Jon E. Garrett
Writing the future of journalism one post at a time


August 12, 2012

Free Ochocinco, but not for the reason you think

Chad Ochocinco was a great entertainer, but at best a serviceable football player, with the exception of 2009 when he caught 72 passes for 1,047 yards and nine touchdowns in his seventh, and in light of current developments, perhaps final career 1,000-plus yard season. The wide receiver managed a pedestrian 1,647 yards and nine touchdowns in the four seasons after changing his name in 2008 from the one his mother gave him – Chad Johnson.

Johnson, on the other hand, was a workhorse. He amassed 8,089 career yards, 49 TDs and led the AFC in receiving yards for four consecutive seasons. He made the Pro Bowl every year from 2003 to 2007.

Both of the men were showboats on and off the field. Johnson kept a list evaluating defensive backs that managed to successfully cover him, performed elaborate touchdown dances and eventually changed his name to match the number on his uniform for marketing purposes.

Ochocinco became a reality TV star, social media celebrity and too many times a distraction. His antics, and declining numbers, were eventually enough for the Cincinnati Bengals to ship him off to the New England Patriots in 2011 for two late round draft picks. What followed was his worst season in the NFL. Ochocinco caught just 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown. There was speculation that his career might be over.

In the NFL, however, talent always gets another chance. So, with his body in prime condition at the age of 34, Ochocinco got what many assumed would be his final shot this season signing with the Miami Dolphins.

A new bride, a new team and with Miami’s training camp being showcased on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” – the perfect showcase for a guy consumed with the cult of his own personality. It was all too perfect, then reality hit.

Along with that bride, VH-1 reality TV star Evelyn Lozada, came a name change back to his original surname Johnson. It was a move made for love. She was not inclined to change her last name to that of the made up, fantastical character her husband portrayed.

Unfortunately, the one thing Johnson excelled at over Ochocinco was criminal acts. While both often boasted that they have never been arrested when pundits brought up their frequent antics, Johnson was arrested in college for domestic violence. Johnson took anger management classes and was placed on probation after the altercation.

In his defense, for the remainder of his football career, until he transformed himself into the even more flamboyant caricature, Johnson avoided the legal troubles that entangled so many other NFL players and disproportionately his Bengals teammates. Less than 20 days after making the change official, though, Johnson has been accused of domestic violence – this time against his new bride, allegedly head-butting her and causing a six-inch laceration to her head in a fight that began when she reportedly found a receipt for condoms.

Johnson is innocent until proven guilty. His wife has displayed a violent streak in some of her reality show appearances, attempting to assault cast members on more than one occasion. They will get their day in court.

Until then, however, I for one hope that Johnson frees Ochocinco with a legal switch back to his Spanish moniker, whether or not he is in a Dolphins uniform this season, incarcerated or simply enjoying retirement.

His football career is basically over no matter what happens. There is virtually no chance either could reach the heights of the past and Father Time always wins in the end. By any name he is not a Hall of Famer, though he will always be revered in Cincinnati, but while Johnson may have better numbers – Ochocinco it turns out, may be a better person.




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Jon E. Garrett



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