National Columnist

Looking for laughs in this Fat Albert episode? Not here


There's nothing funny about the size of Ravens rookie Terrence Cody's boobs. Nor am I laughing at enormous Albert Haynesworth, who still has not practiced this preseason because he cannot complete the Redskins' rudimentary conditioning test.

This isn't funny, because people like that die.

Melvin Turpin, the former Kentucky and NBA center who ate his way out of the league, didn't make it to age 50 before he decided life was too hard for a man that large. He killed himself last month. He was 49.

Terrence Cody (63) fits right in on a bulky Ravens D-line. (US Presswire)  
Terrence Cody (63) fits right in on a bulky Ravens D-line. (US Presswire)  
Kevin Duckworth didn't make it to 45. The longtime Trail Blazers center died in 2008, every inch of 7 feet tall and every ounce of 400 pounds. Duckworth's heart gave out. He was 44.

Korey Stringer didn't make it to retirement. He died in 2001, in his prime, of heat exhaustion that was exacerbated by his weight. He played offensive line for the Vikings so stats weren't his thing, but here are the only numbers you need to know: He was 335 pounds. And he was 27 years old.

That's where we've been with guys like this. Guys like that die. All of them? No, not all of them. I'm not saying that's where we're going with guys like Terrence Cody and Albert Haynesworth and Bengals lineman Andre Smith. I'm not sentencing guys like that to something so morbid as an early death, even if some or all of them are, technically speaking, morbidly obese.

But let's get something clear right now. A guy like Haynesworth, a professional athlete who apparently can't run from here to there without hurting himself, deserves no sympathy. No pity. I mean, not a shred.

People like you and me, we fight our weight our entire life. Some of us fight it better than others, but for all but the genetically luckiest among us, we have to fight it. Me, I fight it like an SOB. I'm just 5-feet-10, but at age 27 I was nearly 200 pounds. That's not chubby -- that's fat. I freaked out, and with good reason. Men and women in my family have a history of obesity. I'm missing lots of cousins, people who should be my age, because they're dead. They died of many causes, most of them what doctors called "natural," but mainly they died from obesity. And that ain't natural.

So people like you and me, we fight our weight. We don't have a lot of money or a lot of time, but we make do. I know people who wake up at 5 a.m. to go jogging because they have kids and a job and 5 a.m. is the only time they can exercise.

I know people whose entire weight set is a deck of cards. They flip a card on the ground, and whatever comes up -- say, an eight of clubs -- they do that number of reps. Red cards are sit-ups. Black cards are push-ups. They'd go to a gym if they had the extra $60 a month, but they don't. They have a deck of cards.

I know people who eat fat-free, or carb-free, or meat-free. Why? Because they're tired of being heavy, and they're willing to make sacrifices to do something about it. Me personally, I have an unhealthy obsession with ice cream. But I love my kids even more, and I want to be alive when they're 40, so I don't eat regular ice cream. Haven't eaten it in 10 years. Maybe that doesn't sound like a sacrifice to you, but it's one to me.

Which is why I'm so steamed at Terrence Cody and Albert Haynesworth. And John Kruk. And Oliver Miller and Stanley Roberts and all the other athletes who couldn't be bothered to stay in shape. They're not just letting down themselves. They're letting down me. And you. Because we'd trade places with them in a heartbeat if we could. We'd take the fame and fortune and women and travel and insanely fun "job" and we'd do whatever we could to make it last as long as possible. If we're waking up at 5 a.m. or eating veggie hot dogs now, imagine what we'd do if the carrot in front of us was a career as a professional athlete. We'd eat carrots, I promise you that.

You think Albert Haynesworth would skip the steak and snack on a carrot? Terrence Cody? Hell, John Daly would light that sucker and try to smoke it before he'd eat a carrot. As for Haynesworth, he's the most maddening guy on this list because he's the one with the Hall of Fame skill set and the $100 million contract and the nickel brain and the one-penny attitude.

Haynesworth reportedly lost 30 pounds this offseason, but after he failed last week to pass the Redskins' conditioning test -- forced upon him because he skipped offseason conditioning -- he complained that he was "tired of this B.S" because, in his myopic worldview, he was being persecuted.

Is Redskins coach Mike Shanahan sending a stern message to Haynesworth and the rest of the team, a message that offseason conditioning matters? Sure he is. But he's also trying to keep that slob upright. Since the Redskins are being good enough to give Haynesworth $100 million, Shanahan would like Haynesworth to be good enough to play all 16 games this season -- something he hasn't done since he was a rookie in 2002. Since then Haynesworth has averaged 12 games a season. So he's getting tens of millions of dollars to work 75 percent of the time, having eaten his way off the field.

And you wonder why I'm angry?

I'm angry because this lack of discipline is offensive, and it goes beyond sports. Guys like this often -- not always, but often -- lack the discipline to live their life the right way. Haynesworth stomped on a player's unprotected head in 2006, opening a 30-stitch gash in Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode's face. After eating his way out of the NBA, Oliver Miller was kicked off the Harlem Globetrotters for having no discipline and then, earlier this year, was expelled from a minor-league basketball game after running into the stands to confront a fan. Nate Newton had no willpower as a 360-pound lineman with Dallas, then was caught with 175 pounds of marijuana in his car. And there's John Daly, who has diluted his world-class talent for golf with his no-class tendencies toward food, alcohol, cigarettes and women.

None of this is funny. Weight issues aren't funny. A lack of willpower isn't funny. Me and you, we're rising at dawn or doing sit-ups at lunch or skipping dessert because our body matters to us. We may not be in great shape, but we're trying. A guy like Haynesworth, he's not trying. He can afford a loaded gym in his own house and he has an entire offseason to work out in it. He can afford to eat the healthiest food and can even afford to hire a personal chef to prepare it for him. And he can't do it? He can't do it for himself, or for his teammates, or for the tens of millions of dollars in contract incentives?

That's an insult. That's infuriating. This story isn't funny, and my viewpoint isn't sympathetic. I'll feel bad for men like Haynesworth if they eat their way to an early grave, but only then.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. More importantly, he is 4-0 as an amateur boxer, with three knockouts. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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