The Difference Between On and Off Field Character By Okori Wadsworth

The difference between On-Field Character and Off-Field Character, and why the latter doesn’t matter but the former is crucial.

This is Okori, TSF reader and The Majesty of Wrestling writer. I’m usually discussing stuff over at TMW with a little bit of a light-hearted perspective–for Christ’s sake, last week I posted 4 music videos.

But now, here at TSF, I’m deadly serious. Listening to people discuss character infuriated me to the very core of my being. Part of it was because I am just getting tired of hearing it, but also because they didn’t know what they were talking about.

If you listen to mass media nowadays, you’ll hear chapter and verse from sports talking heads of various sorts discussing “Character” and why they think certain athletes do have it, and why they think certain athletes don’t. Truthfully, it would be an entirely different subject trying to explain what it is that makes these talking heads think mostly-black athletes don’t have this illusory character, while white athletes are “high-character” guys. Truth be told, however, there IS something about character that matters. And, per usual, you have to do your own legwork to figure out what the difference is.

When the off-field character stuff comes up I tune out. Because it is a absurdly pointless exercise to try and ascertain whether Adam Jones has gone to a strip club or Joakim Noah smokes a joint, or whether LeBron James was speeding. None of this in any way detracts from what they choose to do when they’re on their jobs, and honestly bringing it up is more about the men reporting it than it is about the people who enjoy their time off. Who among us has not gone to a (insert name of your own hometown strip club here) strip club?

None of this means anything save the men (and women in a few isolated cases) discussing it want you to hate athletes for the occasionally flashy life that they choose to live, while at the same time making themselves into the guardian of sporting flames.

However, there is a discussion of character that is accurate, and is crucial in the performance of your favorite team. It’s the on-field kind, the practice field kind, and the person alone in the locker room with his teammates kind, the last to leave the weight room kind.

This fact is indisputable: When it comes to on-field character it can mean the difference between your favorite athlete achieving his potential or being thought of as a “what if”. As a matter of routine, there are things that do matter and that all parents and fans of a particular sport should watch when they see their own son compete or their own team compete.

If you can see them not hustling or not taking every play seriously, that’s a sign of on-field character. BJ Upton got benched by a team with the best record because he wasn’t running hard on base hits–the one truly unforgivable sin in any sport. And that matters, for it affects a team in a real way much more than what someone does when the game is over. In the same token a person who hustles every second of every game, who runs out everything and who never quits, has the kind of character.

In the same vein, someone who thinks of conditioning as something that they don’t have to do(Say Hi Shaq, Eddy Curry, and Zack Randolph) is going to eventually become a liability to the team.

That’s a character issue. If you want to be great, to be legitimately truly the best you can be, your body is the tool to achieve that end.

You can’t treat it like it’s an amusement park ride and expect to achieve results.

Not everyone has Deion Sanders’s natural talent, but you don’t have to have his work ethic. Stories are legion about how he hated to practice, hated to work hard, and hated to lift. To the point that in Jeff Pearlman’s excellently sourced new book “‘Boys will be ‘Boys” about the 1990’s-era Dallas Cowboys everyone mentions that his inclusion into the roster pretty much signaled the end of the dynasty as they had known it.

On the other hand Michael Irvin, a guy who the mainstream media might have you believe is some kind of hedonistic madman, is universally regarded as the engine upon which those Cowboy teams ran.

See the difference? Off-field character matters little, on-field character wins championships.

Thank you for reading this. Hopefully when you hear someone talk about character you will be able to tell the difference.

39 Responses to “The Difference Between On and Off Field Character By Okori Wadsworth”

  1. Miranda says:

    Here in Atlanta, yesterday, one of the afternoon drivetime sports talk shows decided that they would devote the whole show to the following topic “What is a Thug”….I’m not kidding.

  2. michelle says:


    Very nice!

  3. origin says:

    Great post Okori.

    What is a thug???

    Thats is the dumbest sh$% I have ever heard. I will give those fools a clue………some of the biggest thugs in american history have lived in the white house.

    Funny thing I called in a sports talk show here in Dallas and said the same thing about thugs. And the good ole boys kicked me off the show.


    Thats was priceless.

  4. Okori says:

    thank you Michelle. that means a lot coming from you.

    and Miranda….. i just tune those people out because it’s clear their biases are coloring the way they think.

  5. Co Co says:

    I heard that too Miranda, but I think they made good points about the fact that they (media) only use the word thug to describe the black athletes that get in trouble. No one ever called Matt Jones or Bill Romanowski (sp) a thug.

