Alright... First things first. Domestic abuse is never ok.
Glad to get that out of the way.
But this isn't about what happened when things went from out of control to worse for Chad Johnson, this is about how we got there from here.
"I told you what the ... I was gonna do and I just went out there and did it."
- Chad Johnson, Hard Knocks 2012
Johnson was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2001 NFL Draft, he was the 7th receiver selected. Over his first seven seasons, as he put it, he took care of his... business. Five Pro-Bowl appearances, three
, and an assortment of colorful, end zone celebrations leaving many annoyed defenders
in his wake.
Like any young, talented person, he had to step on a few toes
to force his way to the forefront. The touchdown dances were self-promotion as a means to announce that his talents were transcendent and that his moment had arrived. Opportunity isn't given so much as it is taken.
Though, like anything, there was more going on under the surface.
It wasn't just the simple "broken home" archetype (though, Johnson was a product of an unstable youth), it was a guy looking for his place in the universe and finally finding it and wanting to maximize it for as long as he could. Could he have handled it better? Sure. Though, how many nights did he lie awake, waiting for his chance when everyone doubted him through being unrecruited out of high school, struggling at community college, and going largely unnoticed at Oregon State?
It may have all looked like fun and games, but it was hard work, dedication, and part of a shrewd, elaborate plan. Being the best isn't just about athletic skill, its about having that athletic skill registering with the fans (see: Panem et circenses). In order to be the Chad Johnson he wanted to be, he had to be the Chad Johnson we'd want to see (Even so much as spawning a new identity: Ochocinco).
His prodigious on field production and charismatic personality off of it were rewarded. Following the 2007 season, Johnson netted endorsement deals with Godaddy.com, Vitamin water, Reebok, and Fathead. Talk shows and B-level sitcoms pegged him for guest spots.
Johnson had finally reached the mountain top. However, he'd soon find out that the pains to reach the summit were rarely rewarded by the view.
On August 29, 2008, Chad Johnson legally changed his name to Chad Ochocinco.
"Time to kiss the baby... that basically means like the fat lady is singing. It's all about to be over."
- Chad Ochocinco, Hard Knocks 2009
While the 2008 season was one of his worst, statistically, Ochocinco bounced back with a big 2009 campaign. Not only was he near the top in the league in every statistic, his brand continued to grow with a break out performance on HBO's Hard Knocks
His comic stylings were well known in football fan circles, but the prime time cable stage allowed for him to breakthrough to the mainstream. All across America and pop culture, such catchphrases as "Kiss the baby" and "Child Please!" echoed and bounced around at warped speed.
The year 2010 brought even more crossover success just as, it seemed, his on-field performance was dwindling. Ochocinco was featured on the hugely popular "Dancing with the Stars"
and "WWE Raw" as well as indie darlings "The League"
and "Blue Mountain State"
in addition to earning two reality TV shows, "T. Ocho Show" with teammate, Terrell Owens and "Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch", a dating show.
Following the 2010 season, the Bengals released Ochocinco, but he was soon signed by the juggernaut, New England Patriots. Under Bill Belichick, Ochocinco was toned down both in performance (career lows across the board) and in demeanor (only one, minor media incident all season
). Despite the change, the team-minded wide receiver almost accomplished a personal goal of Super Bowl victory as his Patriots fell just short.
Finally, 2012 brought a new direction as Ochocinco signed with his hometown, Miami Dolphins. On July 4, he married long-time girlfriend, Evelyn Lozada. Finally, with everything he wanted, the local boy made good was returning home.
On July 23, 2012, Chad Ochocinco legally changed his name back to Chad Johnson.
By now, all of us not only know the story, but we've formed an opinion
on the matter. It is impossible to understand the dynamics of a couple's relationship (especially one that most of us don't know in any capacity except for what TV editors pass on to us). Though, through the short, happy life of Ochocinco, those four years of enjoyment of all the trappings that his hard work warranted, we can see how fragile the scepter of fame, love, and athletic achievement can truly turn out to be. I'm not at all saying that those things are equal or should be viewed as such... just, in this case, they're all intertwined. Which, one could say is part of the problem... but I'm not sure if that problem lies with Chad Johnson or society as a whole. Questions for another time.