- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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The luckiest stiffs in this business are the people who write The New York Times Book Review. When awful jockographies come in, they get to play the how-strong-is-our-shredder game. Here, we have to read them. Worse, we have to review them in such a way that we aren't on the wrong end of a helmet-to-head collision next time we're on the sideline. Just once I'd like to see the effete NYTBRers try that.
I think it would come out like this:
The cover of Chad Ochocinco's new book, "Ocho Cinco," has Mr. Ochocinco flipping off you, the reader, with both hands. Why would you want to buy a book where you're being flipped off while you're still in the store?
So many, many reasons.
1. His stirringly descriptive prose. For instance, the vivid passage in the second paragraph, in which he describes his "huge-ass house" in Florida and his seven "sweet-ass cars." In fact, Mr. Ochocinco is able to use the word "ass" 32 times in the tome.
2. His seamless transitions. For instance, in a particularly tricky passage about what he'd be like if he had a show in Las Vegas (Mr. Ochocinco opines that he'd be bigger than "Penn & Teller and Céline Dion and Siegfried & Roy" combined), he writes, "Damn, I digress a lot." And then we are whisked on our way.
3. His torrid introspection. When he found himself at the only birth he was able to attend of his four children (by three different women) the moment hit him deeply. "I'm holding a little me," he thought to himself. "Just having little me's around is cool. No lie." That's transcendent.
4. His enviable self-confidence, a trait sorely lacking in these turbulent times. For instance, Mr. Ochocinco has no doubt he could play in the NBA. "F--- yeah, I could play easy." He is also planning a professional boxing career. "I don't know what my contract says about boxing, but I don't care. You know why? Because I'd be worth millions in just one fight. Serious, I could make $15, $20 million easy to fight somebody like [Floyd] Mayweather."
Mr. Ochocinco plans to become an actor, a skill he learned from watching Denzel Washington. "I should be in a Broadway show. I'm that good."
5. His refreshing candor, so rare in the NFL. For instance ...
... his explanation of why he doesn't block: "What good is it for me to start throwing my body around with all those guys who are bigger than me?" Exactly.
... his endorsement of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "Spygate, my ass," he says. "The Patriots are good, but there's a reason why they are winning even though everybody is over age 50. It's the f---ing coaching. It ain't no secret."
... how his own boss, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, doesn't measure up. "[Lewis] doesn't have control of the football team the same way Belichick has control. No way."
... how he calls Lewis and other coaches at 3 a.m. to discuss game strategy, civilities be damned. "Their wives might not like it, but I don't care. They got to deal with that, not me."
... how he often misses what's being said in the huddle because he's trash-talking with the defense.
6. His tumultuous personal life, in which he doesn't speak much to his mother or father, nor does he want to be disturbed by family problems. His brother, Bo Johnson, quotes Mr. Ochocinco as telling family, "If somebody died or they're in jail, tell me after the season."
7. His business acumen. Mr. Ochocinco plans to come out with Ocho Cinco cologne, sportswear, cigars (in a partnership with former Cuban president Fidel Castro), sunglasses, hats, clothing, shoes, cleats and condoms. He also reveals his plans to skip a post-football career in broadcasting ("too easy," he asserts) and become an actor, a skill Mr. Ochocinco learned from watching Denzel Washington. "I should be in a Broadway show. I'm that good."
8. His balanced self-view. He writes how if football hadn't worked out, he'd have been a drug dealer. "They're smart!" he reveals. How his education at Oregon State consisted of attending one class for one week. "I didn't want people to know how smart I was," he confesses. And how his passion for a woman in Los Angeles led him to break into her house and sit in the middle of her bedroom until she woke up, the cause of his terribly unfair domestic-violence incident.
Yes, there are seeming contradictions in "Ocho Cinco" but would you expect anything less in an autobiography of a man this complex?
For instance, on one page, he describes how he's a fine father to his children. "They get time with me," he writes. "They know who I am." What more could a child want? Then on another, he admits, "I don't spend the time I should with them. I haven't grasped the concept of what being a father is." Real.
He states his credo that he will accept no outsiders into his inner circle. "If you weren't here before I made it, there's no reason to try and get close now," he writes. And yet he met his current girlfriend, Maya, on a street in New Orleans at the 2008 NBA All-Star Game.
He frankly admits he's "the best f---in' receiver there's ever been" and that he will end up in the Hall of Fame "like it or not." And yet he confesses that in 2003, he wrote a Bengals assistant coach a check for $100,000 because he was playing so poorly. (The check was refused.)
From the purchase of his first gold teeth at 13, to revealing that he once planned to kiss a ref after a touchdown, this staggering work is unlike any nonfiction available.
Mr. Ochocinco may flip off the reader on the cover of it, but inside he arrives at a sweet, confident crescendo: "I love me some me."
And who doesn't treasure a love story, even if it's just a man and his mirror?
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