- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2008

DeSean Jackson has learned well from the rest of the high-profile, temperamental wide receivers of the NFL.

Who knows? Maybe one day he will change his name to “Diez.” That is Spanish for 10, the number on his jersey.

Or maybe one day he will conduct an interview while doing crunches in the driveway of his home.

Jackson is only two games into his NFL career, and he already has made a bonehead play that is destined to be replayed a zillion times this week.

What could he have been thinking - if thinking is the proper word - as he flipped the ball behind his back before crossing the goal line midway through the second quarter of the Cowboys-Eagles game on Monday night?

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, with the help of instant replay, saw that Jackson was a yard shy of a touchdown after depositing the ball to the turf and threw the challenge flag.

The call was reversed before Brian Westbrook spared the Cal rookie further embarrassment with a 1-yard touchdown plunge on the next play.

Jackson has plenty of teachers to emulate, starting with Terrell Owens, who mocked the Eagles by flapping his arms after catching a 72-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

This is a long way from the days of letting your deeds do the talking.

Now it is possible for a showboating-obsessed player to botch a seemingly easy touchdown in pursuit of the look-at-me form of entertainment.

This is business as usual in today’s NFL, where the notion of sportsmanship is as antiquated as leather helmets.

Yet there was a time not so long ago, when John Riggins would bull his way into the end zone and flip the football to the referee, as if to let everyone know that he was merely doing his job.

Too many players today act as if a 10-yard scoring play is the first ever in the NFL.

Players line up in a chorus line and shake a leg, playing to the crowd and cameras, almost demanding that the game be stopped and the moment recorded for posterity.

Jackson apparently lacks the capacity to learn from his mistakes.

It seems he once prematurely celebrated an apparent touchdown in a high school All-Star Game in San Antonio, when he attempted to somersault his way into the end zone and instead landed on the 1-yard line. That slight miscalculation cost him a touchdown, as was the case in Dallas.

All the preening is extraneous, especially with the outcome of a game in doubt.

Michael Jordan was not one to let his emotions show until the job was complete. Then he might pump his fist in the air and celebrate with his teammates.

But you never would see Jordan getting all fired up because of a dunk in the first quarter, no matter how special the dunk was.

Jackson lost his head and the ball in the second quarter of a contest that nearly exceeded its pre-game build-up, difficult as that prospect was.

As it turned out, with the Cowboys defeating the Eagles 41-37, Jackson’s zeal was misguided and inappropriate, even without the blunder.

Not to state the obvious - the obvious often eluding players - but the object of the game is to win.

Jackson is not the first player to experience an emotional meltdown moments before crossing the goal line.

Cowboys defensive end Leon Lett slowed down and held the football out to his side in celebration as he neared the goal line late in Super Bowl XXVII.

This allowed Bills wide receiver Don Beebe to track down Lett at the 1-yard line and strip the football out of his hands. The ball rolled out of bounds for a touchback, and Lett, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, became associated with one of the biggest mental errors in Super Bowl history.

Alas, some players never learn.

Or they learn all too well from the wrong sources.

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