Saturday, March 29, 2014

D-Jax Gone


We are never going to know all of the reasoning behind why the Eagles released wide receiver DeSean Jackson. On the surface, it seems like a really dumb move. Jackson was signed for three more years, he was in the prime of his career, and he'd just put up stellar numbers in new coach Chip Kelly's offense.

Kelly's offense is predicated on doing things really fast. Jackson is, for the record, really, really fast.


It would seem to be a match made in heaven. And yet for the past few weeks the Eagles were openly shopping Jackson, their trade offers bathed in the flop sweat of desperation. And then Friday, they just cut him loose.

Which, of course, set the rumors swirling. Rumors that he flashed Crip signs during games. Rumors that he and Kelly didn't get along. Rumors that he was a "diva" and got alligator arms and all the other crap that swirls around a really talented player who's let go, causing fans to search for any possible explanation. 

What we do know is this: That a couple of Jackson's associates were investigated in connection with some criminal proceedings but not charged. That Jackson had one minor run-in with the law. That he was, by all accounts, a titanic pain in the ass when he wasn't happy with his contract. That the Eagles are already drawing fire, perhaps justifiably, for cutting Jackson while signing Riley "Drunk Dumbass Uses Racial Epithet" Cooper to an extension. That Jackson has issued a statement categorically denying that he is a gang member. And that the vast majority of Eagles fans wouldn't know a gang sign if it bit them on the ass.

All that being said, it's open season for speculation by the media and the fan base, much of it speculating on long-distance assessments of Jackson's character. (Bear in mind, this is a guy who bootstrapped himself from Compton to UC-Berkeley. Dismissing him as a brainless thug is, beyond the obvious whiff of racism, just plain stupid.) A sample crawl through the comments sections of various articles on the release yielded a great many uses of words like "diva" and "quitter" and "thug" and "whiner". Obviously, these aren't the most nuanced analysts in the world talking, but it's pretty clear what the public perception of Jackson - the most electrifying receiver the Eagles have had since perhaps Harold Carmichel in his prime - is among the loyalists.

Just remember, though, before you join the mob that an awful lot of the way we perceive athletes is controlled or stage managed by the teams they played for. Remember that in recent years we've had teams do hatchet jobs on former managers (cf. Boston Red Sox w/ Terry Francona). We've had teams leak salary negotiations to make players look bad. We've had players thrown under the bus as soon as they were out the door (pretty much anyone traded from the Diamondbacks under the current regime). And we've had nonsense like this.

So if you're compelled to think about DeSean Jackson as a quote-unquote thug, think about where your perception of him as such came from. Think about who might benefit from that perception. And then go and do something better with your time anyway.
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