Confession of a Steeler fan: I love Ochocinco

I love Ochocinco. And the worst part is, I’m a die-hard Steelers fan.

Two of my beloved football figures are set to square off Sunday. Not to mention that I have No. 85 on my fantasy football team. It’s like being Momma Manning when the Giants play the Colts.

Chad Ochocinco (formerly “Johnson”) is an entertainer first, and professional football player second. The public can hate him or love him, but he has brought nothing but attention to a thriving National Football League. Positive attention, at that. Never a DUI. He doesn’t do drugs and isn’t spending time in rehab. OK, so he might be addicted to Twitter. Big deal.

On the HBO documentary “Hard Knocks”, Chad (I can’t get used to saying “Ochocinco”) speaks in depth about his Twitter and Ustream use. “Losing my Twitter and my Ustream was almost as sad as the day they took my Johnson,” he explained.

Chad doesn’t turn away fans, but brings regular people in. I have a relative who doesn’t know where Lambeau Field is, but knows that he “faked” the Lambeau Leap.

The plan was as follows: For this past week’s game at Green Bay, Chad bought four tickets for four fans to sit in the front row of the end zone, when (not if) he would score, he would do the “Lambeau Leap” towards those specific fans in Bengals jerseys (one was actually rooting for the Packers). And of course, he did score. He did the leap. And no one questioned it. Didn’t look fake one bit.

Usually, Chad’s antics are to set himself apart from the pack- like wearing a homemade “H.O.F. 20??” jacket on the sidelines, or taping “Ochocinco” over “Johnson” (before he legally changed his name) during pregame. Can’t forget about the river dance against the Steelers. How about the shimmering gold gloves and cleats? Or the time he pulled out a sign that read, “Dear NFL, Please don’t fine me AGAIN!!!!!!” after scoring?

But this time, Chad shocked the world by incorporating the Bengals as a team. When he leaped into the stands, it was as if they took over a legendary field for one Sunday. The Bungals became the Bengals again and left Green Bay with an impressive W. The media brought up the point if Chad hadn’t scored in that particular end zone. Second-guess 85? Whatever Ochocinco thinks, Ochocinco does.

ESPN’s Jackie McCallum bashed Ochocinco for being too much of a distraction and not a football player first. I highly disagree and here’s why.

We, the public, think of athletes having the same view on sports as we did when we were growing up. We think that they dreamed of getting to the big leagues all their lives and sports would be their lives. Ever think that sports might not be their dreams, but simply just their professions?

How about a regular Joe’s job- like an accountant, or an engineer. Does every accountant you know love his or her job? Did they dream of being that when they were growing up? Probably not, but guess what, they went to school, found out their skills, and now that’s what pays their bills. There’s no reason some athletes can’t feel that way. They’re not icons, they’re publicized professionals.

What if that engineer wants to be something else, or hell, what if they work two jobs? There’s no reason to not categorize athletes that way either. It’s us that wanted to be the athlete- it’s us that didn’t get there.

And just because we didn’t, doesn’t mean we can criticize them for being entertainers on the side. Keep going, Chad.

– Michael Moses