- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 4, 2000

Deion Sanders is a nauseating performer who is hopelessly in love with himself.
You are encouraged to carry an air-sickness bag in his vicinity.
Here is his principal message: “Me, me and me.”
Sanders says he now knows what it is like to be pregnant, which is fitting. He probably should arrange to marry himself.
Deion to Deion: I do.
Sanders is hardly the only athlete who lacks a trace of humility. It sometimes seems the ego-tripping athlete is taking over America’s games, usually to cheers.
49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens is coming off a one-game suspension after he felt the need to hold a demonstration on the Cowboys’ star logo at Texas Stadium.
You know the spiel. He merely was being himself. He merely was playing with emotion, which means this: You have to let Terrell be Terrell.
That song-and-dance nonsense has become tiresome. There must be a place, perhaps Los Alamos, N.M., where all the ego-reeking fools gather to learn the same old inanities.
You just had to let Mark Gastineau be Mark Gastineau. You just had to let Dennis Rodman be Dennis Rodman.
You just have to let Jason Williams be Jason Williams. You just have to let Chris Webber be Chris Webber.
And so on. The pattern is the same. A play is made and then a contrived exhibition of self-aggrandizement ensues.
Gastineau would sack the quarterback, as he was paid to do, and then succumb to a bad case of ants-in-the-pants gyrations. This, somehow, was thought to be cute, unique, inventive, spontaneous and blah, blah, blah.
It was none of this. It was absurd, ridiculous, sad, pathetic, not unlike Sanders pointing to the sky after his 57-yard punt return against the Buccaneers.
Why not just pick up the red phone and dial God direct, if the display really is an acknowledgment of God?
But it isn’t, not really. It is about Deion being Deion. It is about this insatiable desire to be the center of attention. It is about this impulse to reclaim the lost hugs of childhood.
In the real world, of course, you don’t cheer these types, these egomaniacs. You run from them. They are the ones who believe everything they do is so incredibly special, and because it is, they bore you with every mind-numbing detail.
They discuss the intricacies of their jobs, social lives, financial acumen, while you are only permitted to say, “Uh-huh.”
Meanwhile, to yourself, you say: “Who gives a rat’s whatever?”
It is this way with Sanders and the crowd of in-your-face demonstrators. They can’t let a good deed speak for itself. They have to add an extraneous twist to it. The positive reinforcement from being in the spotlight is like oxygen to them, and they don’t care how it looks. Just give it to them. They gotta have it, the cheers. Louder, please.
This sort of behavior used to be considered classless, tasteless. The clip of Joe DiMaggio kicking the dirt in disgust after making an out is significant, largely because, as far as anyone can recall, it was the only instance he ever deviated from his strong, silent self.
Nowadays, it almost seems as if the fragile fools of the playgrounds are the norm and not the exception.
The U.S. 4x100-meter relay team Maurice Greene, Jon Drummond, Bernard Williams and Brian Lewis succumbed to a stunning show of mindlessness while claiming the gold medal in Sydney.
The runners made silly faces and resorted to muscle poses while using the American flag as a prop. Drummond also referred to himself in the spooky third person, which is a fashionable device of the self-absorbed.
“I wanted people to know that Jon Drummond is the greatest first-leg runner of any relay race in the world,” Drummond said.
What is that? Are the athletes who employ the third person so dumb that they don’t realize how dumb it sounds?
Can you imagine a colleague speaking in the third person at the office water cooler? You probably would feel compelled to give the person the name of a good psychotherapist.
Yet America often nods its head in approval at these disembodied souls, so long as they play sports. They are too cool. They are too beautiful. They are too much. Do they come up with this stuff all by themselves?
Lost in the me-me-me shuffle is the old-fashioned spirit of playing the game with grace, dignity and honor.
Instead, a player scores a touchdown and then acts as if he has discovered a cure for cancer. He preens, he postures, he dances, he commits sensual acts with the football and he glances to the sky and says, “Look at me. Acknowledge me. I am one of 6 billion people on this planet and I am the special one.”
Let’s stop the game. Let’s stop the presses. Let’s genuflect at the altar of the sports egotists.
You are the worthiest ones, the mightiest ones, the all-knowing, entitled ones. You are the truth and the light.
In the name of the Deion, the CWebb and the holy Vince Carter, amen.
Athletes don’t ask to be false Gods, and enough of them beat up their wives or girlfriends and sire children out of wedlock as if to underline the point.
Yet America is hardly bothered by the two-legged fertility banks in uniforms. Why shouldn’t he spread around his precious seed, especially if he can hit the long ball? As you know, chicks dig the long ball.
Three kids by three different women and working on four? No problem. Two bits, four bits, six bits, a dollar, all for out-of-wedlock impregnation, stand up and holler.
Just win, baby.
No, it’s not how you play the game; it’s only that you win the game.
So do the limbo if you make a nice play. Act as if it is the first nice play you ever have made. Make a production out of it. Show up the other team. Call up your agent by cell phone. Pop the balloons. Blow out the candles. Wave the cheerleaders onto the field and shake your booty in unison with them.
If you’re going to be a fool, you might as well go for it and be the quintessential fool. Grab a microphone and give a speech. Thank your parents, plus your friends, Romans and countrymen.
America will understand. You just have to be you. You just have to play with emotion. You just have to hold the football with one hand before you lose it.
Too bad if a coach objects to that schoolyard miscue. What does a coach know anyway? He’s not the chosen one. He probably doesn’t even know how to moonwalk.
Get down, America, and celebrate these narcissistic displays.

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