"You know what they say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas," Shockey told reporters at the Saints training facility. "That's the past. I'm looking forward to the future."
Predictably, the New Orleans news media fell all over themselves to pat Shockey on the back for his outlandish wit. Did you see what he did there? He took an advertising slogan and made it his own! That is totally awesome.
Or not. At all.
The college crowd, surfing beneath him in a mosh pit of foam, went wild. Even if, you know, none of us could see because our eyes were burning from the foam. Later, he'd go back to the comedic well, "Whatever happens in Cancun, stays in Cancun!" he'd scream. Presumably, one of my fellow spring break travelers jotted down this phrase and recycled it for an advertising meeting in later life.
Thanks to the trademarking of a phrase that had entered the popular lexicon almost a decade before, he's now worth millions and being quoted by Shockey to justify his hospitalization. Meanwhile, the guy in the Kangol hat who helped popularize the phrase is probably selling Alaskan lobster boat tours to Carnival cruise ship passengers. Winner? Spring break trademarker. Sometimes it pays well to steal what already exists in plain sight.
But Saints fans don't particularly care about Shockey's recycled quote or his partying, as long as they win and Shockey bounds around the field extending his arm for first downs. In fact, if there's a more understanding NFL city when dealing with hospitalization for "dehydration," I haven't found it. But Saints fans are also a bit troubled about what they've actually received in Shockey.
Last year, Shockey didn't score a touchdown despite playing for one of the most prolific passing offenses in NFL history. While Shockey caught 50 passes for 483 yards, his 9.7 yards per catch average was just .3 yards away from matching his career low. If you aren't scoring, and you aren't stretching the field, it begins to be a bit more troubling when you're taken taken away from a party on a stretcher.
Admittedly, I'm a little bitter about Shockey's being taken away from the Hard Rock on a stretcher. Why? Because less than a year ago a friend of mine got taken away from the Hard Rock casino on a stretcher too -- because he'd also had too much to drink. By the time this friend got checked into a hospital, he had a .30 blood alcohol content. For the uninitiated, this means he could have had surgery without anesthesia. We ridiculed him for months for getting to that level, "Can you imagine how uncool that is," another friend said, "to get taken out of a casino on a stretcher like you're a freshman sorority girl at a frat party? And be 29?"
We argued that the hospitalization was flat-out unbelievable. Our friend swore us to secrecy. Then Shockey went and did it too. "See," our friend said, "it's no big deal."
Shockey's hospitalization came courtesy of the Hard Rock's Sunday "Rehab" pool party. There are three important things worth knowing about the party.
• Ninety-nine percent of the guests have tattoos
• Every stripper in Las Vegas is here
• They quadruple the chlorine dose in the pool to work as a disinfectant against an entire physician's handbook of transmittable diseases brought into the water.
The third of these may be inaccurate. Slightly. Rehab draws professional athletes like moths unto the stripper flame.
It's an amazing party, the hair gel floats on the top of the pool water like chemical jelly fish. It's also the site of one of the most ridiculous professional athlete sightings, I've ever witnessed. Jermaine O'Neal, then an Indiana Pacer, was there with his cronies. What were the cronies wearing? Jermaine O'Neal jerseys ... while standing beside him at a pool party. It's still one of the most surreal images of my life. Everything at Rehab is rooted in artificiality from the trucked in sand-bottom pool, to the fake breasts hanging on the precipice of bikinis, to the 'roided-out bouncers. Everything is artificial, that is, except for the excess.
Back in New Orleans, Shockey attempted to dismiss all concerns by using the Vegas cliche. Only it doesn't fit so well. Not when you're surrounded by several thousand sun-drenched hedonists under the influence of alcohol (and likely more) and you're the one who stands out for the excess.
For most of his NFL career, Shockey has stood out on the field for his performance. Sure he got more attention because he was a blonde-haired outspoken warrior and he played in New York. But he also performed. His brash antics fueled his fire, excess was his brand of choice. Now, Shockey's excess is beginning to overtake his on-field performance. Once that pendulum tips, the fire eventually devours everything. Next time he's in Vegas, Shockey doesn't have to look very far to find a perfect example of what he's about to become, I'm sure Mike Tyson will be happy to have him over for drinks.