Pride and displeasure. Those were the feelings shown by San Diego Chargers MVP Runningback LaDainian Tomlinson after a 24-21 loss in the AFC Divisional Playoff game on Sunday. The star RB was taking pride in defending his team, and expressing extreme displeasure toward the Patriots. Meanwhile, poor sportsmanship and a lack of discipline were qualities that a handful of Patriots players put on display after the game, at midfield. These actions coming from the gallant New England Patriots, who -- I always thought -- try to pride themselves on discipline, sportsmanship, and class. The Pats players were doing their best Shawn Merriman impression (on the Chargers logo of all places), when LT snapped. He was attempting to get up in the face of the opponents to "express his disgust" with the situation. After being held back by teammates, he dashed off the field as a defeated man, and at that point, clearly you could see that he had something to say at the post-game press conference.
This display by the Pats is something that should never happen. During the fray, Patriots' Reche Caldwell, former Charger, told Tomlinson, "You're better than that!" I thought the Patriots were better than that! I would expect this from pretty much any other team but the Patriots, who I have respected as a well-built franchise, and have held respect for their players (perhaps with the exception of Rodney Harrison) for several years. The jubilation and somewhat excessive celebrations should be left until after the two teams meet at midfield where pleasantries, congratulations and "best of luck in the future"s are exchanged . It is hard to contain the emotions of such a crucial win in New England's case, but things like this need to be left to the likes of the dressing room. The handshakes, hugs and handpounds after a hard-fought battle are something I enjoy watching. Think of it, after these two teams try to destroy each other for 60 minutes, they meet at the middle of the battlefield to express how much they respect each other. The love is not always there, that shouldn't be expected. But for the majority of the time, there is respect. This show of sportsmanship is what the Pats should have been participating in, instead of the well thought out screw you to Chargers fans and players. They say you must be gracious in defeat, but perhaps more importantly, gracious in victory. New England -- and, yes, even San Diego -- exhibited no such grace in either.
Now, I'm not going to pin this whole thing on the Partiots because that's not fair. The fact is, the Chargers let the game slip away with some of the sloppiest football possible, during the last 8 minutes of the 4th Q. With a 21-13 lead, they made some unnecessary plays (Safety Marlon McCree's interception which he tried to return, resulting in a fumble, and a recovery by Reche Caldwell) and committed undisciplined penalties (CB Drayton Florence's 15- yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for a headbutt). The frustration for LT, who had a star effort (123 Rushing Yards, 2 TD, 64 Pass Yards), was the fact that they simply just couldn't put the game away. After a disappointing loss to say the least, the "dance" was, essentially, the straw that broke the ****'s back. This was just insult to injury for Tomlinson, resulting in him acting the way he did. He could have approached it differently of course, and in knowing that LT is a world class player and citizen, we would have expected him to. However, when the integrity of your team is being jeopardized by antics of your opponents, someone has to step in to defend it. And Tomlinson stepped up for Shawn Merriman. The indisputable fact is that Shawn Merriman gets it done on the field. Steroids or not, he gets it done. He has to be respected minutely for that fact alone. And it seems to me, the guy isn't getting a lot of respect.
As professional athletes, a good quality to have is to block out the distractions of your adversaries. So what if Merriman has an epileptic seizure every time he gets a sack? That's just because his charisma and cockiness levels are off the charts (Perhaps testosterone levels as well). These antics shouldn't affect the way the Pats play the game. And evidently, it had some sort of influence on them since they felt it was so important to decide to mock the dance (a dance!!) on the field. Which makes me realize how stupid this whole thing was. LT, Merriman, Pat's players, I guess you guys can all reluctantly chalk this one up to the heat of the battle.