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The Vince Young Saga: a Misunderstanding or a Real Cry for Help?

"It was my first time getting booed," Titans quarterback Vince Young said of hearing it from the home Tennessee fans in the team's opener. "I didn't know how to handle that."
"It was my first time getting booed," Titans quarterback Vince Young said of hearing it from the home Tennessee fans in the team's opener. "I didn't know how to handle that." (By Mark Humphrey -- Associated Press)
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Sunday, September 14, 2008; Page D02

Tennessee Titans Coach Jeff Fisher called Le Affair de Vince a "complete misunderstanding." Titans third-year quarterback Vince Young said his disappearance for more than 24 hours after spraining his left knee and being booed in his home stadium during his team's 17-10 victory over Jacksonville was no big deal, except "you've got to tell your momma where you're going."

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Nevertheless, Young's bizarre sideline behavior and emotional well-being were such a concern to Fisher and the quarterback's family that the coach on Monday asked Nashville police, crisis negotiators and a psychologist for assistance in finding and dealing with the 25-year-old.

All over a game won by the Titans in which the former Texas all-American was 12 of 22 for 110 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions before being injured in the fourth quarter.

"It was my first time getting booed," Young told reporters in Nashville on Thursday. "I didn't know how to handle that.

"But I was never depressed. It hurt just a little bit. Football, this is my life."

Veteran NFL hands say the most popular player in every NFL city is the No. 2 quarterback. No quarterback is immune from demanding fans, no matter how passionately loyal those fans might be. And with the growth of critical and often mean-spirited sports-talk radio and intense 24-hour media coverage, quarterbacks need a tough hide and deaf ears.

"These guys are living in a fishbowl and not all of them are emotionally equipped to deal with it," said Mike Stutz, a Rockville psychologist who works with young athletes. "Add the factor of physical pain -- to those more sensitive and vulnerable to criticism -- [and] you've got a very stressful job.

Vince Young is "still a young kid, which people forget. Some kids just don't have the maturity at this point in their lives to deal with those situations."

Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said in a telephone interview last week that he still hears the RFK Stadium boos "from two decades ago" -- adding he hopes Young "can learn from this experience.

"If not," Theismann continued, "he's got no chance."

Theismann said: "The most important element of playing quarterback in the NFL is mental toughness. The position is extremely difficult. He's being paid a lot of money to do this. Maybe Vince Young doesn't have the mettle for the job. We'll see. But you can't pay attention to the fans. If you play well, they'll cheer you. If not, they'll boo you.

"If Vince Young wants to stop the booing, he needs to throw the football better."

Which bring us to the Redskins' Jason Campbell and today's game's against New Orleans (1-0), which should draw more than 90,000 to FedEx Field to see if the fourth-year quarterback can begin managing Coach Jim Zorn's West Coast offense.

One disappointing performance by Campbell against the defending NFL champion New York Giants 10 days ago left many Redskins fans wondering if Campbell is the right man for this offense, or whether Zorn should have kept his overhyped offense in Seattle and created a scheme here to suit Campbell's skills.

We'll see what develops today and remember Sonny Jurgensen's famous words when booed a long time ago by the RFK Stadium faithful: "It was worse in Philadelphia."

Talking Capitals

Stopped by my local ice rink in Ballston on Thursday to chat up the Capitals' new No. 1 goalie, José Theodore, who was working out informally with some of the kids preparing for the start of rookie training camp this weekend.

For the first time in 20 years the Capitals open the season without a roster spot for their venerable and highly popular goalie, Olie Kolzig, who lost his starting job to Cristobal Huet (now with Chicago) last season. After an unpleasant parting, Kolzig signed with Tampa Bay while Washington inked Theodore to a two-year, $9 million contract.

"I'm not here to replace Olie Kolzig," Theodore said. "He's in a class by himself."

And then borrowing lines from Nuke LaLoosh in "Bull Durham," Theodore said: "I'm just going to try to make some saves, help the team and hope the fans get to know me."

Smart man.

Theodore, who turned 32 yesterday, comes to Washington after two years in Colorado that followed an eight-year run in his home town of hockey-mad Montreal, "where hockey is everything." He arrives in the wake of the Alex Ovechkin-led Caps, coached by likable Bruce Boudreau, turning the area "Capitals Red" with a late-season surge to the Southeast Division title and an exciting seven-game playoff series won by the Flyers. In the process, the Caps increased interest in the sport, boosted season ticket sales by 4,000 to about 10,000 and have owner Ted Leonsis talking Stanley Cup.

"The primary reason I came here is the Capitals are one of the most exciting teams in the NHL," Theodore said. "They're fun to watch."

Bullish on a Bowl Game

· All the right people (pols, bankers, committeemen, ADs) are behind the new EagleBank Bowl game to be held Dec. 20 at RFK Stadium. Provided Navy wins at least six games, the Midshipmen will be the home team this year, playing a team from the ACC. Army is the host team in 2009, with a similar six-victory requirement. Kickoff is 11 a.m., early enough for Kornheiser to attend.

· Loved: Serena Williams and Roger Federer winning U.S. Open titles and was impressed by the huge turnouts at Flushing Meadows, but did not like Elijah Dukes, who has done well for the Nats, getting into it with Shea Stadium fans Wednesday night when everyone knows confronting New York baseball fans is a no-win move. And how about GM Jim Bowden giving Manny Acta a vote of confidence, when I don't hear anyone doing the same for Bowden? Then we have Mystics managing partner Sheila Johnson admitting to The Post's Kathy Orton that after four years, "The honeymoon period is over." Really? The Mystics are not doing right by their loyal fans.

· Political Sports Tidbit: Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin is an avid runner, having completed marathons and, when possible, running seven to 10 miles a day. Palin told the Wall Street Journal Magazine that when she works out: "I'm thinking about my next speech. I usually write my best speeches and letters [in my head] while out running. That is my inspired time."

When I run, I usually think of ways to make Feinstein more miserable.

Have a comment or question? Reach me at talkback@washpost.com.


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