The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Too Much Ego

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Laying awake, unable to sleep the other evening and flipping through the higher channels on my Direct TV box, I came across the Barry Sanders Sports Century Documentary. While watching his amazing runs did not help me fall asleep but it did remind me of two things; how incredibly talented he was and how every time he scored a touchdown (and he did this a lot) he refused to spike the ball or engage in any type of end zone celebrations; Barry merely found the closest official and handed him the ball and then returned to his team's bench. Barry acted like he had been in the end zone before and that at the end of the day it was his job to score touchdowns and help his team win games. Watching the antics of players like Chad Johnson (AKA "Ocho Cinco") and other similarly demented players like Terrell Owens, who place their own egos and self-gratification above the game and their teammates, makes it clear that not enough players understand that it is a privilege and not a right to play in the NFL!

Yes the occasional creative celebration is good for the game and fun to watch. The Icky Shuffle, Billie White Shoes Johnson's back flips, and even the "Smurf Dance" where fun to watch and were not distractions from the game. They were short expressions of excitement that did not show up an opponent and were somewhat unique. Genuine enthusiasm and passion during a game is not a bad thing and makes the games exciting and fun to watch. There is nothing wrong with displays of individualism and passion as long as they never cross the line of self-promotion and selfishness.

Football is the ultimate team sport and interdependence is crucial. While the NFL has star players, who are the greatest athletes of their generation, they must find a way to mesh with their teammates -- to make the sum of the parts greater than the parts themselves. As talented or productive as one player may be (or thinks he may be), he is nothing without his team and vise versa.

A big ego is a personal obstacle to overcome in the league, and ironically it's often so big that players with one can't even recognize it. But there's a fine line between displaying emotion, firing up your team and your fans and stepping on your opponent, your teammates or, most importantly, the integrity of the league and the game. Chad Johnson has crossed that line on too many occasions; one need only look at the new nameplate on the back of his jersey! On most occasions his warped sense of his own value and importance shields him from reality. It is almost comical now that he shows up to camp after missing the entire off-season program and predicts a playoff run for his Team, the Cincinnati Bengals (which is possible by the way). Had he truly believed this then why has he not spent the past 14 weeks training with his other 79 teammates?

Barry treated the extraordinary as ordinary, which made him even more extraordinary. Humility and hard work in such a visible and macho sport as the football is quite spectacular - it's more difficult and less appreciated. It's much harder and less popular to be humble and a team player than cocky and selfish. Showmanship might win some votes with today's audience in the short term, but over the long haul humility stands out. So while it might not have helped me fall back to sleep the other night, watching Barry reminded me and all other insomniacs what is good and right.

By Peter Schaffer  |  June 22, 2009; 9:43 AM ET  | Category:  Cincinnati Bengals Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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