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12/17/2006
NOT VERY BELOVED

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TANK JOHNSON - IN BETTER DAYS

At 6’3” and 300 pounds, Terry “Tank” Johnson is a load. His low center of gravity and massive weight allow him to stand his ground in the interior of the defensive line during run plays thus preventing holes from opening up for the opposing running back. He’s what is known in the business as a “run stuffer.”

He is also an idiot.

No, I really mean it. There is no other way to describe Johnson’s stupidity over the past 18 months, during which time he has had run ins with the law three times – twice, including this latest transgression, over illegal possession of firearms. He also scuffled with a police officer outside a Rush street nightclub and resisted arrest. The other gun charge occurred in November of 2005 when he pled guilty to the illegal possession of a firearm in Cook county – one of the more draconian jurisdictions in America when it comes curtailing 2nd Amendment rights. He received probation for the gun charge and the charges relating to his scuffling with the officer were dropped – at the request of the officer. Somehow, I don’t think if his name had been Jamal Johnson from the ‘hood, the cop would have been so forgiving.

Hey! But Tank’s a good guy. He’s just made some bad choices, that’s all. That’s what Jerry D’Angelo, Bears General Manager said after Johnson held forth for two hours at a press conference, telling everyone how sorry he was, how embarrassed the pictures in the paper of his family had made him. He apologized to his team mates. He apologized to the organization. He apologized to the fans. If the old mascot of the guy in the bear suit had been there, he probably would have apologized to him too.

Fat lot of good it did.

Less than 12 hours after that press conference ended, Johnson was down on Clark street in one of the more notorious haunts in that area, known locally as “The Ice House.” He must have been celebrating putting one over on everyone. Instead, tragedy struck.

Arrested on Wednesday with Tank for the gun related charges, Johnson’s lifelong friend, supposed bodyguard, and ex con William Posey got into a fight over what the Chicago Tribune is reporting was the harassment of his “client.”

Witnesses told police that a man repeatedly bumped into Johnson, said a source familiar with the investigation. Posey intervened, striking the man, and both fell to the floor. When club security pulled them apart, the other man pulled a gun from his pants and shot Posey, the witnesses reported.

Sources said Johnson initially denied being at the bar, but he changed his story as he talked with police at Northwestern Memorial hospital early Saturday and later in the day at his Gurnee home. Police said he was not a suspect.

There are certain kinds of bars in Chicago (and I’m sure in other big cities) where most of the patrons are packing heat. Everyone knows this which makes for an interesting evening. It is a macho world where a lot of middle class and upper middle class whites and blacks try to play gangsta from da hood. They strut and pose, daring someone to call them out. Just last April, another shooting took place at the same bar, probably for the same reason. The smell of testosterone must be palpable in places like the Ice House.

What in God’s name was Tank Johnson doing there? More bad “choices?” Or simply a bad character?

A 15 or 16 year old kid makes “bad choices.” A 25 year old adult who has responsibilities to his family, his team mates, and yes, the fans of my beloved Bears who then ends up thumbing his nose at everyone is simply a loser. Recognizing those responsibilities and then going out and partying (maybe the mother of his two children would like to know who he was dancing with when the killing occurred), bespeaks a man who allows his passions to govern his actions. And knowing what is right, then deliberately doing what is wrong is the sign of a truly weak and ignoble character.

The Bears should simply bid Mr. Johnson farewell and adieu. Clean out his locker for him and ship his effects to whatever NFL team will have him – and considering his talent, there will be a good dozen or so lining up with their tongues hanging out waiting to sign him. Wherever he latches on, a year may pass during which time his stellar play will make people forget why the Bears fired him. He will be praised for “turning his life around” – until the next incident occurs with the next police officer or perhaps some innocent who happens to get in the way. Self destructive types like Johnson rarely reform. And the best thing you can do is to stay as far away from the Johnson’s of the world lest you be close enough to receive shrapnel from his next self inflicted wound.

How this entire affair will effect my beloveds is an unknown. Coach Lovie seems to have molded his charges into a pretty tight knit group. The fact that all the negative publicity is reflecting badly on them may draw them closer together – an “us against the world” mindset that would bring out the best in all of them.

Or, it may destroy their solidarity. The Sun Times summarizes the team’s dilemma:

The Bears have a moral dilemma. With Harris out for the season with a ruptured hamstring and Johnson the best remaining interior pass rusher on the roster, do they stand by Johnson and deflect criticism until making a call on his career after the season? They know they’ll never be able to replace him this late in the season. And refusing to play him will hurt his teammates, too.

