"I've always been mouthy," Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey said to SI back in June, understatedly kicking off one of the more virulent outbreaks of foot-in-mouth disease in the history of football, homophobia, New York City, Oklahoma and the whole woolly universe of sportstalk, U.S.A. His was an equal-opportunity, multi-publication slamfest: By the time a seemingly chastened Shockey issued his blanket apology last Saturday, he'd lashed out at his absentee father, his high school and junior college head coaches and Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops in SI. He'd called Cowboys coach Bill Parcells "the homo" in New York magazine, and in Maxim he'd disclosed that teammates had multiple girlfriends while also offending all mathematically inclined seekers of sexual adventure by fantasizing about "a threesome with a mother and her two twins."
For anyone who has interviewed Shockey—and there were plenty of us this summer—the barrage of outspokenness came as no surprise. He possessed that rare combination of candor and rage and a tendency to put both into words worth quoting, and he knew that his desire to hit strip joints, booze up and score chicks won points with the Vegas, Baby! crowd. "I see how everybody wants to know what I do," Shockey told SI. "Everybody on our team says, 'I went home this weekend, and everyone asked, 'Is that Shockey guy crazy?' "
It's a question people will be asking his teammates for the foreseeable future. The answer is complicated: Shockey grew up in Oklahoma, poor, suspicious and sure he'd have to get what he wanted on his own. He lives for payback, and like many Shockeys, he doesn't consider shyness a virtue. Irate that Jeremy voiced disdain at his father, Jimmy, for not being in his life since childhood, Jeremy's aunt e-mailed SI last week. "I am Connie Shockey, Jeremy's aunt, his father's baby sister also called the biggest bitch ever," she wrote. While claiming that Jeremy's mother, Lucinda, poisoned her sons against their father, Connie allowed, "Jimmy might be labeled a deadbeat dad, he made a lot of mistakes. Haven't we all?" Then she unloaded on Jeremy the way he has unloaded on everyone else.
"You are a bitter little boy still today," Connie wrote. "You are judgemental [sic] of people you know nothing about, from the family that still, after all this, will always love you, to the gays all across America you joke about. Your [sic] closed minded [sic] to everything around you, except you. Everyone can see that and hear it, come out of your mouth, every time it opens lately. You don't deserve to wear the name Shockey. Take it off."
With the exception of "the homo" comment about Parcells, Shockey has not denied any of the lambasting he dished out this summer. During his time with SI in June, he made a point of dismissing the Giants' attempts to rein in his behavior and blew off criticism of his episode of gay-bashing on the Howard Stern Show last year by saying, "Howard? If you're reading this, I want to go back on the show. Even if the Giants ban me, I want back on."
But then that was at the height of Shockey's silly season. On Saturday, after a 40-minute meeting with Giants coach Jim Fassel, Shockey apologized "to my family, my friends, my teammates, to the owners of this great organization and to my coach." Fassel vowed to take an active role in controlling Shockey's dealings with the press, which, according to Shockey, won't be a point of contention. "You'll probably never hear me say an outrageous thing again," Shockey said to the assembled media before stalking off. "Ill probably never talk to you guys again."
For Giants fans, Shockey's new hostility toward the media is a good sign. In his world, where revenge is fuel, the minting of a new enemy is cause for celebration. Look for him to have another Pro Bowl season. Expect the outrageous every step of the way.