In praise of LaDainian Tomlinson

Posted by Greg on Mar 1, 2010 in Op-Ed

LaDainian Tomlinson cried at his press conference last week. It was a touching and emotional sight from someone that never really showed that side of his personality in his eight-year career with the Chargers. Aside from the 2007 car wreck that claimed the lives of his father and brother-in-law, Tomlinson never really opened up.

Then there were his quirks. For starters, he was allowed special permission to use a dark eye shield due to light sensitivity, a trait he spoofed in an ESPN SportsCenter ad. He turned down the opportunity to appear on the cover of the 2008 Madden videogame, but had endorsement deals with Nike, Vizio and Campbell’s Soup. And then there was the part of him that seemed to be so consumed by himself and far too proud to settle for mediocrity, as evidenced in his very public tantrum after the Patriots celebrated after a playoff victory. Sure he racked up a whopping number of yards and made runs that would make Walter Payton envious, but never once did he seem accessible, approachable or comfortable. Aside from the aforementioned spoof of himself in the SportsCenter ad, Tomlinson seemed to stay pretty private.

And then this past fall’s football season started. He took a back seat, he let Sproles take the carries. He racked up less than 800 yards for the first time in his career. He accepted his fate. And then last week, he said goodbye to all he knew. And in doing so, a floodgate of tears opened. And somehow, someone who I never really cared about, never really wanted to succeed and never really appreciated, has won me over. Sure, I always loved the fact that he went to TCU long before it made a BCS bowl, and of course I respected his jaw-dropping runs, but other than that, nothing about LT was endearing to me. And then he cried last week. He showed his passion, his love and respect for the Chargers; and for the game of football. He showed he was human. Now I want him on my team.

Edit: The Jets signed him. I am thrilled.

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