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Jacobsen: John Terry sets a bad example (Nov. 5)

Vicky Jacobsen | Sunday, November 4, 2012

We all have one – that one athlete (or coach or even celebrity or politician) whose very name makes you want to cry like a small child.

I’m not talking about people who constantly sink your team in the playoffs or whose style of play just rubs you the wrong way. I’m talking about the continual troublemakers, the drama kings and queens; the people that you’re not even sure that you hate, just that you would be a happier person if you didn’t have to hear about them so much.

Maybe it’s Terrell Owens and his apparent quest to alienate the quarterback at all 32 NFL franchises. Maybe it’s Alex Rodriguez – as a Red Sox fan, I don’t know whether to despise him for playing for the Yankees, shun him for using PEDs or pity him for proving that a huge pile of money and a Yankee uniform can’t buy you happiness (or privacy). And then there’s the king of will-he-or-won’t-he, Brett Favre. I thank the good Lord for every day ESPN doesn’t come to us live from Hattiesburg, Miss., and I suspect Rachel Nichols does as well.

But the next time you open your sports section and discover Rex Ryan has found a new and innovative way to embroil his team in controversy, just know this: It could be worse. Nothing here in the United States compares to the long English national nightmare that is the John Terry saga.

For those of you who don’t know, John Terry is a defender and captain of Chelsea F.C. He was a member of the English national team from 2003 until this September and had two different stints as captain which together lasted for longer than four years. He is beloved (still) by some ardent Chelsea fans, who admire his tough, intelligent style of play. He’s called “Mr. Chelsea” in a league where the lack of team loyalty approaches that found in the NBA.

While soccer has seen it’s fair few pretty boys in the past two decades (David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo, I’m talking to you), his hairstyle almost never changes and is always sensible (at least by European standards.) He was voted “Dad of the Year” in 2009 (whether this tells you more about him or the British public is up for debate).

But he is also, undeniably, a jerk. This is a guy who in 2001 decided an airport bar where stranded Americans were watching news of the 9/11 attacks was the proper place to get blindingly drunk with teammates.

Four months later, he was charged with slashing the face of a nightclub bouncer with a broken bottle in a bar fight. His excuse? He had only punched the bouncer with his fists, not a broken bottle. What a stand-up guy.

There was the time he was accused of giving an undercover reporter a private tour of his club grounds in exchange for money. And then there was the time his mother and mother-in-law were arrested for shoplifting from a supermarket while he was out of the country playing for England.

Don’t think his misbehavior hasn’t affected his teams on the field. If the British tabloids are to be believed, he has cheated on his now-wife multiple, multiple times – but only once with the mother of a teammate’s child. After that story came to light in 2010, Wayne Bridges, the now-former teammate, refused to play for England. (This is how Terry lost his team captaincy the first time.)

For a “smart” player, Terry has a history of overly aggressive play and was suspended for the Champions League final and semi-final earlier this year because he drove a knee into a Barcelona player. Right now, Terry is serving a four-game ban for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand last November (This incident and the ensuing legal case is what cost Terry the English captaincy for the second time.)

A New York Times feature published two weeks ago mentioned a flag flown by Chelsea supporters: “JT: Captain, Leader, Legend.”

But where exactly is he leading his teammates? What example is he setting for them? He is certainly a legend – but are the stories that follow him the kind of stories Chelsea wants to be associated with? What exactly does Terry have to do before Chelsea realizes that he is not the sort of person that they want to represent them?

It’s time to name a new captain at Chelsea, starting with someone who won’t get himself suspended on such a regular basis. And in the meantime we’ll have to bide our time until Terry retires. And then, finally, we won’t have to talk about him any more.


Contact Vicky Jacobsen at vjacobse@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.