Or do they put him on the inactive list, knowing it damages their playoff hopes in a season when virtually all the decision-makers—Smith, Angelo and team president Ted Phillips—are looking for contract extensions themselves. What if they keep him up and go one-and-done in the playoffs anyway?

The question for us fans has to be; is a Super Bowl berth worth allowing an obviously flawed and irresponsible player playing time? What price victory?

I suppose the cynical among us will answer that question with some snide comment about pro sports in general being a safe harbor for all sorts of criminals and thugs so why make a big deal of of this one. Perhaps because if that’s what you want professional sports to be like in America, fine. But if you want to change the culture, alter the notion that pro athletes play by different rules and are responsible to nothing and no one save their own hedonistic and base instincts, then Tank Johnson has got to go – not just from the Bears but from the league. One arrest is bad enough. Two is an outrage. Three arrests in 18 months should finish this man as a professional football player in America. Let him play in Canada or Europe if they want him.

I suspect given the media pressure, the Bears will not play Johnson the rest of the way and release him after the season. And I’m also sure that he will have no trouble signing a huge contract with some other team who are willing to cross their fingers that he will be able to stay out of trouble for a few years to justify their gamble to the fans.

Prior to the betting scandal that nearly ruined baseball in 1919, gambling and gamblers were as much a part of the game as the infield fly rule. The riff raff who associated with ballplayers not to mention the whispers about fixing the games gave baseball a decidedly negative image.

Along came Kennesaw Mountain Landis, the new Commissioner of baseball, who shockingly banned 8 Chicago White Sox players from baseball for life after it was discovered that some of them, in league with big time gambler Arnold Rothstein, threw the World Series the previous fall against Cincinnati. Landis had the right idea:

Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player who throws a ball game, no player who undertakes or promises to throw a ball game, no player who sits in confidence with a bunch of crooked players and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball

The point was made. Bad behavior was severely punished. Even the appearance of bad behavior and a player risked all.

Could professional sports act so responsibly today? Judging by the Tank Johnson episode, it’s highly doubtful.

By: Rick Moran at 10:36 am
4 Responses to “NOT VERY BELOVED”
  1. 1
    steve sturm Said:
    12:13 pm 

    When’s the last time a team in contention in any sport took serious action against a player who was a contributor? I don’t know of any.

    You willing to bet the Bears do what you think they will? GMs and coaches get fired for not winning games and championships; they don’t get retained for being ‘good citizens’. And I haven’t yet heard of the owner who agrees to risk sinking the season in order to punish a player who acts improperly.

    Screw up as a two-bit player and you’re in trouble. Screw up on a team that is out of contention and you’re in trouble. But if you’re a star and you’re team is in the playoff hunt, you can do what you want.

  2. 2
    Parson Weems Said:
    5:12 pm 

    As an athlete of some renown Mr. Johnson does not appear to be the kind of example we would hope that our young people would emulate.

    Why is it that the National Football League does not require its licensed franchises to cut those athletes who serve as a bad example to impressionable youth?

  3. 3
    Chip Said:
    5:46 pm 

    Apparently one can take the boy out of the ‘hood, but not the ‘hood out of the boy.

    Will LiberalWorld, enamored with the notion that redistribution of wealth will clear up so many of the pock-marks on the face of our society, be able to latch onto the nuggets of truth revealed by yet another public persona hurling themselves off the pinnacle of success?

    Seeing Tank hopelessly mired in the dank, putrid muck of his own making is a poignant reminder of a loosely formed hypothesis of mine, i.e. that even in the presence of unlimited material wealth, and a perfectly fair system of distribution, such that every need and want of every person on the planet were to be satisfied, at least 10% would still find a way to self-destruct.

    That a lack of self-respect is somehow correlated to poverty is but one of the many fallacies which came out of the so-called “liberation” of the 1960s and 1970s.

    Truth be known, it doesn’t cost one thin dime to change an attitude.

    Chip

  4. 4
    Hallfasthero Said:
    11:44 am 

    Truth be known, it doesn’t cost one thin dime to change an attitude.

    Chip

    Technically, that is correct. Realistically, everyone has mental baggage (skeletons in the closet) they have to deal with and that has nothing to do with whether you are rich or not. I am not making apologies for this player, just commenting on the generalization.

    By the way my team, the Vikings, are going down in flames this year so I am going start cheering on Chicago to go all the way backing the Central in the playoffs. Its time our division took it all and the Bears look great.

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