Ancient Greek mythology tells us that the Titans were a race of supernatural deities aligned against the denizens of Mt. Olympus. Uranus, the personification of the sky, coupled with his consort Gaia (earth). Their first twelve spawn (along with a second generation) constituted this race of Elder Gods, their reign deemed a golden age of the mythical period. Uranus was eventually castrated by his son Cronus, who in turn attempted to devour his children before too falling from power. The best-known being of this class is Atlas, who a victorious Zeus sentenced to hold up the heavens in perpetuity. How this legend holds up as a metaphor for modern professional sports I cannot say.
What a week it has been for Tennessee receiver Kenny Britt, who also figuratively can be seen as bearing the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. Britt, who at 22 is still one of the youngest players in the NFL, was reportedly involved in a Thursday night altercation at a Nashville nightclub. A police investigation is ongoing, with Titans coach Jeff Fisher publicly vowing to reserve judgment for the time being. That did not stop Fisher from holding Britt out of Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles until midway through the second quarter.
The message was apparently received at least when it came to the gridiron. Britt, who had been steadily gaining momentum by the game since being shadowed by Oakland's Nnamdi Asomugha in week one, managed to steal the spotlight from star back Chris Johnson via a 7 catch, 225 yard, 3 touchdown performance. Undoubtedly it helped to be matched up in single coverage against Super Bowl XLIV goat Ellis Hobbs (who infamously surrendered that game's winning touchdown to Plaxico Burress), but yesterday was Kenny's coming out party onto the national stage. No longer can he be overlooked in conversations about the NFL's brightest young receivers.
That is why I and so many others were screaming bloody murder eighteen months ago that Kenny was a must-draft for the New York Giants. Never have I been so sure about a Scarlet Knight's sheer talent. Ray Rice and Devin McCourty have been great in the NFL, but both (along with so many other Rutgers alumni) arguably owe just as much to their incredible work ethics. Anthony Davis had the best natural ability, but he was always an enigma, proving as much yesterday with bad penalties and letting in an opposing rusher who injured Alex Smith. Britt was the only guy who had both the drive and the game-breaking measurables.
I cannot recall anyone ascribing ill intentions to Britt. The problem is not with his character, and that is a crucial distinction. Everything negative that comes up is always attributed to immaturity, bad judgment, and a lack of focus. Mistakes are not born out of malice. Kenny is not a bad person, just as there is no evidence that Cody Endres is a bad person, just like most people who get in trouble with the law and authorities every day are not inherently bad people. At the same time, adults are ultimately held responsible for their actions and any resulting consequences. That direct relationship between cause and effect seems so simple, yet it can so difficult for many to master even long into life no matter what's at stake. It takes a while to master, and even then good judgment can momentarily disappear in the instant it is needed the most.
Now it's up to him to avoid becoming a flash in the pan, and take his rightful place as one of the best receivers in the NFL. If this was only about on-field skills and performance, the matter would be settled. However, the Titans have been content to bench Britt behind also-ran veterans up to now. Their knowledge of his skills was irrelevant, as was his team-leading production as a rookie receiver in 2009. As long as the little mistakes kept piling up, as long as he didn't give 100% in practice, the team could talk itself into having glorified decoys run routes between handoffs to Chris Johnson. Kenny, like his counterpart Atlas, alone has the power to either hold up the heavens, or let them fall crashing down into oblivion. One can only hope that he proves up to the task.