DeSean Jackson reported to training camp with a bounce in his step and a twinkle in his eyes. The sulk that he wore on his face all last season is gone, replaced by a new million-dollar smile. Or, to be precise, a $51 million smile.
That's how much money it took for the Eagles to turn their diva wide receiver into a professional. Imagine that. After a childish season in which he did everything but suck his thumb, the only thing he required was a ridiculous new contract, and all is well again.
Well, in a summer that has been heavy with crazy optimism, it's time we all started facing the truth about DeSean Jackson. He is a
diva, a jerk, a child. Yes, those are all harsh appraisals, and each one is supported by the facts.
Although he is paid among the elite at his position, Jackson ranked only 46th in catches last season, with 58. Even in his specialty, receiving yards, he was behind 21 other pass-catchers, with 961. Still, the Eagles held their noses and paid Jackson way above market value. They're betting that the money, and the new-found maturity it might bring, will lead to an extraordinary season.
They are dead wrong. A zebra can't change its colors, and neither can a jackass. Jackson gave half an effort last season because he no longer liked the terms of a contract he had signed as a rookie. He was making $555,000. Who can live on that?
Now, with the new deal, he is making big money and big promises. But what the new agreement cannot mask is the man behind it, an underachiever who has become timid over the middle since a brutal hit by Dunta Robinson two seasons ago. And that's just the beginning of the problems on Jackson's resume.
Last season, after a silly holdout that got him absolutely nothing, he was suspended for a game because he missed a team meeting, he received a penalty for taunting when he flipped the ball to a Giants coach after a rare big play, and he was benched in the fourth quarter against New England after dropping two potential touchdown passes, prompting a nationally-televised pout.
And now we are all supposed to believe that a huge new contract has instantly matured him, has taken his infantile ways and turned him into a man. Please. Heck, there are already signs of the smile waning. During the first week of training camp, he waved off all specific questions about his behavior last season. He lives in the future, he said, not the past.
Well, here's one big, loud warning right about his future. The new DeSean Jackson will soon become the same old DeSean Jackson. Once a diva, always a diva.
Amaro blew it
Only in the funny-money world of MLB can a man throw away $30 million and receive the cheers of an appreciative city. Only in a bottom-line sports town can Ruben Amaro Jr. be a hero this week.
Yet, in an odd way, the GM is back in the good graces of fans after surrendering $144 million over six years to Cole Hamels -- far above the estimated $110-115 million it would have taken before the season. As usual, Amaro did the popular thing. As usual, the Phillies will pay the price for many years to come.
Amaro bungled the Hamels' negotiations spectacularly. If you've been reading this column with any regularity, you know the Phillies never had any choice but to sign the only star pitcher in their rotation under 30. Hamels is homegrown, he's durable, he's a World Series hero and he's a terrific representative.
Amaro made all of those points during a visit on my WIP radio show. So why did he wait so long -- and why did he offer $85 million initially -- when there was never any question the Phils would spend whatever it took? The GM offered no rational response to that question during my interview, or any that followed, because he has none.
Amaro is a likeable man, charming, funny and highly intelligent. He understands the unique personality of the city where he works. He has earned our respect.
But none of those things changes the sad truth. Six months ago, it would have been more reasonable, clearing more money for other players. Ruben Amaro blew it. He really, really blew it.
A case of the blind following the blind
Now that Jerry Sandusky is in jail and his enablers are soon to follow, there is one last villain in the horrific Penn State football scandal. It is us.
Sadly, the final word on the tragedy will have to include all of the onlookers who were so blinded by hero worship that they refused to see the truth. Joe Paterno was a reckless tyrant for many of his 46 years as coach at Penn State, and he got away with his behavior because we all wanted someone to look up to, someone to deify.
In 1982, writer Ray Didinger -- then of the Philadelphia Daily News -- did a five-part series on Paterno that exposed the coach in vivid and undeniable terms. During the investigation, Didinger ripped away the mythology of Paterno's reign and foresaw the dangers of the absolute power that Paterno wielded. Even some of his own players openly conceded that the Paterno image was largely a charade.
The reaction to the series in Philadelphia was extraordinary. Didinger got death threats, while Paterno received yet another outpouring of support from his adoring minions, emboldening him to take further liberties, to push the limits of his power even further.
Paterno savored being the king of Happy Valley, amassing victories on the field and preaching morality off it, all the while enabling children to be raped on the very campus where he presided. Fortunately, his statue is gone, as is his record for wins. He got exactly what he deserved.
But we are far from blameless. And if any good is ever to come from this sick story, it is that we should never again embrace our heroes blindly.
- Angelo Cataldi is the host of 94 WIP's Morning Show, which airs weekdays 5:30 to 10 a.m.
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