I saw this picture of Antonio Brown and I suddenly felt like I was looking at one of those puzzles in the back of a starlet magazine, where the question is posed: “What is wrong with this picture?”
Mind you I grew up in the Raiders organization during their peak years in Oakland, the mid 1970’s. John Madden, Ken Stabler, Ron Wolf and the man I reported to, Al Davis. This was my first hand perspective on football, and the images of those players working in that organization to win championships is vivid in my mind.
As was my year with the San Francisco 49ers in 1994. I was part of the 49ers weekly highlight show cast, picking a couple games each week on a telecast hosted by Mark Ibanez and 49ers runningback Ricky Watters. The players that streamed through the studio for the weekly telecasts were different than those I worked with 20 years earlier.
The Raiders of the 1970's made money, but most of them also had offseason jobs to supplement their incomes. By the 1990’s, no off-season job was going to dent the account they accumulated from playing in the NFL. Backups were making hundreds of thousand dollars.
The receivers I worked with as an employee of the Raiders, were as talented as any today, but Fred Biletnikoff, Cliff Branch and Raymond Chester carried themselves in a much more inclusive and dignified way than what Brown appears to me today.
In the 90’s, it was Jerry Rice who I got to see up close. Not a particularly outgoing person, more private than most, Rice wasn’t in it to make friends and gain notoriety. He was in it to catch footballs and win. The son of a bricklayer, Rice had a focus and character that transcended his orbit. Some would see him as aloff, and while it could be interpreted that way, it was more Rice’s quiet confidence that dictated his public behavior.
One of Rice’s successors in San Francisco was Terrell Owens. A man so sold on himself there was little room to reason with him. Owens thought he knew how to win championships better than Bill Parcells, although history will show he won no Super Bowls and Parcells two. It is that kind of arrogance that levels the balance between talent and attitude. Rice had both, Owens only one.
In recent years, the wide receiver position has been a breeding ground for athletes you wouldn’t want at your Thanksgiving dinner table. Ocho Cinco, remember him? Chad Johnson changed his name so he could list it on his 88 jersey. He broke out a “future” Hall of Fame jacket after he scored a touchdown one night, but he’s been retired since 2011 and no call has come or is expected from the real Hall of Fame.
His career was flamboyant, but it didn’t lead to any championships.
Odell Beckham Jr. is a more recent entrant into the most obnoxious player at his position. He looks great playing the game, makes some incredible catches, but as far as winning is concerned, that is lower on his priority list than his wardrobe.
Then there's this picture I saw today of Antonio Brown walking in street clothes. Elton John would be humbled in his presence. His sunglasses are perfect circles with what appears diamond studs around the glass. He is wearing headphones that probably cost more than the working stiff in the stands earns in a week.
It appears Brown has raided Sammy Davis’ war chest with a gold chain that is hefty enough to hook between a jeep and truck to pull it out of a ditch. From this chain hangs something else that is gold, bigger than the size of a credit card with with what appears to be Egyptian writing. His jacket is right off the cover of GQ Magazine, tight fitting and worn over a low neck T-Shirt.
Brown is carrying his coffee cup with two fingers, which provides a more secure hold than either you or I could muster with our full hands.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Where is the kid that his father followed on the road to support his son’s athletic ability, like Mr. Biletnkioff did? Or the father that taught his son the value of an honest days work done in a humble manner, like Jerry Rice’s Dad did?
Nope. Not with a player that thinks his athletic ability is so superior to others that his path flies above the work necessary to win a championship. He is bigger than his team, something that prompted the Pittsburgh Steelers to trade him and the Oakland Raiders to release him. Now, the New England Patriots try to cash Brown’s talents, but they better be careful because they are only the latest team to put their trust in a player that hasn’t earned it.