Today it was announced that troubled Redskins defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth has been suspended for the team's final four regular-season games due to "conduct detrimental to the club." You can read the details of the story and hear ESPN Senior NFL Analyst Chris Mortensen's take on the grievance cases likely to be filed by both the team and Haynesworth in response to the suspension here.
Here at espnW, the season-long soap opera in D.C. has us thinking about divas. You know the kind: athletes that seem about as grateful for their natural physical gifts and bottomless bank accounts as a teetotaler is after being gifted a bottle of booze at Christmas. These "superstars" always seem to be complaining about something, while players with bigger hearts but lesser games get passed up for pro teams every year -- think of the heartache you feel watching guys get cut on HBO's Hard Knocks.
Haynesworth has been one of the most frustrating athletes for me to follow in a great number of years. Yeah, I hear your cries of "Favre!" and "LeBron!" but this is a different kind of frustrating. Brett Favre's shenanigans all stem from a deep desire to compete and continue to play the game he loves, and I believe a great many of LeBron James' choices are driven by insecurity and a belief that he'll never quite live up to the "King" title with which he was gifted at such a very young age. Haynesworth's troubles are the result of pure laziness. A deplorable trait in anyone, but an inexcusable one in an athlete.
To me, the most despicable move an athlete can make on the field, court, track or any other playing surface is to not try. How can one reach the highest level in his or her chosen sport and then not compete with all they have to give? Imagine the gifts they're wasting if they can stay in the pros without ever truly giving 100 percent. It's shameful and it's sad and it's frustrating to all those who had big dreams and big effort but never a big enough talent.
I've never in my life had someone tell me to I needed to try harder in a sport -- whether it was back when I was competing in high school, AAU or college, or now in my everyday life as I drag my old bones out to play in flag football leagues or pick-up basketball games. In fact, I'm often told by friends that it's not necessary for me to lay out for every pass in flag football (particularly since I tend to injure myself on a weekly basis doing so) or that we don't have to bowl a FIFTH game just so I can break my previous high. I'm competitive to a fault -- it's a quality I have to remind myself daily to tone down so as to avoid alienating friends, family and the complete strangers I'm tempted to lay out with a screen.
If you're a true athlete, you should never lie down on the field while the play is still going on. You should never show up to work so out of shape you can't complete a conditioning test that the sports reporters covering you can. You should never pocket $100 million dollars, then refuse to play the scheme chosen by your team. Haynesworth is not an athlete, he's an overpaid diva whose lack of heart should be grounds enough to strip him of his paycheck and his jersey.
It seems clear he's played his last down in D.C., but do you think he'll find another home in the NFL?