  6. Miranda says:

    I’ve got a bet. I bet you anything that Carson Palmer talked to SOMEBODY and wanted Chris Henry back and Chris Henry is back. He’s never had any on field issues that I know of, and he’s a damn good receiver, and Chad is hurt. Marv Lewis probably found out about the same time I did…LOL

    CoCo, I thought Hometeam made some good points but if I ever see that fat bastard Chuck Oliver, y’all better hope I’m not driving at the time.

  7. Co Co says:

    Hahahahaha! You don’t like the King of College Football Miranda?? Hahahha

  8. Matthew Fudge says:

    Remember Roger Clemens throwing a bat at Mike Piazza during the 2000 World Series? And his subsequent dumb-a– excuse, “I thought it was the ball?” Don’t recall anyone calling him a thug after that.

  9. Mizzo says:

    LMAO Miranda you crack me up girl!

    Okori this is a great point:

    Because it is a absurdly pointless exercise to try and ascertain whether Adam Jones has gone to a strip club or Joakim Noah smokes a joint, or whether LeBron James was speeding. None of this in any way detracts from what they choose to do when they’re on their jobs, and honestly bringing it up is more about the men reporting it than it is about the people who enjoy their time off.

    That’s some real rap right durr.

  10. Okori says:

    WHOOOOO! Mizzo liked a point I made.

    *goes to get a tastykake and does the Mr. Niebla hip dance*

  11. michelle says:



  12. Okori says:

    I will say this about the people who bring up “Character” and think that they mean Terrell Owens because he does situps in the front yard of his house (admittedly a seriously show-offy thing to do): Terrell Owens is the evolutionary Michael Irvin. Flashy? Yes. Occasionally stupid? Yes. But try and find a guy who works harder at his craft, who does the same sort of exhaustive preparation in week 17 as he does in week 1. You can’t.

  13. michelle says:


    I so agree with you. Great point!

  14. Okori says:

    and it’s more often than not the guys who were the late-round draft picks that have that sort of attitude. because they have to in order to survive.

  15. GAM says:

    Generally I agree with this sentiment. Especially when it applies to someone like Irvin, who was as hard working as they came during his playing days. However, IT DOES matter when:

    1) your off field character causes you to miss games

    2) you piss off the “good” white people who pay for the tickets to your games by acting like a criminal. So if I am an owner, like at Cinci, it’s important I can hire fools that stay out of the police blotter.

    3) Off field character causes locker room disruption.

    Those all apply to Chris Henry. Anyone trying to defend Chris Henry’s actions is really trying hard to defend a brother at all costs………

    Which is fine for a black man to do, but you also forfeit your credibility as an objective observer.

    I am not sure why we have to defend some of these fools just because they look like us. Chris Henry is an idiot.

    Generally I agree that Joakim Noah, and any of the other cats that want a drink, a joint, or a fast car should be left alone. But exercise judgement. Anyone ever wonder why snoop never gets arrested for weed, but his entourage gets the rap all the time? Damn, you’ve got all these useless hangers on around, make them drive you home, fight your battles, and hold your herb.

    Great job on the site Mizzo and Co. you’ve really caught on to something here and look forward to more.

  16. michelle says:


    Did you say “good” white people though? LOL!

  17. Miranda says:

    GAM, it was the owner who made it happen with bringing Henry back. Like I said, Marv Lewis probably found out same way I did, watching the scroll on ESPN News…LOL But why is Henry suspended? Why is he being punished for a situtation in which the charges got dropped? The “good” white people who pay really don’t care unless its the other guys team. THEN they care a whole lot.

    CoCo….I can’t stand that thick headed SOB. If he clutches his chest and falls and I’m standing right by him with my cell out….I will probably forget the number to 911.

  18. michelle says:


    Lol! You crack me up girl!

  19. Co Co says:

    hahahahah! Miranda you are too funny!

  20. michelle says:

    The girls are really representing today.

  21. Allen says:

    interesting topic. Does it matter if Deion didn’t do all those things but still dominated on game day? On one hand, if Deion can weasel his way out of the hard work of practice, soon other cats will try. On the other hand, if you can’t perform like Deion despite not working hard, well you butt will be cut quickly if you try to live like Deion. I think that’s an interesting situation.

  22. Okori says:

    yes Allen it does matter and here’s why. Deion became the idol of the young defensive players on the Cowboys. And because he didn’t work hard in practice, didn’t pay attention in meetings, and didn’t lift when the rest of the team was, the young defensive guys didn’t do it either. And since the ‘Boys who built the dynasty were getting old and unable to perform anymore Deion’s laissez-faire attitude (and Jerry Jones’s shitty drafting) pretty much killed the team.

