Souhan: Curiously, public chooses to ignore Harvin's diva act

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 7, 2012 - 6:57 AM

 The little receiver with the big heart isn't being called out for his tantrums.

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Percy Harvin

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Why don't we ridicule Percy Harvin?

Why don't we relegate him to the same virtual asylum of temperamental NFL receivers that is home to the guy who shot himself in the leg, the guy who changed his last name to the Spanish word for his uniform number, the guy who played when he wanted to play, the guy who sideline-stalked every quarterback who ever threw him a pass, and the guy who agreed to security guards 24 hours a day because he can't be trusted to avoid becoming the next NFL star receiver to shoot himself in the leg?

Harvin's résumé doesn't stack up with the most problematic receivers of all time. But he's promising.

He was suspended a few times for transgressions in high school, and tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine. He missed games in college because of a sinus infection. He's missed flights, offseason team activities and the NFL rookie symposium because of illness, and has missed NFL games and practices because of migraines.

He's had two NFL head coaches. He's screamed at both. He argued with Brad Childress on the practice field, and on Sunday he yelled at Leslie Frazier on the sideline during a game, presumably angry over either play-calling, quarterback play, or both.

This summer, he pouted during minicamp, presumably over some combination of his contract status and the team's woes, leading Frazier to call him in for a chat.

Why aren't we more offended by Harvin?

For decades now, the receiver-screaming-on-the-sideline video clip has been television gold. That's what's strange about Harvin: He screams at his nice-guy coach about his nice-guy quarterback, and the resulting sound, in Minnesota and around the league, is that of crickets wrapped in cotton shrugging.

Nobody is saying Harvin needs to be traded or benched. Nobody is even questioning his judgment.

Why is that?

It would be so easy to compare him to Terrell Owens, another talented receiver known for sideline tantrums, or emotional Vikings receivers past.

Vikings coaches knew that if they didn't get the ball to Anthony Carter early in the game, he'd lose interest.

Vikings coaches knew that if they lost games while failing to take advantage of Randy Moss' talent, he'd let them hear about it.

Vikings teammates knew that if they didn't perform to Cris Carter's standards, he'd look down upon them the way emperors once looked down upon peasants.

NFL receivers are the most emotional and self-centered athletes in any team sport, with the possible exception of NBA scorers, and here's the difference: NBA scorers are almost guaranteed to get their shots. Receivers are dependent upon the performance of the team's offensive line, quarterback and offensive coordinator, and subject to being taken away by a gifted defense or an innovative defensive scheme.

Great NFL receivers are a rare combination of talent and paranoia.

Knowing who they are explains their behavior, but doesn't excuse it.

So why do we give Harvin a break?

Maybe there are two reasons.

1. Minnesotans, unlike, say, Cowboys fans, recognize the upside in the relationship. We've seen Moss pout, and we've seen him perform like one of the 10 greatest receivers in NFL history. We've seen Cris Carter scream at teammates on and from the sideline, and we watched him perform like a Hall of Famer and extend his career with an unsurpassed work ethic. Vikings fans know that if they can survive the moods, they will reap benefits.

2. In the age of concussion awareness and fully documented catastrophic injuries, we know what Harvin is sacrificing. He's a 184-pound hybrid who runs, receives and returns kicks with a competitive fury rarely seen even at the highest levels of sports.

Playing as he does is sure to knock years, or at least quality years, off Harvin's lifespan. His size and style stamp him with an early expiration date.

Harvin shouldn't scream at Frazier. As years pass and his body starts to buckle, you can understand why he might lapse once in a while.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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