Mike Wallace prepared for boos, even asking for them

Joe Sargent

Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace is prepared for the boos he's likely to get when he steps onto Heinz Field Sunday. It almost seems as if he's asking for that negativity.

Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace never endeared himself to the fans of his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. That's the understatement of the year.

Savvy public relations minds get the difference - read: hypocrisy - needed to sustain a positive image as a professional athlete. It's saying a lot but never saying anything. It's saying the right things, even if it's usually a strain of the same things.

Some get that to a level where even the most ardent skeptics know they're full of it, but smile at their effort anyway.

Wallace doesn't get that.

A player who was basically an unheralded third round draft pick can't really claim a long history of being directly in the crosshairs of public opinion. The first round pick who's been in the league for six or seven years, one's more inclined to take him at his word when it comes to the inner workings of the league.

Wallace, and his one contract negotiation that was decided long before he hit free agency, doesn't quite inspire faith in his word. His comments to ESPN reporter James Walker are almost laughably self-indulgent and insincere.

"At the end of the day, this is still a business, you know," Wallace told Walker. "You can't get caught up in too many feelings and emotions with that. You got to take the business as it is. Most people won't understand that, so I won't even try to explain."

Please stop, Mike. I just had my lunch.

If there's anything the writer of a blog attracting millions of clicks a month has learned, it's actually kind of amazing at how much people understand about the workings of the NFL. I, too, will not even try to explain, but not because of some feeble-minded belief readers won't comprehend the magnitude of the issues that make Wallace who he is, but rather, because it's not important.

However, it does not take much to understand $60 million is more than, say, $40 million. And everyone has a price.

All we need to know here is really how big of a braying jackass Wallace is, and despite only being halfway through the week leading into his return to Heinz Field, is he seems to be so enjoying the idea of the crowd booing him, it's almost as if he's either insecure about it, or he's reading word-for-word what his agent and coaches have told him to say.

Even then, he's sending the wrong message.

Antagonizing fans, even if they're antagonizing you, is a lose-lose situation. For all the things fans don't understand, one notion that's crystal clear is "if you're not for us, you're against us."

That can be taken as an awesome message of loyalty and unity, as well as a message of blind subjectivity and unwarranted hatred. Both are probably true, to an extent.

Hell, we booed Santonio Holmes, and he is a Super Bowl MVP. And Mike Wallace ain't no 2007-09 Santonio.

When the rubber meets the road, Steelers fans haven't booed just Mike Wallace. He won't be the last former Steeler to make his return to Heinz Field as an enemy. But the reason behind the boos Wallace will receive will be because he's asking for it. And his weak effort to get ahead of it and act like ignorance is the reason behind it only makes him look worse.

It's tough for a guy who got $30 million guaranteed catching three touchdowns this year to make himself look worse than he already does, but Wallace is accomplishing that, one bad PR move at a time.

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