  23. Matthew Fudge says:

    The word of Okori is already blessed. You guys should be on “Crossfire – The TSF Version”.

  24. Matthew Fudge says:

    GAM, you’re on some other stuff re: Snoop. Him and Katt Williams were both smokin’ weed in the limo at the start of “The Pimp Chronicles – Pt. 1” and nothing happened. That’s some bulletproof shiz-nit.

  25. origin says:

    HAHA sista Miranda and michelle you’ll are a trip.

    I hear where you are coming from with deons lack of practice. But Free agnecy, age and Jerry Jones being one of the dumbest owners in teh NFL messed up the cowboys more then anything. This is the same man who ran off Jimmy Johnson (I can find a future all pro in the 7th round). This is the same fool who thought he was smart enough to be a GM………..LOL!!!

    Also don’t forget that the cowboys may have won 2 superbowls with deon there. Remember the year after they won a superbowl (their last) with Deon. Irvin was suspended for 4 games due to off the field issues. Deon had to play WR. The cowboys were 1-3 in the 4 games Irvin missed. They ended up 10-6. The panthers would later beat them in the second rond of the playoffs.

  26. origin says:

    I still believe if Jerry dumb butt never ran off Jimmy the cowboys would have had won 5 championships in that span.

  27. Matthew Fudge says:

    You gotta remember, Origin: Jones on his best day still couldn’t hold a candle to George Steinbrenner in his prime. People forget this now because he’s old and the Yankees won 4 World Series between 1996 – 2000, but Steinbrenner was the worst owner in sports for a long time. The Yankees had enough talent to win at least one World Series in the ’80s, but Steinbrenner couldn’t get out of his own way. Yeah, he had all the money, but he didn’t have the brains to go with it. Worse, he didn’t know what he didn’t know. This is the same man who had three managers in one year. All Jerry Jones did was run off Jimmy Johnson. Steinbrenner did a WHOLE lot worse. Money doesn’t equal smarts (see Isiah Thomas).

  28. origin says:

    Yeap matthew you are certainly correct about steinbrenner.

  29. Okori says:

    but here’s the problem with that argument Origin as it relates to Deion: By that point Irvin was nearing the end and so were Moose, Novacek, Emmitt, and even Troy. The guys who had built the dynasty, and remembered acutely what it felt like to lose 15 games in a season, were getting old and Deion’s sloth was preventing the next generation of Cowboys to know how to get their business taken care of. That was the last good Cowboys team until Parcells came in and slapped everyone in the face a few times.

    Jones ruined it by bad drafting, running off the coach who kept the engine going in Jimmy Johnson, and bringing in Barry Switzer who let them do whatever they wanted.

    And fudge is right. Snoop’s so bulletproof you could put him naked in the middle of the North Pole and he’d be by your pool the next weekend with 1500 dollars in his new armani suit, your girl on his arm, and holding a brand new cigar, 3 new hats, and a light-blue Lincoln Continental.

  30. Matthew Fudge says:

    No gold cup, Okori?

  31. MODI says:

    couldn’t agree more on the post Okori. On field character should be celebrated. Guys like Chad Johnson and Barry Bonds have never cheated the fans in their off-season regimen.

    conversely, I always felt that if a guy like Tony Gwynn had a serious work ethic that he could have reached 4000 hits and possibly a run at Pete Rose if he played into his 40’s

  32. Okori says:

    and it’s more than just conditioning. it’s also being a good teammate, helping the young guys figure out how to do things.

    Like Michael Irvin was famous for running routes after practice with undrafted free-agent QB’s just because he felt like he wanted to give them a chance, even puking while doing the route and not stopping.

    And (as much as I hate to bring him up again) Bonds is noted for his fitness. Although questions about him being a good teammate still remain.

  33. Okori says:

    Miranda if I was Marvin Lewis i’d be real conflicted. Happy that my owner got me Chris Henry back but pissed because: Didn’t we just friggin say that we’re not gonna have him on the team in APRIL? Geez.

  34. BeinMiceElf says:

    So, your contention is that off-field character matters none, not at all, no matter what it tells us about a guy? I’m not sure you can adequately defend that position. Here are two examples that you’ll have a difficult time trying to explain:

    One, Dallas Cpwboys kicker Rafael Septien sticks his dick in the mouth of a 4-year-old girl at a friend’s house.

