Where have you gone, LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego Chargers fans turn its lonely eyes to you. What’s that you say, Dean Spanos, L.T. will soon leave and go away?’
If this jingle sounds familiar to you, it should, but not because it is a remix of the 1968 tune ‘Mrs. Robinson,’ a song performed by Simon and Garfunkel with the chorus honoring Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio’s heroic stature, but rather, it is today’s rendition of the treatment directed towards franchise players in sports.
In the eyes of the Chargers, the face of the team, city and partly the league just washed down the drain like the can of soup he endorses. For Tomlinson and Charger fans, the thought of living without one another will be as tough to digest as minestrone.
Ever since their playoff exit to the Pittsburgh Steelers, a game in which Tomlinson did not even suit up due to a groin injury, the Chargers have publicly voiced that L.T.’s future with the team will be reevaluated.’
‘We talked about the situation and I just tried to explain everything that must be considered,’ Spanos, the team president said on the club’s offseason plans. ‘I told him we haven’t even started our discussions and won’t for a while, so don’t jump to any conclusions. And I told him I would call him personally to make sure he’s aware of everything that’s going on.’
To put all that in layman’s terms, Tomlinson should start phoning other teams, pack his bags and then be on the look out for Tatum Bell. What happened to the good ole’ days of Hall of Famers like Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Jim Kelly and countless others playing it out with one team while making loyalty with the organization a two-way street?
Consider me an old talking head who doesn’t realize the business aspect of sports, but I collected cards of the above players when their uniforms all had the same color scheme in my yesteryears, and not having continuity these days is disappointing. A page of trading cards for today’s collector features an athlete donning four different jerseys in five years.
The legendary Jim Brown, who retired after a short lived, nine-year career as a running back for the Cleveland Browns, says it best in his autobiography, Out of Bounds. ‘Two things I always knew about my league, the NFL: You don’t ask for favors, you don’t hang around. A man might love the game, but the game loves no one. The game will use what he has, (then) discard him. The sh– isn’t personal.’
So Tomlinson, who lifted the organization out from the doldrums of Ryan Leaf and into a perennial contender every year, should not take this slap in the face of being traded personal? Should he go Sanders and abruptly retire or blame the shambled offensive line he ran behind? Should he throw his team under the bus for not re-signing all-world fullback Lorenzo Neal? Whatever the case is, it will be the second consecutive season where a NFL superstar – Brett Favre being the other – is dealt with a force out.
News flash to the Chargers and the rest of the league: The force-out rule no longer exists. And can you seriously imagine the dexterous L.T. delivering pizzas outside of San Diego County as he so aptly does in his ad campaign for Oggi’s Pizza?
But much like his records, Tomlinson has carried on with class amid speculations.
‘I’ve tried to be the best professional, best player, best person in the community that this organization has ever seen, that’s what I’ve always tried to do and will continue to do because that’s who I am,’ Tomlinson recently said in an interview. ‘I think it’s ridiculous to be talking about trade and me not being here, that’s just my personal opinion. I started here and I want to finish here. But it’s not up to me anymore. That’s the disappointing thing.’
Over the course of his sub par season, and again in recent weeks, the ubiquitous word on Tomlinson was that at age 29, in running back years that equates to 45. He simply lost ‘the step’ he once had to outrun opposing defenses.’
However, what needs to be considered is that he only carried the ball a career-low 292 times, which mostly parlayed into quarterback Philip Rivers developing into the Pro Bowl-caliber gunslinger he is now. That in itself merits for a Terrell Owens-like tantrum from today’s super-selfish athlete.
But not L.T. General Manager A.J. Smith, Spanos and the Chargers think shaving off $8.8 million from the salary cap and turning to the papier-m’acirc;ch’eacute; Darren Sproles and the ambisinister Michael Bennett will make them better than the 8-8 team they were this season.
Those two are far reaches from Tomlinson, who is currently 14th on the all-time rushing list with 11,760 yards in only eight seasons. Barring any setback in 2009, i.e. finding a future employer, Tomlinson will leap into seventh place joining some of the games most revered.
L.T. missed the AFC divisional playoff loss against the Steelers earlier this month and hardly played the year before because of a knee injury in the conference championship game versus New England.
If the saying is true that you are only as good as your last transaction, then L.T. will soon be looking for P.T. in a city other than San Diego.