Has Chad Johnson, the Cincinnati Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver and NFL fine magnet, made the ultimate end run against the pro football establishment... or joined it?
In 2006, Chad Johnson was fined $5,000 by then NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue for violating the League's uniform dress code when he took the field in pre-game warm-ups with his legal name, "JOHNSON" covered up with his self-designated nickname, "OCHO CINCO". It should also be noted that, later in the same season, Johnson was fined $10,ooo by Tagliabue for holding up a sing during a game that read,
"Please don't fine me NFL".
In a sport so tightly governed, where every player must conform to the point where even accidental deviation from the League standard for sock length is met with a fine, Chad Johnson has become the standard-bearer for (staged) non-conformity. As the days till the start of the 2008 season became fewer and fewer, the sports world wondered if there was anything left in Johnson's creative repertoire.
This afternoon, the National Football League was informed by Johnson through his attorney that Chad Johnson was no more. Today, #85 is legally to be referred to as...
Chad Javon OCHO CINCO.
But has Chad Ocho Cinco just taken the next step in his development as the ultimate football free spirit, or is this merely the first step in the mainstreaming of Chad Johnson, taking him from raw, unfiltered odd-man, and turning him into something as predictable as homogenized whole milk?
Obviously, with the legal name change, the NFL will have to find another ATM when it needs a quick five grand late on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe the competition committee could look into developing alternative revenue streams by doing something about Jessica Simpson's pink Tony Romo replica jersey she likes to wear at Texas Stadium. Maybe they could levy heavier fines against coaches like the Patriots Bill Belichick whenever he's in the mood to butcher another gray hoodie. Or how about dropping a solid $100K penalty whenever Melissa Stark, Erin Andrews or - God forbid - Michelle Tafoya, shows some cleavage during any interviews.
Ocho Cinco's coach, Marvin Lewis, who has repeatedly referred to the player as "Ocho Psycho" during interviews, may have seen this one coming. In a Q & A with an Associated Press reporter, when asked if the name change may have come about from Johnson being mentored by Baltimore Ravens linebacker and one-time football bad boy Ray Lewis, Marvin Lewis responded,
"That's a very good question," he said. "We're going to figure Chad out now?"
Till now, no one, not the Bengals, his coach, teammates, the press or the NFL, has been able to figure out Chad Johns... err, Ocho Cinco. And now they won't have to.
Please don't fine me!!!
With all the marketing options that will become immediately available to him in the wake off today's news, Ocho Cinco will be able to pay any and every fine that may come his way.
All because now, Ocho Cinco is one of them.
Copyright © 2008 Bill Friday