February 1, 2007, - 11:16 am
By Debbie Schlussel
If you’re a sports fan, you’ve probably heard about thug, criminal, and Chicago Bear Terry “Tank” Johnson. You’ll see him on your screen if you’re like millions of Americans watching the Superbowl, Sunday.
Although he violated probation, Judge John Moran–a numbskull jurist who thinks football is more important than justice–allowed Johnson to leave Illinois to play in the Superbowl. Think that would happen for you or me? Think again. Even legendary former Bear Gayle Sayers thinks Johnson should be barred from playing in the Big Game. But Chicago Coach Lovie Smith doesn’t have the ethical sense to do so. As they say in the NFL, “Just win, baby.” (Raiders Owner Al Davis)
Bravo to my friend, Jon Saraceno, of USA Today, and–in my opinion–America’s best sports columnist. I don’t always agree with him, but he’s always a good read. Jon’s column on Tank Johnson says it all. If you didn’t think Johnson had a bad record off the field, this should change your mind. It reminds me of Jon’s columns on murderer Ray Lewis who also played in a Superbowl, not long after people were murdered with his help. Where Ray Lewis’ mantra in responding to the charges was “We be trippin’,” Johnson’s is, “It is what it is”:
MIAMI – It is what it is, Tank Johnson repeated. He was talking about his predicament, which really wasn’t so bad when you consider his best friend ended up in a morgue last month after defending the 6-3, 300-pound Chicago Bear in a seamy nightclub, two days after Johnson was arrested on weapons charges while on probation.
Until six weeks ago, the world Johnson, 24, occupied was one where guns and ammunition and young children and pit bulls and a man named Willie B. Posey co-existed under one dangerous roof.
Uncle Poe, Tank called him.
“He was a brother, a nanny, he was everything to me, man. Everything,” Johnson said.
And someone arrested on felony drug charges.
Johnson apparently considers himself a regular Cliff Huxtable. Tuesday, at Dolphin Stadium, he said, “I don’t like violence in this world. I can’t stand it. It’s glorified on TV so much, then music. I don’t like it.”
According to prosecutors, Johnson was in possession of three rifles, three handguns, and a cache of ammunition. Oh, and a trio of pit bulls. Protection in the ‘burbs, I guess.
“I pride myself in being a normal person,” said Johnson, arms splattered with ink, diamond-chunk earrings sparkling in the sun at Dolphin Stadium. “I just got caught up in the whole thing of being a normal guy.”
“My definition of normal – the way I got to where I am today, you’ll never know or understand. White America, or however you want to put it, it is what it is.
“I grew up different.”
He is right. We can only imagine.
“When you see me walking down the street, I don’t look like you, I don’t talk like you and I don’t walk like you. It’s easy to say, ‘He’s just like the (rest of them). There’s an opportunity to stereotype me right there. It’s just the way I am: I’m young, I’m black, I’ve got tattoos, I’ve got dreads.
“It is what it is.”
If he were truly a regular guy, he might be preparing to watch Sunday’s Super Bowl while under house arrest. But big Tank belongs to the most privileged, coddled group of union workers known in the history of America: professional athletes. Instead of playing up to the role of handsomely paid pro, which has responsibilities but rarely dire consequences, he played down.
“However much I want to be a normal person and do normal things, I’m not a normal person and I’ll never be a normal person, especially in a city like Chicago (which) holds special athletes to such a high standard,” he said. What a cop-out.
He is the father of 3- and 1-year-old daughters, but how was he ever going to understand the most basic of needs? He never had safety when he needed it, shuttled between homes, states, relatives and strangers until the eighth grade. He laughed off a query about whether a gang tried to set him ablaze.
“It is what it is. They were messing with my sister. Luckily, the match didn’t ignite, so I got up out of there.”
The police had been called to his house more than 30 times because of disturbances relating to the dogs and the discharging of firearms. Less than two days after the raid on Johnson’s house, Posey was murdered. Johnson was suspended by the Bears – for one paltry game.
Bring in the lawyers and the teammates.
The Bears’ reaction to Johnson’s trip – granted by a judge last week – was typified by linebacker Brian Urlacher: “My man, Tank, that’s great. He’s a big part of our team. You can see what we can do out on the field and we need him. We need him to win this thing.”
Hey, fans, it is what it is.
Gale Sayers is right. Tank Johnson doesn’t belong here. He had his chance. The Bears and Lovie Smith should be embarrassed. So should the NFL. Johnson should be chagrined, but there he was Monday night walking down Ocean Avenue wearing an oversized “99” bling-bling chain. . . .
Amen, Jon. And shame on Tank Johnson for trying to turn this into a race thing that “White America” will “never understand.” Sorry, but there are plenty of Black Americans who don’t live like or understand this, and resent being tarred by Tank Johnson with the Tank Johnson brush.
Gayle Sayers is right. And so is Jon Saraceno.
Tank Johnson–A great reason why I support the right to bear arms, but not the right to arm Bears . . . especially if they’re like him.
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