Some 9.3 million potentially productive American adults are without a job, which is a plight but not a travesty. The travesty is that LeGarrette Blount still has one.
Blount signed a two-year contract the other day with the New England Patriots, whose peerless coach, Bill Belichick, is more tolerant of selfish jerks than some of the rest of us are.
The Pittsburgh Steelers, for instance.
As the Steelers were wrapping up a 27-24 victory last week over the Tennessee Titans, Blount walked off the field in protest of his minimal participation. Seems the running back was limited to one offensive snap and no carries, and while 9.3 million unemployed Americans would have been thrilled to be paid for warming a bench, Blount staged an athlete’s ultimate protest.
The Steelers didn’t mess around. Although Pittsburgh long ago outgrew its reputation as a lunch-pail mill town, its pro football franchise still retains a Rooney Family tradition that champions blue-collar grit. The team put Blount on waivers, and when he cleared, the Patriots — no surprise — offered him a second chance.
Actually, it was Blount’s most recent chance in a career that’s presented him with a gazillion of them. When he was at Oregon, you might recall, Blount served an extensive suspension for causing a post-game melee — he punched a Boise State player, struck a teammate attempting to intervene, then mixed it up with some fans — that made his actions last Sunday seem as innocent as dialing a wrong number.
But Blount’s pitiable little pout is noteworthy, because it followed reports that former Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin refused to take the field during the fourth quarter of an Oct. 12 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys. It wasn’t the first time Harvin quit on his teammates, merely the last. The Hawks became so disgusted with The Defiant One, they traded him to the New York Jets in exchange for a second-hand mattress and a box of used kitty litter.
“If I’m gonna stay on the bench, I’m outta here,” Blount so much as said.
“If you can’t figure out how to give me the ball in some space, I’ll stay on the bench,” Harvin so much as said.
Different strokes, but the message was identical.
These two incidents of blatant insubordination, within five weeks of each other, find me wondering: Is this a trend?
I was on press row for the Nov. 25, 1980 Roberto Duran-Sugar Ray Leonard boxing rematch for the world welterweight title Duran had won four months earlier. I remember how everybody in the New Orleans Superdome was startled when Duran turned his back on Sugar Ray, as the eighth round was winding down, and told the referee: “No mas.”
A legendary boxer, somebody whose courage was undisputed but whose pride was wounded, had quit. Duran remained in the ring, on and off, for another 22 years. But by volunteering to forfeit the welterweight title in New Orleans, Duran assured that two of the words in the first paragraph of his obituary will be in Spanish.
A similar fate awaits retired Chicago Bulls great Scottie Pippen. With 1.8 seconds remaining in a 1994 playoff game against the New York Knicks, with the score tied at 102, Pippen watched coach Phil Jackson draw up a diagram that found him throwing an inbound pass to teammate Toni Kukoc.
Pippen was the Bulls’ main man in 1994 — this was during Michael Jordan’s baseball sojourn — and he couldn’t contemplate any scenario in which he didn’t attempt the game-winning shot. When his team prepared for the scripted play following the time out, Pippen responded with what amounted to a profane gesture at his coach. He stayed on the bench.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame recognizes Pippen with two plaques (individually, and as part of 1992’s U.S. Olympic “Dream Team”). Selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Pippen was regarded as a consummate teammate who never slogged through a possession, no matter the score, be it on offense or defense.
But with 1.8 seconds on the clock, when his coach determined a Kukoc jump shot would give the Bulls their best chance to win (presciently, it turned out), Pippen sealed himself as The Sitting Bull.
It’s probably unfair to be associated with a brief judgment lapse, but whenever I think of Scottie Pippen, I think of Roberto Duran: Phenomenal competitors whose ego snits tarnished their accomplishments.
As for LeGarrette Blount, he embodies everything raunchy about the entitlement culture of big-time sports. This mope headed to the locker room because his feelings were hurt, and yet he’s still employed by the NFL.
The same league that has given Percy Harvin every possible assurance he’ll be lucky for life.