Dropping The Ball

deseandropNothing’s more important than a first impression.

Eagle fans all vividly remember that Monday night in mid-September, only your second game in the National Football League. You, DeSean Jackson, our newly drafted wideout with a ton of speed and upside, caught a long pass with nothing but the endzone in front of you, only your hotdogging led you to drop the ball on the one-yard-line before crossing the goal line. That’s a fumble, and the refs ruled that we’d get the ball on the Dallas 1 instead of six points on the board. Luckily, we were able to score on the next play so it didn’t really matter, but from that moment on I knew there was something about you that bothered me.

You never felt like part of the Eagles to me, you were just…I don’t know, there. Perhaps I was wary of another wideout whose shit apparently doesn’t stink, much like the guy who did sit-ups in his driveway with reporters swarming around him. As your Instagram account became more active, I began to wonder where exactly your head was. Were you a team guy, or were you another Terrell Owens? I sure didn’t want T.O. again, and that’s why I kept you at arm’s length. I waited for the other shoe to drop…and waited…and waited some more.

This past season, I finallly forgot about these inhibitions. You played like a man possessed, easily having the best season of your short career. You were hailed as the future, a playmaker who struck fear into the opposing team every time you touched the ball. You were one of those guys that the other always looked for before doing anything else. “Where’s DeSean lining up? OK, we’ll plan around that.” After this season I was stoked about the future of my football team. Philadelphia hosted playoff football! Things were trending up instead of down! The future was the brightest it’s been in a long time, as if a big red moon had stopped eclipsing the sun of success…

…but then, just like that, the other shoe dropped.

You’re gone now, cut from my beloved Eagles after what’s been an offseason already brimming with tumult. We’ve heard reports of locker room issues, of insubordination, and of irresponsibility. We now read that your off-the-field activities may not be on the up-and-up, considering the company you keep. That unknown reason I kept you distant, the thing that made me never actually think of you as an Eagle despite you wearing my team’s jersey for six years, made itself known out of the blue on a Friday afternoon. I knew I couldn’t completely trust in you, DeSean, and for once I’m sad that I was right.

So far I’ve seen or heard two distinct reactions to this story:

1. The Eagles leaked this info so they could soften the blow of the release.

A lot of callers to sports radio (where my ears spent most of the day yesterday) immediately put on their tin foil hats, accusing the big bad front office of manipulating the media to make themselves look as good as possible for the public. They source the fact that the NJ.com story was out a mere 35 minutes before the announcement of Jackson’s release, calling it too coincidental.

I counter with this possibility: ESPN reports that the Eagles became aware of this report on Wednesday, a full two days before they cut ties with Jackson. How could they then have leaked the information? Those who aren’t journalists don’t always understand the time and effort that go into writing a big story like that: do you honestly think Eliot Shorr-Parks found out all of that information Friday morning, then had his report written and published by lunch? Unless he’s an android, that’s completely impossible. Even the best online journalists in the world couldn’t make that happen. That article was weeks’ worth of research, planning, outlining, then writing. I’d wager that Shorr-Parks finished the article on Wednesday, and that’s how the Eagles found out about it. Perhaps this story was merely the proverbial straw on the Eagles jersey wearing camel’s back and not the nefarious deed of a group of villains sitting in an ivory tower.

2. DeSean is allegedly tied to gangs and he gets cut, but Riley Cooper uses a slur and gets rewarded. Hypocrites!

Right here is this story’s version of the same typical knee-jerk reaction that every single story every written in the history of reporting has ever faced. Without thinking things through, without considering all of the facts, minds turn to anger and rage over what’s basically easy pickings.

There’s a major difference between the two, and it has nothing to do with skin color: Cooper indeed used a slur, a heinous word, but he accepted responsibility, paid his fine to the Eagles, attended sensitivity training, and atoned for his error. He did everything that was asked of him to take responsibility for his bad act. Do you get the same vibe from DeSean? There had to have been conversations with him, with players or coaches or even the brass at the top, about his off-the-field persona…did it change? Did he stop uploading those Instagram photos? Did he change his ways AT ALL? No; he showed no willingness to do what was asked of him, he continued to miss practices and not follow the regulations imposed by his new coach (AKA his BOSS), and he was shown the door. If I went into my office flashing gang signs and turning a deaf ear to my superiors, my ass would be looking for work too.

Which leads me to another point: the idea that “normal” jobs and playing in the NFL can’t be compared. That, for lack of a better term, is bullshit. Professionalism is professionalism, no matter if you catch a ball for millions of dollars or flip burgers for minimum wage. If you’re not a professional when at your place of employment, that employer reserves the right to kick your ass right out of the company. Which is exactly what happened here.

I’m sure of two things: that Jackson will find another team to play for, and that we haven’t heard the last of his life outside of football. He’s going to keep posting to Instagram, reppin’ his Jaccpot records, and being DeSean, just with a different set of colors when he suits up for work. One can only hope that he won’t make any really dumb mistakes.

However, one fact remains: as far as the Eagles are concerned, DeSean dropped the ball. Again.

 

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