On the diva scale, no one tops the wide receivers

Updated: September 15, 2006, 8:48 AM ET
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

See, we've got it all wrong about Jerry Porter. He wasn't cheering his own team's demise from the sidelines Monday night. He wasn't even watching the game.

Jerry Porter
Kirby Lee/WireImage.comJerry Porter didn't suit up for Oakland's season opener.
Now doesn't that make everyone feel better?

The deactivated Oakland Raiders receiver says he was pumping his fist while jawing with fans -- not, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, pumping his fist in celebration -- when quarterback Aaron Brooks was being beaten into mush by the San Diego Chargers.

"I wasn't even paying attention to the game," Porter told ESPN's Colleen Dominguez. "The fist-pumping was in response to some fans that were talking to me when I was sitting on the sidelines."

That's almost as believable as Floyd Landis' kitchen-sink steroid defense. But even if Porter's excuse is true, it says all you need to know about the player, who was deactivated for basically being an insubordinate, selfish brat: If he's not involved, he doesn't care. Forget the team, it's all about him.

(Granted, it's not as bad for team morale as knifing the guy ahead of you on the depth chart, like the backup punter at Northern Colorado allegedly did. But everybody knows kickers are weird.)

Porter's narcissism is not a unique among wide receivers. For every Rod Smith, Steve Smith, Hines Ward or Troy Brown there seem to be two exhibitionists, two malcontents, two prima donnas and two clubhouse cancers.

What I want to know is this: What makes receivers think they're so great? Especially in comparison to, say, running backs?

On the diva scale, wideouts are infinitely worse than running backs, who tend to be low-maintenance beasts of burden. You don't see running backs hiding cell phones in the goal post padding. You don't see running backs pumping iron in their driveways for rolling cameras.

Yet in importance to their team, running backs are infinitely more valuable than the mouthy pretty boys on the outside. In the 43 years the Associated Press has been handing out NFL MVP hardware, it has never given the award to a wide receiver. Twelve running backs have won the AP MVP in that time.

Hell, a linebacker (Lawrence Taylor), a defensive lineman (Alan Page) and even a kicker (Mark Moseley) have won it. Never a receiver. Send this paragraph to Terrell Owens, please.

Unless your last name is Rice or Hutson, no wide receiver in the history of the National Football League has ever been worth mere mention as the best player in the game.

The only thing the modern wideout leads the league in is self importance. That's why they've been gutting team chemistry everywhere.

Porter is trying to pout his way out of Oakland. Did you ever think you'd see the day when Randy (I Loaf 30 Plays Every Game) Moss would be the solid citizen at wide receiver there?

Deion Branch went to war with New England all summer and right into September, until he got himself traded to Seattle.

Ashley Lelie -- whose career body of work says he's a big tease, not a big star -- successfully moped his way out of Denver. Of course, he was expendable because the Broncos took in Green Bay's unhappy camper, Javon Walker.

Even with receivers' inflated self-import, there's a market for guys who can run fast and catch -- no matter their baggage.

This week Green Bay revealed its desperation by signing serial drunk driver Koren Robinson. Also this week, serial Cincinnati knucklehead Chris Henry avoided jail time by pleading guilty to a concealed weapons charge. He's been arrested four times in 10 months -- but hasn't left the lineup.

Of course, Henry is just a supporting actor in the Chad Johnson burlesque show in Cincy. Johnson's look-at-me act was largely just funny stuff -- until reports surfaced last year that he launched a tirade that escalated into a physical altercation at halftime of the Bengals' playoff game against Pittsburgh. Cincinnati was winning at the time, which officially drives this into cardinal sin territory. (Johnson and coach Marvin Lewis denied the incident occurred, unconvincingly.)

You know receivers are out of hand when we've gotten this far into the story and haven't discussed in detail the diva to end all divas, Owens. He turned August into a carnival in Dallas, and we all know what Owens did for team chemistry last year in Philadelphia. When you're as productive as Owens is and your team still pays you not to play, as the Eagles did last year? You're officially an insufferable pain in the ass.

Of course, Owens was going down a trail blazed by Keyshawn Johnson, who was suspended in Tampa Bay a few years back for general insolence. Surely the first "SportsCenter"-worthy sideline dustup between the overrated Me-Shawn and the latest quarterback-coach tandem that has to deal with him, Jake Delhomme and John Fox, is coming soon.

Hey, fellas: If receiver is so hard to play, how did Max McGee become Super Bowl I MVP while nursing a hangover?

Yet running backs tend to be team players. Solid guys. Gluttons for punishment. It's the single most physically demanding position in team sports, but these guys don't often have the egos to match.

Maybe it's the legacy of Walter Payton, who combined toughness and class like few others in NFL history.

Sure, running backs include Rickey Williams among their number -- but he comes off more as a flakey pothead than an attention-starved preener. Most RBs take handoffs first and mouth off later.

L.T. or T.O.? I'll take the one who is becoming an institution in San Diego, not the one who has worn out his welcome at two franchises.

Shaun (Alexander) or Keyshawn? I'll take the reigning NFL MVP in Seattle over Mr. Just Give Me The Damn Ball.

Dunn or Deion? I'll take Warrick, who never held a team hostage over a contract into the regular season.

And I'll take just about anybody over Jerry Porter, the latest poster boy for everything that's wrong with wide receivers.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.