A Thin Line Between Love & Hate


I don’t want to like Chad Johnson.  But sometimes, I can’t help it.

This year, HBO featured the Cincinnati Bengals on their Hard Knocks series.  The show was pretty much mind-numbingly with two exceptions.  The first being whenever owner Mike Brown or his equally clueless daughter (who, inexplicably, negotiates contracts) were demonstrating how ineptly they run their franchise.  The other was whenever Ochocinco had his weekly spotlight, such as in the clip above. I defy anybody to watch that and tell me he doesn’t come across as one of those rare athletes who is legitimately funny and entertaining like Shaquille O’Neal.

I don’t want to like Chad Johnson.  But sometimes, I can’t help it.

Recently, I was offered the chance to review a copy of Chad’s new book, Ochocinco What Life and Football Have Thrown My Way.  I agreed because I needed to know if I was losing my mind.  I needed to know if the Chad on Hard Knocks was an optical illusion or a figment of my imagination. As a diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan, I needed my hate back.

The book begins with a highly detailed description of Ocho’s luxurious Florida mansion.  Then it began describing all the expensive cars parked in the driveway of this luxurious Florida mansion.  Now, I don’t begrudge anybody their success but when you go out of your way to stress exactly how well off you are, it either means you’re extremely shallow or have a small penis.  I began to regret my decision to review this book.

After a few pages devoted to his fleet of high-priced automobiles, Chad mentioned the car he has up in Cincy. It happens to be a Dodge Charger painted to look like the General Lee.  Of course, it says “General Ochocinco” across the top but let’s give a brother a break. That’s exactly what I would buy if I could run, jump, catch, and do the Riverdance. It’s still really cool. And just like that, I was sucked right back in.

I don’t want to like Chad Johnson.  But sometimes, I can’t help it.

The rest of the book is a unique combination of a biography and The World According to Chad.  At 272 pages, they easily could have lopped about thirty pages off that total.  Chad has a tendency to chew his cabbage not just twice but six or seven times.  Some things, such as the rumor he punched a coach during halftime of the 2005 Steelers-Bengals playoff game, must really bother him because he bring it up in order to deny it almost every chapter.

Which brings me to the best part of the book.  Even though it’s Chad’s story, he invited others to present their points of view.  Some might add that to the category of “padding” but I thought it made for the most interesting reading.  For example, another of Ocho’s frequent protests is he doesn’t want to hurt/offend anybody, he just wants to have fun.  This is why he’s so proud of his elaborate touchdown celebrations (in fact, he devotes an entire chapter to them), including the one where he put on a “Future Hall of Famer” cape.  Well, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis didn’t appreciate that antic one bit and I commend Chad for printing his no punches pulled rebuttal.

Actually, in many ways Lewis is as much the star of this book as his star receiver.  You may not have heard but earlier this week, Chad was planning to send a case of mustard to the Steelers.  Lewis got wind of  it and put the kibosh on his plan, because you don’t step on Superman’s cape and you don’t piss off the Steelers D.  Anyway, the book is full of stories similar to that, with Ocho playing the mischievous kid and Marvin channeling Cliff Huxtable  Those two should really have their own sitcom.

At this point, I’m sure some of you are wondering why a Steelers fan, perhaps one still not won over by Ochocinco’s personality, would be interested in this book.  For one, Chad has a lot of choice criticisms of the Bengals organization (this was written back when he was desperately trying to get traded).  Most notable are his comments regarding the decision to fire Dick LeBeau, who was their head coach early in his career.  Secondly, Chad shares a lot of observations about the NFL in general, including several Steelers.  His spirited defense of the “NFL’s Dirtiest Player” Hines Ward may surprise you.  He also has a number of great Joey Porter quotes for those of us who miss seeing Peezy in the Black and Gold.

No mentions of Ike Taylor, though.  I guess it makes sense, since yet another of his beaten horses is nobody can cover him (ever) and he’s always open (always).  He rationalizes his poor season last year by claiming the Bengals QBs were told not to throw him the ball as punishment for trying to get traded.  I guess that’s one way of looking at things but I still would’ve liked to see him explain why Face Me Ike always seems to shut him down.  Hey, there’s no shame in being stopped by the Steelers.

Whatever you think about Ochocinco, this book won’t do much to change those feelings one way or the other.  Every chapter, you get a brief glimpse of the real Chad, the funny likable personable guy you saw in that video clip.  The Chad who had a long hard road to the NFL from humble beginnings raised by his grandmomma in Liberty City, Florida.  When you’re raised the same place they set a Grand Theft Auto game, you know you’ve come far.  It’s just too bad he feels the need to switch back into the Ochocinco character so frequently.

Still, I can’t help liking Chad Johnson.  But I still want him to suck against the Steelers.