    Two, Leonard Little kills a woman because he can’t stop himself from driving while intoxicated.

    We can go on…. Three, Art Schlichter gambles away so much money that he becomes an actual danger to anyone who knows him. Four, Pete Rose bets on games he’s managing…. whether he admits to that extent of his problem or not. Five, Pacman Jones gets involved in so many police actions that his WANTED poster gets carved in stone AND sells out at Wal-Mart. Six, Shawn Kemp (among others, like Larry Bird) has enough illegitimate children that the elementary school picnic is called ‘the family reunion.’ How much further do you want me to go, because I have all night….?

    Are you really telling me that Tom Landry should have said to Septien, “Look, muchacho, what you do with your ‘pistole’ is your business. Just git that dad-gum ball through them uprights come Sundee….”….?

    Are you really telling me that Dick Vermeil should have told Little, “Leonardo, we’re drafting a fourth-string tight end from Idaho State and we’re giving him the position of Designated Driver on our 53-man squad. He’s gonna follow you wherever you go.”….?

    Come on, man…… Some people are just bad apples. I’m no psychologist, penologist, behavioral specialist, or whatever, but it doesn’t take a Ph D to know that some people are dangers not only to themselves but also to their family, friends, and even employers. Maybe we’re not talking physical danger, but if I’m an employer and I have an employee who’s reckless off the job, I have to wonder when my business is going to suffer.

    I agree that a speeding ticket or a domestic argument between a man and his wife often gets blown way out of proportion by the media (see Warren Moon, a few years back), because athletes and their sordid tales sell papers and attract viewers, but are we supposed to ignore the stories about a Lawrence Phillips and just wait for the touchdowns on Sunday? That’s valuing our sports entertainment at a dangerous level.

    I know most of you on here have heard the old story about Babe Ruth running naked through a train car, and then being followed by a naked woman wielding a knife. One reporter in that train car turned to the rest and said, “Boys, it’s a good thing we didn’t see that, because then we’d have to write about it.” Times certainly have changed, and with a multi-million-dollar deal for playing a kids’ game and a 24-hour news cycle, your actions are going to hit the airwaves a few seconds after they happen. That’s the price of fame, like it or not.

    The original post here seemed to exalt the players who bust it and get the job done on the field….. but that’s a player’s job, isn’t it? From nine to five you’re supposed leave every ounce of it on the field. You can celebrate that kind of hustle and hard work, but when a guy displays off-field behavior that goes beyond a certain level of tolerance, are we really supposed to just wave it away and say, “Well…… at least he runs hard in practice.”…….?

    Hollywood celebrities are under the same glare, and is that unfair? Years ago when Robert Downey, Jr. was running wild on coke and heroin, he was still a great actor, but would you have hired him for your movie, not knowing what kind of guy was going to turn up at the set every day? I wouldn’t have. Sure, the final performance would be brilliant, but would it be worth what you had to go through to get it? The late Howard Rollins lost all kinds of acting jobs because no matter how terrific he was (and he was terrific) no director could trust him to show up and do his job every day.

    Hell, I’m a teacher, and if I ever got caught doing anything remotely illegal, I can be dismissed for cause, no matter how wonderful my students think I am. We even had a teacher (and not a bad one, either) dismissed for putting her profile up on a porn website, even though she never accessed it from a school computer and her profile did not mention that she was a teacher. Was that wrong?

    Is it reasonable to think that whatever you do away from the office, it should never impact how you’re viewed by an employer or the people around you, or have I misunderstood what the original post was getting at?

  35. Okori says:

    the problem here, BME, is that the people who are complaining about this isn’t the employers of the men. it’s the media. that’s the point. and we’re not going to get into how easily Matt Jones got back onto the Jags after cutting cocaine in the back of a car but Terrell Owens is Satan incarnate. I just don’t have that kind of time.

  36. Miranda says:

    Okori, Did you see the story of Favre asking the Jets to “simplify the playbook”? Well…maybe he didn’t necessarily ask…well…
    And Favre never gave a rats ass about Aaron Rodgers as far as showing him anything.

  37. Okori says:

    yeah…… it’s great to know that Brett Favre has been a jet for 45 seconds and thinks he can tell Eric Mangini to simplify the playbook just because.

    And yeah…. Favre has always been about favre.

  38. BeinMiceElf says:

    I have no disagreement with you there….. being a former sports reporter, I know full well how low those people can sink, and how many free hot dogs they can eat during a two-minute warning….. Now that’s a scandal.

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