and humiliating nickname into adulthood. Evidence of his desperate need to feel special and a part of something. (And, by the way, you suck Coco Crisp.) But, still, it was Great Grandma who actually first conceived of the embarrassing moniker. But to create your own nickname? I am going to go ahead and suggest that it is only something you do when you are really needy and desirous of attention.

If you think I merely speculate, let’s consider Chad Johnson—whose nickname I refuse to acknowledge because that’s what he wants us to do. Since we have known him, he went and got that ridiculous bleached blonde mowhawk, he raced against a thoroughbred, and he socked Cincy’s head coach Marvin Lewis one right in the eye. Sound like someone who needs attention to you?

Marvin Lewis is among those who most despise Chad’s nickname. Not totally surprising. If someone punched me in the eye, I would probably have a hard time objectively analyzing his nickname. And when analyzed objectively, this nickname isn’t really so awesome anyway. Marvin Lewis went and did something crafty, however, when he transformed Ocho Cinco into a title he felt better suited Johnson—Ocho Psycho. (You see, Chad, THAT is a nickname.) Given Lewis’s distaste for the name, you can imagine that he was none too pleased when Johnson, in a desperate effort to get people to acknowledge him and his nickname, went and velcroed it onto his uniform before a game against the Falcons in 2006. A stunt that earned him a $5,000 fine and the disdain of his teammates.

This planted a seed in Johnson’s mind. There had to be a way to get the NFL to authorize him to have that name on his back. Enter the legal system. Not like they have anything better to do. And, according to Johnson, neither does Johnson. One would think that this back breaking effort was the result of some sort of madness bordering on obsession. But when asked about his latest antics, he responded, “Have I ever had a reason for why I do what I do? I'm having fun.”

Well, I am disinclined to believe this answer. Why? Because I know what fun is. And dealing with the court system unnecessarily? Not fun. Ever pay a fine for a ticket, despite the fact that you vowed that you were going to go contest it in court? Sure, you did. And, why? Because court is not fun. Ever try to get out of jury duty? Obviously. Why? Not fun. Every time I have to do anything that is going to require even a little bit of red tape or bureaucracy, I try systematically to avoid it. Why? Because it’s not fun. Therefore, it stands to reason that a sane person would never contrive a reason to legally change his name simply because he was on a quest for fun. I am assuming most people are aware of the existence of bowling and karaoke. So, no, I simply don’t buy that Ochenta y Cinco was putting himself to all of this trouble for kicks.

This brings me back to my original point: Giving yourself a nickname is only something you do if you are really needy and desirous of attention. Not that it is a wonder that Johnson would be that way. Show me someone who needs too much attention, I’ll show you someone who didn’t get enough love in his childhood. Well, I guess Johnson got enough, arguably, but maybe just not from enough people. Certainly not from his father, who has never been a presence in Johnson’s life. His mother was also unable to show Chad much in the love department. Ill-equipped to raise a child, she shipped him off to live with his grandparents in the tough part of Miami. Car jackings and riots tough. So tough, in fact, that his grandfather was murdered when Chad was still a boy. He spent the rest of his youth with his grandmother, Bessie Flowers, to whom he attributes the fact that he ever made it anywhere in life. Even at a young age, Johnson was unruly, defying authority, acting out whenever he had the chance. Lucky for him, Grandma always found a way to rein him in just before he took that last step off the precipice.

Unfortunately, his prowess on the football field proved something of a disservice because it enabled him to slide his way through high school with pretty abysmal grades. His teachers may have thought they were doing him a favor, but really they were just creating an all but insurmountable obstacle when it came time for Chad to apply to college. Granny knew well enough that the only way to keep a boy like Chad out of real trouble was to make sure that he was in one of three places at all times—class, the football field, or bed. It took work, and three years of junior college in Santa Monica, but he eventually made it to Oregon State University. Clearly, however, all Bessie's efforts have not done much to temper Chad’s need to act out. To get us to notice him.

While I sympathize with Chad in the way that I do any of my bad boys, it doesn’t mean I think we should buy into his antics. Not to mention the fact that I find showboating a much more distasteful way to broadcast one’s issues—better to have a good old-fashioned violent outburst. As any parenting book will tell you, there are two kinds of attention we can give our children: negative attention and positive attention. (I am assuming—I have never actually read any parenting books.) When Chad goes and changes his name legally to Ocho Cinco? When he does an interpretive dance at the end zone every time he scores a touch down? When he pulls a Brett Fav-ruh—“I hate the Bengals.” “I want you to trade me.” “I won’t come to minicamp.” “Of course I’m coming to minicamp.” “My ankle hurts.”? All that is what the parenting books would call negative attention.

Based on what I know about parenting, which is nothing, I would guess that the parenting books would encourage us not to feed into this behavior by acknowledging it. If people don’t respond—if Lewis acts likes it’s nothing—then maybe Chad will start to think that he is wasting his energy trying to impress us. I mean, really. All the time he’s invested into getting us to call him Ocho Cinco, he could have solved the energy crisis by now. And if Chad does, in fact, direct his attention towards solving the energy crisis, the parenting books would encourage us to praise him for that. Because that is what you call positive attention. Though, anytime Johnson does anything to earn our praise, it is pretty hard to get a word in edgewise because Johnson usually has plenty to say about it. Still, I propose that this is the approach to take with a guy like this, who is clearly just desperate for our love. And if anyone at the Bengals is reading, it also might not be a bad idea to have Bessie Flowers as a fixture in the clubhouse—as a backup plan.

Seriously. Did I have to write this at ten am if I wanted to be able to say that the Yanks had posted consecutive wins? And with a four-run lead you blow today’s game? Now I’m just starting to think that no one cares but me. Maybe me and Carl Pavano. He pitched like an ace last night. Kind of. He won, anyway. Oh, right. But he also skipped the three previous seasons. So, scratch that; he doesn’t get any points for caring. At least there is good news coming out of one of the five boroughs. Well, not technically one of the five boroughs because it took place in Florida, but it happened to the Mets. In last night’s game against the Marlins, Carlos Beltran—Choke Master-General—hit a game winning salami in the ninth. Just as well it didn’t happen at Shea. That poor apple could not have handled the excitement. Though, I guess it probably would have recovered somewhere around the eighth inning of today's game.

No comments: