End Zone Class

Hosted by
This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

There’s one particular NFL elite whom we’ll probably see a lot of this weekend. That’s Larry Fitzgerald, wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. We tend to see a lot of Fitzgerald because he tends to wind up in the end zone quite a bit. And he’s memorable when he does wind up in the end zone, not just because he leaps like a gazelle, but because he is humble once he gets there. Humble in this era of pound-the-chest, me-me-me hot dogs? Yes. Larry Fitzgerald, once he steps into that coveted space and earns six points for his Cardinals, immediately and gently tosses the football to an official. He doesn’t do a moon walk. He doesn’t slam dunk the ball over the goal post. He hands the ref the ball and jogs back toward his teammates to share the moment they all helped create. Fitzgerald says his mother wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m all for new generations and their inventions. But I’m decidedly not a fan of this current crew’s ego shenanigans when they make plays they’re not only supposed to make, but that they didn’t make on their own. Today’s linebacker makes a crucial sack and runs pronto to the sideline and demands on-cue praise from the crowd. A cornerback’s interception prompts the guy to touch his heart as if to tell us he’s the one on the field who plays with more heart than everybody else. He shakes his head in mock disbelief at just how good he is. Running backs flaunt their stuff after a first down, as if the guys who paved the avenue for them to travel didn’t exist.

Me? I loved the stoicism of yesteryear. I loved it when a wide receiver, as soon as he crossed into the end zone, would quickly jog back to include his quarterback, his linemen, his blockers in the celebration. You don’t see it much any more. As a matter fact, what typically happens in today’s games is that a player who has just scored or executed a huge play shuns, even physically pushes away other teammates who are close by and trying to congratulate him. He doesn’t want to be congratulated by his teammates because that would require sharing the moment with them. That would deny him the full spotlight.

These guys want to experience the grand glare of glory unshared. It is boorish to watch them prance and dance because they have so obviously forgotten, in their moments of ego, their brothers who wear their same uniforms, who take the big hits for them, who dedicate their seasons to the same shared cause.

Larry Fitzgerald performs athletically like a modern specimen of the gridiron. He’s one of the top three receivers in the game. But after he pulls in the key catches, Larry Fitzgerald is a throwback. A humble, classy throwback. I’m rooting for the Eagles on Sunday. But I hope Fitzgerald has a huge game because I can’t get enough of his throwback class. Instead of Chad Johnson and his mock cell phone, Steve Smith and his snow angel, or Terrell Owens signing the football with a Sharpie, give me Larry Fitzgerald. And let’s hope the next generation coming up imitates the way Larry Fitzgerald honors his teammates.

And speaking of class, University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow has announced that he will return to school for his senior year, rather than throw his fate into the NFL draft. Tebow says he doesn’t want to quit something he started, meaning his four years in Gainesville. Last Thursday, during the Gators national championship game against Oklahoma, Tebow had white letters blocked out in the eye black on his face. When the cameras zeroed in close, you could see under the right eye, the letters spelled John. Under the left was written 3:16, as in the Biblical reference John, Chapter 3, Verse 16, which became the most researched item on Google that day. The biggest star in all of college sports today is a leader who lends his spare time to preaching in prison and doing missionary work overseas. The up-and-comers admiring Larry Fitzgerald are no doubt fans of Tebow’s, too.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that’s The Score.



Diana Nyad