I’ll admit it: Every time I see the words “Antonio Brown” in a headline, it is must-read, no matter what it is. It is almost always a great mix of entertainment, bizzaro-world behavior and something that makes you say to yourself, “This is not what I expected to read.”
Brown’s adventurous ride as the owner of the Albany Empire, an arena football team, is a great example. These stories have all been incredible.
Brown has given us plenty of entertainment because it is all so bizarre. You know the stories — the paychecks bouncing; players complaining about being locked out of their team hotel; Brown missing a deadline to get a physical, thus nixing his plans to be able to activate himself and play; and the coach and some of the highest-profile players quitting a few weeks into the season.
Then, this past weekend, Brown was removed from the team hotel because of noise complaints and suspicion that there was marijuana being smoked inside.
Brown’s room? Marijuana use?
Nah, never. …
The story is on brand for Brown, but think about this for a minute and it makes you shake your head. He is the team owner and he is the one booted out of the hotel for acting the fool.
Brown also has made it clear he wants to replace Shannon Sharpe as the co-host of “Undisputed” along with Skip Bayless, which is comical. The thing is I would never, ever think of watching that show with Sharpe and Bayless, but if Brown joins it …
There is no question Brown stories are as entertaining as Brown was when he was in black and gold and making huge plays and spectacular catches week after week. He is easily in the conversation with Jerry Rice and Randy Moss as the greatest wide receiver I have seen, and his playmaking ability made everyone stop and watch when the Steelers had the ball.
His post-Steelers career has been entertaining in the way a train crash is. It is a disaster, and as much as we all want to look the other way and not see it, we can’t.
That is precisely why a large part of me is as sad as I am amused when I read these stories. Brown could have been the greatest of all-time and he could probably still be putting the finishing touches on a Hall of Fame career.
Instead, he has become a clown show and a circus, only one without the three rings, tent or elephants. He was given lifeline after lifeline by NFL teams who believed they could harness his antics and win a bunch of games because of his talent.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers got the closest to that as they won a Super Bowl with him, but then he even burned them and Tom Brady. You remember that episode, right? The one where he stripped off his pads and shirt and ran off the field in New York then spent the next few months crushing the team and Brady.
Brown is, in many ways, the gift that keeps giving for the entertainment aspect of journalism. There are seemingly stories that pop up of him behaving badly — or in a bizarre way — and they always garner a lot of readers.
But at what point do we start to ignore Brown and find his act boorish and, quite frankly, boring? At what point do all the people who have enabled him and continue to enable him walk away? At what point do all the people who have tried to support him and help him walk away?
We probably aren’t quite there yet, but it sure feels like we are closing in on that with the emergence of each one of these new stories. Brown is making himself irrelevant despite all of his attempts to generate headlines.
It is a sad story we are watching unfold almost like it is a Greek tragedy. Actually, strike that “almost” because if you look at the definition of a Greek tragedy, you see all of this definitely is a Greek tragedy.
Brown hopefully finds whatever it is he is searching for — sooner rather than later — because it feels like this story is destined to have an unhappy ending. I am certainly not hoping for that or wishing for that, but I only bring it up because it is what goes through my mind (right after laughing at whatever nuttiness is involved) every time I read one of these stories.
His career as a Steeler can’t be forgotten. He is one of the greatest players in team history. He absolutely should be in the Steelers Hall of Honor some day. His off-field antics and even his on-field antics can’t diminish the player he was and what he actually accomplished.
And while his post-Steelers career has been entertaining, it has been one large alarm sounding and a bunch of actions and antics that are actually a sad cry for help more than anything else.