By gloves or by emblem , the opponent to defeat is the one in the mirror.
The rise & fall of Jeremy Shockey runs in parallel to another sports icon: Mike Tyson.
Some of you know exactly where I'm going with this. Some of you may just be curious enough to read a little further. Some of you have already moved on to another Blog. Trust me, it's not a crazy at it may sound.
To show the similarities between these two, we have to distinguish a point in time when "the end" actually began for Jeremy Shockey. But First, let's revisit the early years of Mike Tyson. It's the kind of tale Oscar-winning movies are made of.
Tyson's relationship with his trainer and legal guardian Cus D'Amato is well documented. Tyson was a dormant volcano from a broken home that learned to fight because of his lisp and high-pitched voice. He learned to fight without the help of his dad, who abandoned his family when he was two years old. By the time he was 16, he'd been bounced from one facility to the next. It was D'Amato that discovered Tyson and pulled him out of reform school in the early 1980's, giving him boxing gloves and a purpose. He spent his final years molding Tyson into the meanest and arguably the most technically brilliant fighter of his generation. D'Amato made Tyson the fighter that he was -and more importantly, helped him become a better person; the person he was in the beginning. D'Amato kept him from falling off the ledge of his own psyche.
Cus D'Amato passed away shortly before Tyson defeated Trevor Berbick to become the WBC Heavyweight Champ. But shortly after the victory, Tyson's personal life spiraled out of control. His fighting skills diminished. Robin Givens led to Buster Douglas. Without Cus, No one was there to set him straight. No one was there to appreciate Mike for who he was as a person. He was just a boxer.
Jeremy Shockey? He's always had a mouth on him. He was a lightning rod for the press and kept damage control at DEFCON 4 levels during his time in New York. There was the crude gesture during their choke at San Francisco in January of 2003. There was the cup of ice he hurled blindly over his shoulder into the lower boxes during that same game. What I don't recall about that game is when he dropped that perfect Kerry Collins pass in the end zone - before or after the cup of ice. I think it was after.
Then there was the New York Magazine article 8 months later - in August of 2003 - where he referred to Bill Parcells as a "Homeowner" (figure it out for yourself). He of course denied the comment. He followed that up by emphatically declaring he would never stand for having a "homeowner" as a teammate, during an interview on The Howard Stern Radio Show (think about this; the one person we can thank for first exposing Shockey's true feelings about "homeowners" is none other than Baba-Booey. That's Pop culture at it's finest, folks).
Somehow, with this whirlwind of garbage flying around the Meadowlands, Jeremy was still looked at as a leader by some teammates and fans. Sure, he could be a pain in the neck to his coaches. Sometines he was a Bully towards his teammates, and an unnecessary distraction for Giants ownership to deal with. But he could still catch the ball. And he made defenders pay dearly should they dare try to stop him one-on-one. Just like they say about Terrell Owens - He wanted to win. And that was good enough for Giants fans. But when did the "end" actually begin for Shockey? When was it that the wheels came off, the springs popped and the smoke began to bellow?
It was October of 2005.
On a chilly autumn morning in Rye, New York, Shockey was invited (along with only a handful of others) to visit the home of Giants owner and NFL patriarch Wellington Mara. Mara was 89-years old and dying of Lymphoma. The Mara family knew of the special bond between Wellington and Shockey; reports at the time suggested that Jeremy spent a lot of time alone with Mara that day, and did most or all of the talking. It was the last conversation between the two; and Mara's death just days later had a profound affect on him. In the October 27, 2005 edition of the New York Times, an article by John Branch quoted Shockey as saying "He said so many things to me. I know in my heart he respected the things that I've done in the past as far as a football player, but he wasn't worried about me as a football player. He was worried about me as a person."
In the most unlikely of pairings, the two had quickly developed a tight relationship from the time Mara drafted Shockey. Shockey's reputation at the University of Miami (FL) preceded him, but Mara's respect for the players that Miami churned out year after year (along with Jeremy's accomplishments) were all he needed to want him on his team. There were heart to heart talks between the two early on, since Mara wanted to feel confident that Jeremy's on the field talents would not be overshadowed by off the field turmoil. It was a connection between an owner and player that's hard to find in this day and age.
Reportedly, Mara and Shockey could often be found chatting in the halls of the Meadowlands, sharing a laugh - a rarity for other Giants players. It was also well known that Mara was like a father to Jeremy - the father that he never had growing up in Oklahoma (his parents divorced before he started grammer school, and had no contact with his father at all). Mara never questioned Shockey's talent, but was concerned for him as a person.
"We're two different people, two different backgrounds, and raised in two different areas," said Shockey. "It was very special to me to get to know him and to see that he took time out of his day to get to know me and to try to mold me into a better person." Wellington Mara gave Shockey a "ny" emblem and a purpose. He tried to help Shockey become the person he knew he was capable of being. Wellington Mara kept him from falling off the ledge of his own psyche. Without Wellington Mara, the volatile and controversial - yet containable - Jeremy Shockey was now adrift without an anchor.
The early stages of the end were quiet but noticeable. The stats started to decline. He was dropping passes more frequently. The injury bug started to hit. He sat alone with a broken leg as he watched Kevin Boss draw rave reviews while the press proclaimed that the Giants were a better team without him.
The slope of the decline had now steepend. During a gut-wrenching playoff run, Shockey sat at home watching it all on TV. As his teammates were shocking the world on a football field in Glensdale, Shockey was tucked away in a luxury suite sipping cocktails through a straw. While Eli Manning was driving his club down the field towards destiny, Shockey sat quietly while brother Peyton stood up and cheered. While his team was being drenched in ticker tape along Broadway, Shockey was MIA. When training camp started for the 2008 season, Jeremy began having verbal confrontations with Giants General Manager Jerry Reese.
What's that? A 2nd round pick in 2009? Goodbye, Jeremy.
Consistent with the behavior of most problem players (and problem people in general for that matter), Shockey had nothing but love for his new digs. Enough praise for his coaches and support for his teammates to last a contract and them some. But the injury bug has hit in the form of a sports hernia. During the healing process, Shockey decided to pass time by following head coach Sean Payton up and down the sidelines. Literally. On the Monday Night Football telecast when New Orleans hosted Minnesota, Shockey never appeared to be more than 3 feet away from his head coach. He ran out on the field a few times in celebration, and was helpful making faces at referees when he disagreed with a call. His actions prompted Payton to say "I know he's anxious to get back and not have him standing next to me with a towel in his hand. Hopefully it's this week". Payton further noted that Shockey's daisy-chain tactics were not "part of the plan. He kind of just invited himself".
Shockey returned to action this past Sunday, but the Saints lost. They lost big. In addition to a costly fumble, Shockey aggrivated his hernia. Following the game, Shockey told reporters that not only was he "rushed back" into action, but that the Saints mishandled his injury by not allowing him a 5-7 week time frame for proper healing. Apparently, Jeremy doesn't know whether he's in pain or not and needs team doctors to tell him that. Jeremy probably doesn't trust those doctors though, because in addition to the miscalculated recovery time, according to Shockey they completely misdiagnosed him in training camp.
There's no one there to set him straight. No one to appreciate Jeremy for who he is as a person. He is just a football player.
The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It's the same thing, fear. But it's what you do with it that matters. - Cus D'Amato.
Jeremy Shockey quotes: New York TImes - Rare Bond Between Shockey and Mara' by John Branch - October 27, 2005
Sean Payton quotes - The Sun Herald - 'Shockey Wants Back inthe Game, Coach' by Larry Holder - October 14, 2008
SportingNews.com & CBS Sportsline.com