When it was announced that the Denver Broncos would be signing Emmanuel Sanders amid the 'misguided' practices of his agent, as was reported by our beloved Ian Rapoport, I remembered how Mike Wallace coined the name "Young Money Crew" for he and his then-compadres, Antonio Brown and the aforementioned Sanders. This stable of wide receivers were the first in over a decade to not include my absolute favorite wide-out, Hines Ward (May my beloved #86 throwback jersey always be worn on game day). I realized then that the mantle of receiver leadership rested squarely on the shoulders of this guy, Mike Wallace, a one-trick speed pony who had only been playing for a few years. This "veteran leadership" wanted to call our talented young trio the "Young Money Crew," a reference to Lil Wayne (Wallace and Wayne are both from New Orleans).
For some reason, it just rubbed me the wrong way.
When people ask me why I'm a Steelers fan (I hail from Michigan), I tell them "Well, my dad is from Pennsylvania." Sure, that could be the reason; most people accept that while still bemoaning my alliances. In reality, I began to admire the Steelers when I was watching them in grade school, enjoying how Hines Ward would mow down unwitting defenders as he set up the Bus for a long, lumbering run. Joey Porter would jaw at the opposition, and 'The Chin,' ever imposing, would scowl even as his team had a comfortable, cushioned lead against our unworthy foes.
They just felt blue collar to me. Were they the prettiest team in the league? Absolutely not. Were they the flashiest? No way. But the way that they played real smashmouth football was endearing to me; I loved watching the Bus run between the tackles, earning every yard through sheer determination and force of will. I loved watching a team that had to earn the bread they put on their tables, and I just wasn't ready for this "cash in before your body cashes out" mentality. Aqib Talib epitomized this for me when he said, "Cash that check, baby" to departing teammate Marquise Cole as he ventured to, wouldn't you know it, the Denver Broncos.
As soon as I heard the "Young Money Crew" label come from Mike Wallace's mouth, I was ready for him to leave. I understand that this game is a profession, but what every young player seems to forget is that money doesn't last; glory does. Winners aren't motivated by dollars - they're motivated by the idea of hosting that silver Lombardi trophy, high in the air, as the confetti rains down amid the cheering masses.
"Fast Money" (Wallace) departed for the Miami Dolphins after signing a $60 million deal with $30 million guaranteed in the first two years; it seems like everything was guaranteed for Wallace except for actual production on the field. "Quick Money" (Sanders) is in the limelight currently as his agent comes under fire for his shady practices, agreeing to terms with teams and then signing his player elsewhere in a move that reminds me of the scene in Jerry Maguire, where the #1 overall pick of the draft pulls at the last minute and signs with another agent, though the father of the player assured Jerry his "word [was] as strong as oak."
Everybody's favorite small school stand-out, Antonio "Cash Money" Brown, remains. I share a sense of camaraderie with Brown, as he hails from my beloved mitten state; He's the stuff of legend over there at Central Michigan University (I lived a stone's throw away... if stones can be thrown about forty five miles), and he's very quickly becoming a fan favorite for the Steelers as well.
I'm hoping that Antonio Brown has a different outlook on the game and on life. I'm wishing that he becomes the stuff of Steeler legend, joining the ranks of Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Hines Ward. I want him to live and breath Steeler-dom, and retire at a ripe old age of 34 (give or take a couple Ward-esque twilight years). If and when I buy his jersey, I want to wear it for the years prior to and after his eventual departure from the league (All of you sporting a #17 might be able to relate). A career like that is real football, and no amount of dollar signs can give you back the glory you lose by chasing checks across the league.