Thursday, May 25, 2006

Ted Johnson

Anyone looking for an honest linebacker to safeguard their journey through life might give Ted Johnson a call. The former Patriot is in between his second and third careers right now.

Amid almost no fanfare, Johnson left his post as a commentator on WBZ-TV's pre- and post-game Patriots' broadcasts, saying he felt too uncomfortable analyzing (read: criticizing) the performances of his former teammates. Speaking as a former sports journalist, it's too bad Johnson is leaving the business. It needs guys (and gals) with the guts to confront a conflict of interest-even if the conflict was only in Johnson's own mind.

That's what made Johnson's decision so honorable. He cared more about his duty to his audience than it did.

The "Pats 5thQuarter" is a show devoid of information or entertainment. It gets a high rating catering to fans whose devotion to their team is so total they'd rather watch Bob Lobel stand outside a locker room than an actual game between two other NFL clubs. They watch the pregame show to see people predict a Pats' victory. They watch the postgamer to watch an utterly burnt Bill Belichick give one-sentence answers to reporters' questions as his soul longs for the comfort of a hot shower.

Johnson could have kept his post and tossed nothing but verbal posies at the Pats for many seasons to come. The audience would have eaten it up. There's more than one ex-jock in Boston earning a good living doing just that.

Johnson couldn't. He knew his true responsibility to his audience was to call 'em as he saw 'em and let the chips fall where they might, whether the audience liked it or not. It's depressing how many professional broadcasters who never played sports would rather curry favor than tell the truth. Boo-ya! Here was a man with a built-in excuse for pulling his punches who couldn't draw a paycheck for giving less than his all to his employer. May Johnson's tribe increase in every line of work there is.

The old fairy tale that football builds character never recovered from the trial of Orenthal James Simpson. We don't know who or what built Johnson's character.

We do know they built well.


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