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What We've Got Here Is A Failure to Communicate

By Tony Kornheiser
Monday, May 23, 2005

I wonder what Joe Gibbs is thinking when he can't get Sean Taylor to return his calls. I wonder if Gibbs is thinking, "Is this what I came back for?"

I wonder what Sean Taylor is thinking when he doesn't return Gibbs's calls. Maybe the message got garbled. Maybe Taylor thinks it's not really Joe Gibbs. Maybe he thinks it's "MTV Cribs." Or maybe he thinks it's Tony Roma's: Famous for Ribs. Or maybe Taylor never picks up his phone messages. Or maybe Taylor is just a dope.

I wonder what Gibbs is thinking when he hears Taylor's personal spokesman, Mr. Clinton Portis, say something like: "Sean has had the spotlight on him all year. Sean just needs to chill."

So Sean can't return phone calls from a Hall Of Fame coach?

Chilling means no calls?

"I'm sorry. Mr. Taylor is chilling now. Why don't you try back in the fall?"

I wonder how long I would last at this newspaper if I didn't return calls from Len Downie, the executive editor? Whaddya think, five minutes?

How well would it go over if I had Wilbon explain, "Everybody wants something from Tony right now, and he just needs to chill."?

I wonder if Gibbs ever thinks to himself, "Do I really need these Miami guys?"

The last time I looked, if the guy's your boss, you return his call.

You don't blow him off like a telemarketer. Personally, I don't know about this "spotlight" on Sean Taylor thing. I'm not that familiar with what Sean Taylor looks like, because most of the time I see him he's wearing a football helmet. I don't think Sean Taylor has anywhere near the "spotlight factor" in Washington as, say, Ted Kennedy. Me, I couldn't tell Sean Taylor from Elizabeth Taylor, especially if both of them had on white diamond earrings. I think it's possible Sean Taylor overrates his importance to our lives.

But I wonder about the University of Miami players -- the guys from the place they proudly call "the U." They don't seem to be happy where they are. Portis was terribly unhappy with Gibbs's offense last season. Taylor is unhappy here now. Edgerrin James is threatening not to report to the Colts. Jeremy Shockey wasn't happy working out in New York with the Giants, the team that pays him. So he left and went back to Miami to work out with "the U" guys. Look at Kellen Winslow Jr., a U guy who so famously said he'd make the Redskins regret not drafting him. Winslow's contract specifically forbids him from riding a motorcycle. But he rode one anyway, wrecked it, and now he's out for the whole season.

The U guys are an island unto themselves. They appear to value each other more than they value the teams they play for. They play very well on Sundays. But they don't appear to be particularly responsive to their teams on other days. It's almost like U guys enjoy getting into scrapes with management. It's almost like a contest to see if they can force the teams into subservience and publicly punk them. I wonder how long it'll take Santana Moss to find something wrong here.

You can't talk about players from the U without mentioning Drew Rosenhaus, who's the agent for many of them (and famous wannabe holdout Terrell Owens). Rosenhaus seems to believe that no contract signed before he got there has any validity -- and that any contract signed with him can be renegotiated upward at any time, like, say, this afternoon at 4.

It's not just U guys, of course. There's a lot of runaway egomaniacal posing and flexing going on in all sports by lots of players. Look at Barry Bonds, unassailably one of the greatest players in the history of baseball. Nobody should question Bonds's right to his own doctor. (Though one might question the results so far of these operations with Dr. Ting.) But I've heard that Bonds has so little communication with the San Francisco Giants that they, too, like reporters, have to learn of Bonds's condition by reading his Web site. It makes you wonder how awful Bonds's life must have been before the Internet, when he actually had to talk to someone.

I wonder when it became unfashionable to be like Grant Hill, and just play the game and not call attention to yourself after every basket by pointing upwards. (I'm never sure if they're acknowledging a supreme being or their agent in a luxury suite.) I wonder if we'll ever see a Reggie Miller again, a great player with loyalty to the franchise and the city that treated him well? Other than great quarterbacks, it's now rare when someone stays with one team for his whole career. Maybe Allen Iverson will with the Sixers. Maybe Derek Jeter will with the Yankees.

I'm wondering what will happen with Afleet Alex now. He overcame obvious adversity to win the Preakness -- he almost broke both forelegs pitching forward and almost flipped his rider. And yet Afleet Alex did not flex afterwards! Or try to renegotiate for more oats.

Afleet Alex finished third in the Kentucky Derby, so he's been in the money in both Triple Crown races. (So has Giacomo, by the way, the horse most "experts" predicted would run so slowly in the Preakness that he might finish behind Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.) I think you can look for Afleet Alex to stop returning calls from his trainer and to have his spokesman, Giacomo, say, "Alex has had the spotlight on him all weekend. He's skipping the Belmont. He needs to chill."

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