|Me-Shawn's Hall of Fame scam|
By Jason Whitlock
Page 2 columnist
What Me-shawn Johnson has never been able to accept is that in terms of football skills, he's Wayne Chrebet with a suntan, a bad attitude and questionable hands.
Me-shawn has never owned the necessary ingredients -- speed, savvy, heart, soft hands -- to be a lead receiver.
It would be easy for me to rip Me-shawn today. Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers delivered Me his long overdue comeuppance, benching Me for the season and dealing his Hall of Fame pursuit a major setback. The news of Me's demise gave me a feeling of giddiness and restored my faith in football justice.
But I'd prefer to take the column road less traveled.
I'd like to salute Me-shawn for his marketing genius. For nearly eight NFL seasons, he fooled the media and several NFL coaches into believing he was a big star. The Jets and the Bucs wasted high draft picks and millions of dollars on Me, and built passing games around the slow-footed, undersized tight end who trick-or-treated as a go-to receiver.
Me-shawn scribbled "Just Throw Me the Damn Ball," and Bill Parcells, Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden all obeyed. Me put up decent numbers. He reached 600 receptions faster than anyone besides Marvin Harrison, and appeared in three Pro Bowls. When Me-shawn talked of making the Hall of Fame, the conversation didn't elicit the deafening level of laughter it should have.
People took Me-shawn seriously.
Me was the shrewdest self-promoter since Brian Bosworth. Me-shawn was The Great Black Hope. We marveled at his size -- 6-foot-4, 215 chiseled pounds -- got caught up in his stats and thought we were looking at a young Jerry Rice with a nasty personality defect.
In a league reluctant to make a significant trade, the Bucs surrendered two first-round draft picks to get Me, and then handed him a $56-million contract. Again, no one laughed. Me had everyone fooled.
He ran his mouth so much that the media and NFL coaches failed to look at his actual production and recognize that Me had more in common with Chrebet, the ultimate possession receiver, than Rice, the ultimate receiving weapon.
In his 19-year career, Rice has 83 receptions of more than 40 yards. Me and Chrebet have nine receptions of more than 40 yards. Jerry has 192 TD receptions. Me and Chrebet have 48 and 40, respectively. Rice and Me have similar athleticism, size and speed. But Me can't match Rice's football intellect.
On the flip side, Rice can't match Me's marketing intellect.
You have to hand it to Me-shawn. He knows exactly what he is, and he knows he's pulled off one of the great scams in marketing history. That's why he wore such a huge smile when he chatted with Dan Patrick on Tuesday's SportsCenter. For a man who had allegedly been publicly humiliated, Me-shawn looked as happy as a Cincinnati Bengal as he talked about being deactivated.
Me was probably counting his money and contemplating his early vacation plans. Gruden busted Me-shawn for armed robbery, and the Bucs punished him with six weeks of paid probation. Me got away with the smoothest heist since Tim Robbins' Shawshank Redemption.
Me may never get credit for his business savvy. He may have fooled the media, but we've never loved Me the way we love Deion Sanders and the other great quotes. Prime Time backed up his bluster with Hall of Fame play, and Prime's teammates fawned all over him. So Deion is known as a marketing whiz ahead of his time. The nickname, the jewelry, the late 1980s jeri curl, the clothes, the end- zone celebrations, the trash talk ... they're all part of Deion's legend. They'll all be shipped to Canton with Deion.
But what about Me, the $56-million possession receiver with bad hands and a cancerous locker-room demeanor?
The Great Black Hope belongs in Canton, too. But for different reasons.
Me talked his way into millions of dollars, gravy-trained a Super Bowl ring off the backs of Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice and John Lynch, stole credibility by pretending to be one of Bill Parcells' "guys" and once put together a signature 106-reception, one-TD season.
Me will always be remembered for doing whatever it took to outshine the Jets' little mascot flashlight. And that's the legacy that should earn him a bust in Canton.
Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star (kcstar.com) and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.