By Jason Keidel
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We often tolerate an athlete’s eccentricities to the extent that they still entertain us. Robert Downey, Jr. can dash naked down alleys gripping a glock while demons chase him because he can smoke crack and still make “Chaplin.” He can smoke black tar heroin and still make “Home for the Holidays.”
Elvis had over a dozen drugs in his body the day he died. But he’s Elvis.
Pacman Jones’ rap sheet is longer than the Magna Carta, but if he can still pick off a pass and take it to the house, then he’s a victim of profiling.
But Ryan Leaf, perhaps the bust of the century (along with JaMarcus Russell), gets popped for breaking into grandma’s crib, crow-barring her medicine chest, and swiping some vicodin, and then the long arm of Johnny Law will grab him, toss him in a cell and swallow the key.
On a much smaller scale, Jimmy Johnson cut a backup player who fell asleep during a film session. When asked his response had Troy Aikman done the same, Johnson candidly said he’d tap his franchise QB on the shoulder and whisper, “Psst, Troy, Troy…wake up.”
Enter Bart Scott, who was once an ornery and very useful NFL linebacker. Now he’s just ornery. And the “chip on the shoulder” that once was seen as an essential adjunct to a violent player in a savage sport is now just a burden. Bart is a blowhard who has outlived his usefulness on and off the gridiron.
Scott suffered from a profound case of foot-and-mouth this week by calling out fans who called him out during a wretched performance against the Patriots on Thanksgiving night, a 49-19 bludgeoning that was equal parts homicide and suicide. As the Jets trotted back to their locker room at halftime, the fans asserted their First Amendment privilege to the nth power. And Scott snapped.
Thankfully, he only used his tongue, which is now his most powerful muscle, and one he uses more than any other. Scott looks like he’s running through quicksand while running backs breeze by him, while offensive lineman shove him aside, while tight ends and wide receivers juke him with a simple, Patrick Ewing head-fake.
But the mouth is the last organ to die. The tongue is the last of his fast-twitch muscles still functioning at a Pro-Bowl level. He said that Jets fans were the last players picked for dodgeball and are essentially haters, jealous that gladiators like Scott are playing the very game they wished they could.
There’s nothing more morbid than watching a once proud and prime player shank his way down the back nine, his scorecard blurred with mulligans and mea culpas. Scott forced an agonizingly awkward apology, citing his great works in the community, which still aren’t clear to us.
Scott’s plunge into the vortex of a dysfunctional team and dead season is more poignant than normal because he’s Rex Ryan’s guy, once the nouveau face of the franchise, Ryan’s Trojan Horse into a splintered locker room left in tatters after Eric Mangini was fired. To draw a hockey parallel, Scott was Ryan’s enforcer, the voice of the new paradigm.
But with just 40 tackles and one sack this season, Scott has gone from captain to elder statesman to an old, unproductive, rancorous and gaseous old man whose words have no weight. Instead of being the flag-bearer of a new defense that shocked the world, the team and our town are just counting the hours until his bloated $48 million contract expires.
The media loves bitter former athletes who abused reporters before asking them to join the pack, so he has an obvious career the moment his NFL career ends. Eric Dickerson, Rodney Harrison and Antonio Pierce are just a couple former, formidable ballers who had no time for microphones until they were paid to clip one to their ties. In the ultimate irony, Michael Strahan, notoriously nasty to reporters, has cashed in to historic, seven-figure contours. As if the cushy gig at FOX weren’t enough, he was tapped as Regis Philbin’s successor, sitting next to the diminutive Kelly Ripa for a few million bucks. All that’s missing is Bobby Bonilla on the set.
Speaking of Mangini, WFAN has properly pointed out that the Jets made their surprising repeat playoff runs with Mangini’s players. So Scott’s meltdown doubles as gripping symbolism. With his star long under the horizon, retirement beckoning over his shoulder, Scott represents the weakening grip his bosses have on Gang Green.
Mike Tannenbaum, by rampant reports and speculation, is a chest hair from losing his job. And Ryan, while adored by Woody Johnson, can’t keep promising big things from Gang Green without delivering. And Bart Scott has long been Ryan’s conduit, a funnel from the glossy desks of management to the sweaty lockers of minions they pay millions to underperform.
You get the feeling that Bart Scott isn’t the only Jet about to land far from the Meadowlands next year.
How fed up have you become with Bart Scott and his big mouth? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…