Eric Wright, LeBron James, and a Heartfelt Message to My Unborn Child…

January 5, 2011 § Leave a comment


Eric Wright is an odd ambiguity. On the one hand he has been a marked disappointment for the Cleveland Browns and fans, but through that he can provide a more metaphysical service. One would be hard pressed to find a more pointed example of what is wrong with athletes as role models for children. Athletes in general are subject to what I call a fragile ego, the dangerous combination of inflated sense of self-importance and being overly sensitive and highly emotional. The combination of the Browns season ending and being a father-to-be just got me thinking.

Wright entered this 2010 season with high expectations from all around him. From starting since his rookie season to entering his fourth year, typically the great cornerbacks establish themselves fully in year four. Moreover, the hype was warranted as he had flashed the ability to shut down some of the best receivers in the game. Really, all that was expected was to shore up a few aspects of his game and show consistency, but that never came to pass.

In all fairness, some of the major gripes have to fall on the defensive play calling, and that is why we have not seen Cover 0 (no safety help) for the last several games. All things considered, however, it is not a question of Wright’s talent, rather of his will. There are only a few receivers in the game who pose a talent mismatch against him, but many who will out fight him and just beat him because they want it more.

The problem for Eric Wright is not getting burned occasionally or even the horrible tackling, it is his callowness.That immaturity and fragility of ego that does not seem all that uncommon among professional athletes. In fact, it can be attributed to most of the negative actions by any athlete in any sport, on the field of play and in their personal lives.

From Eric Wright to LeBron James’ “decision,” it is the exact same scenario. A gifted athlete who has been singled out, pampered, and babied for all or most of their adolescent and adult life. This brings about some misguided sense of entitlement, that success and respect are expected as given. This is most obvious in the face of adversity, where the easy way out is always the most preferable.

Further, as in both James and Wright’s respective cases, they will not give it their all if they believe they might lose. In a display of professional cowardice, and probably unintentional and fully subconscious, their fragile egos have a similar coping mechanism. For these emotionally stunted athletes it is preferable to give less than their all and lose, whereas if they had given 100% and gotten beat, it would be morally crushing to know that they are not always “special.” This is the most obvious reason behind James’ infamous game 5 performance, as it is the reason for Wright’s lack of progression as a cornerback, most notably in his shoddy tackling.

Evidence for LeBron James’ fragile ego can be seen pretty much weekly. When he was with the Cavs, that is when he was the guy that everyone looked to, he was noticeably humble, to a point of being exemplary. Since he has “taken his talents to South Beach,” that has not been the case. LeBron is noticeably more vocal, and brazen at that, with the Miami Heat, which serves as the perfect case and point. One is reminded of grade school, where the little kid would be silent if by himself, but the first to pick a fight if he was surrounded by his friends. That guy… a “king?” Never.

Back to Eric Wright. On a personal note, having met him several times, I have found him to be defensive in conversation. So quick to let everyone know that he “kicks it with Nnamdi (Asomugha),” or other high profile players, he is a little too eager to impress. Then there is the 2010 training camp. First there was some hamstring issues off the bat, which are indicative of not being in shape upon arrival. Then that proceeded throughout weeks of practices, that he grabbed his thigh on every occasion where he was beat on a play. It was frequently enough to elicit a chuckle from the security staff and several fans when I questioned, “he’s got to be grabbing his hammy because he’s getting beat, not getting beat because of the hammy.” Finally, there is his tackling. The 2 techniques he prefers over fundamentals are the love tap on the sidelines (see how that worked against Adrian Peterson below; he was number 24 last year and I think it might have added to the reason he changed his number), or the hug and fall.

Side Note: I particularly like the Hug and Fall, it reminds me of my nephew holding my leg to make me stay when I say that I have to go; only in a less cute, and more infuriating sort of way.

Now I am sure that he would take refuge in claims that his “tackling,” is to avoid injuries. I agree, but it is the damage that would be done to his ego if he broke down, wrapped up, and got ran over. Then there is this display, in a 1 possession game, within the last 2 minutes of a game in which the Browns trailed, this. You can find him at the top of the screen. At about the 5 second mark he is aware of the running play, then… I need not go further. It is enough to give me Tourette’s Syndrome.

