Final Word

By Jeff Girod

Posted June 6, 2013 in News
JeffGirodPump the brakes!

That’s what one former pro athlete was saying (OK, more like shouting) at pop singer Justin Beiber. Keyshawn Johnson—a retired NFL player and current ESPN talking head—confronted Bieber in the gated community they both share in Calabasas on Monday night.

Johnson was outside with his 3-year-old daughter when Bieber zoomed through a 25-mph-zone in his white Ferrari, according to a sheriff’s spokesman. Furious, Johnson hopped in his own Prius (it’s like a Ferrari, only with an 8-volt charger on the roof) and followed Bieber to his nearby mansion.

No stranger to blocking, Johnson strategically parked his Prius so that Bieber’s automatic garage door wouldn’t close, then told the 19-year-old pop star he wanted to have a half-crazed, spitting match about Bieber’s reckless driving. (The Bieb’s took an early curtain call and ducked into his house without speaking.)

“You’ve got a 19-year-old kid, you know, feeling entitled speeding up and down the highway,” Johnson, 40, told TMZ. “Then you’ve got him spitting on people in the neighborhood, you can’t do that. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”

The irony here is Keyshawn was once considered young, brash and out of control. He wrote an autobiography called Just Give Me the Damn Ball—after playing one NFL season. He was also benched for the last seven games of another season for arguing with his coach.

But live enough and eventually you’ll stop acting like everyone should just give you the damn ball. Some say it’s because older people become wise. I think it’s because as you age, you get used to being wrong a lot.

You’ll try embracing new perspectives. You’ll throw away tired lines of thinking. And you’ll start to identify with other people—some you never met—that you feel are going through the same inner turmoil.

I used to think Ben Affleck was a sellout. Now I sort of admire him as a searching artist. I have developed a deeper appreciation for the finer nuances of seafood and country music. And recently I find all talk radio repetitive and exhausting.

By the time you’re 40, you’re usually ingesting at least one kind of medication to regulate a bodily function. I take a tiny little yellow pill every night for heartburn. I can’t even drink a glass of water with a slice lemon in it. How much of a smug know-it-all can I possibly think I am if I can be brought to my knees by lemon water?

People change, sometimes literally.

I used to wear jeans everywhere and didn’t want to go places I couldn’t. Then about two years ago I noticed my jeans didn’t fit the same way. When I sat down, there was this weird tent fold around my crotch and when I stood up my ass disappeared.

Now on weekends all I wear is chinos in some version of brown or gray. Maybe that makes me just like every other clichéd middle-ager in a Dockers commercial. But so what. I’m more comfortable. I look better with a tent-less crotch and I have slightly more ass.

I even think about old grudges I’ve carried for years with people, some of whom are dead or who are dead to me. Mostly I just want five minutes to wish them well and apologize for whatever part I played in our mini melodrama. I also want to show off my tent-less crotch.

And selfishly I want to show them I’ve grown, whatever that means. Or maybe I haven’t and the moment we saw each other, old wounds would reopen and I’d be 21 again—yelling at some sorority coed inside a Red Lobster.

I see the folly and hypocrisy of Keyshawn Johnson yelling at Justin Beiber, admonishing him to be more thoughtful, considerate and responsible. And I hope, for Key’s sake, that he sees it, too. Because that’s part of the fun.

On a long enough timeline, we all revisit our younger, previous opinions and judge ourselves to have been raging, bloviating hypocrites.

You realize that racing everywhere at 100 miles per hour might not be the smartest way to get somewhere.

Sometimes it’s faster to take the Prius.

Contact Jeff Girod at

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