It was 2nd and 7, and the Browns had 2 timeouts. Any effort would have led to a tackle, another stop on third down, and… At least the Browns would have had a shot to win. Regardless of how much of a long shot it was, you need players that give it their all, despite the odds of a given situation.

This problem with the fragile ego, is limited to Cleveland. In fact, one could go so far as to ascribe almost every major incident involving professional athletes to that same callowness. Both on the field and off, that unnecessary, foolish, and misplaced sense of pride permeates sports headlines.

Team Obliterator and Others

The most obvious on the field case is the fair-weather player eluded to in describing Eric Wright in the Bills game. That guy that has a ton of talent, and the fragile ego, that cannot cope with playing on a losing team, and just do not contribute like they should. Guys like T.O., Randy Moss, and perhaps most notably, definitely most quotably, Ricky Waters. It is obvious in other sports as well, when the name on the back of the jersey means more than the on the front, they fit this bill. There are thousands of “for what, for who” moments, and each one is unforgivable.

Fights, cheap shots, and Hissyfits

Then there are these three. The fight between Andre Johnson and Courtland Finnegan that broke out, no one would see that happening if Finnegan was outplaying Johnson routinely. Albert Haynesworth got his money, and he just did not want to play as a 2-gap nose tackle. Similar to the spat between Johnson and Finnegan, and the assumption of how it started, one does not see players that are beating their man all day flagged for stupid, and dangerous, cheap shots. One can also add to this list all of the players that call out their coach. It is all the frustration of the fragile ego.

Off the Field Garbage

As much as it pains me to acknowledge Ben Roethlisberger for anything positive, he gets a few points for owning up to his ego trip, and saying he got caught up in the “Big Ben” persona. Across the board it applies to all of the fights, some (usually) insignificant slight that damages the fragile ego makes headlines, because they cannot say that it is not worth it. There is the “party boy” mentality in others, despite the almost certain reflection in play. The rest can largely summed up as an assumption of entitlement to whatever whim.

The Other Side of Ego

The good side of ego is out there too. It is the remarkable self-determination. Michael Jordan has received criticism for his ego, but one can render that as apples to oranges, because at no where along the way has anyone felt that he had anything to prove to anyone but himself. That is the difference, who they are proving it to. If there actions are a means of self-aggrandizement, and usually with a few excuses, than they are on the fragile side. If however, they are like MJ, there is nothing that should be given except respect.

The Kids and Role Models

While trying to avoid the clichéd Charles Barkley reference, athletes are gifted at a craft and often not concerned with who chooses to look up to them. That said it is a dangerous line between fan admiration and hero worship in children. The danger of the role model mantle placed upon the unworthy, is there needs to be someone there to moderate it. The hope of every parent is to raise a kindhearted, respectful, and well-rounded child, their having an emotionally stunted idol, just makes that job even tougher.

As a soon-to-be new dad, I look forward to being my son or daughters first role model. From there I look forward to pointing out the good and the bad in what I see. I will gladly point to a player like Ahtyba Rubin and say, “wow, that guy just does not quit… ever!” On the opposite end, when some dummy is displaying that fragile ego, I will teach him or her to pity that athlete.

“If they need the superficial limelight to be happy, then they will spend most of their life in misery,” I will say solemnly. Then I will pick him/her up and continue with something like, “whatever fleeting moment of fan affection they seek, or show of insecurity about the one thing they know, it is all a shameful act of hiding that scared little child that hides within them. You will never have to do that, you will always know that all the people that matter to you will love you no matter what.” And finally, “everything you do in this world, is going to be because you want it, and the only chance you have of disappointing anyone is by not giving something your all, and even then we’ll still love you”

In a little follow-up, and at the behest of family members, namely the wife, I was told to encourage the Facebook “like” button. Really I just do this as an outlet for me, and am pretty nonschalant about the site hits, but they have told me to encourage the spread of this one. I guess they just don’t get into the typical football-strategy-dork posts. Then again, if they would listen to me rant, this site would probably never exist to begin with. The “like” button is not visible from the “home page,” but is if you click on the title at the top of the page you can see it at the bottom. So long as I am on a personal message, thanks for all the continued support, the views keep growing, which is awesome to know that people seem to like it enough to keep coming back and posting links all over the web.

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