By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
"No wife?" Johnson says half-seriously. "Fuck it. I've got Pork Chop."
The photos exploded on the internet, and Pork Chop became an overnight celebrity. Strangers began giving him money and taking him to clubs.
But some Twitter users took offense. "I hope he's not helping this homeless guy just to get attention," one woman wrote. And like so many of Johnson's adventures, his relationship with Pork Chop hasn't exactly gone according to plan. Pork Chop's new clothes were almost instantly stolen. And the footballer's attempts to find his homeless friend a job and a home were rebuffed.
"To get him a job, I'd have to clean him up, get him teeth, get him to stop drinking... I'm not equipped to do all that," Johnson says.
Besides, Johnson has worries of his own — like staying out of jail. On May 7, Broward judge Kathleen McHugh ordered Johnson's arrest for skipping three months of meetings with his probation officer. His attorney Adam Swickle negotiated a deal to avoid jail time, but when Johnson slapped the lawyer on the ass in celebration, the judge angrily sentenced him to a month behind bars.
"When I had to go do the 30, my first thought was, Shit, if I can sit eight or nine hours in one spot and people-watch, I can do the time," he says.
He didn't have to. The judge let him out after seven days. Johnson sent her flowers and a pair of Louboutins as an apology. "That's not bribery," he explains. "That's just how I am."
There are days when Chad Johnson needs something more than Twitter or a table at David's Café — days when he feels himself slipping beneath the waves. Today is one of those days.
Dancing around the Fit Speed gym in his rainbow Asics, he appears happy. But then he catches sight of the TV set tuned to ESPN. His former Patriots teammate Aaron Hernandez has been arrested for murder. A pall settles over Johnson. A year ago, it was him in the headlines being portrayed as a monster. A New Times reporter asks him about the case, but for once, the voluble Johnson goes quiet. A minute passes. Rihanna croons about finding love in a hopeless place.
"I'm thinking about going to the Seaquarium to see the killer whales," Johnson says suddenly. "I don't give a fuck about the show — I just want to see the motherfuckers."
Johnson walks up to the giant tank, leans over, and stares silently at the monstrous fin slicing the water in front of him. This is his therapy, his Zen. Sometimes he hangs out here three times a week.
He takes a seat in the stadium. The bleachers fill with people, some of whom sheepishly file up to Johnson for a photograph. He obliges. But when the show begins, his eyes return to the tank.
"This is Lolita, the killer whale!" a trainer announces through loudspeakers. Suddenly, the 7,000-pound creature bursts into the air — all 40 feet of her — before crashing back into the water.
"That's fucking..." Johnson says, his voice trailing off in disbelief.
His grandmother, Bessie Mae Flowers, first took him to the Seaquarium. He was a kid from the concrete streets of Liberty City who had never seen wildlife. "She was the first thing I ever saw that was outside the norm of what I was used to," he says of Lolita.
But it's more than nostalgia that pulls him here. It's sympathy. The man and his orca are eerily similar: Fast and powerful, both have spent their lives performing athletic tricks for strangers. Both are too smart for their own good. And both can be dangerous.
"They kill great whites," he says in awe. "Who are their predators, except for man?" In 2010, a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando was killed by an orca. "But that's in captivity," Johnson points out. "There has never been a single orca attack on humans in the wild."
After the show ends and the soaked audience squelches out of the stadium, Johnson asks Lolita's trainer if he can feed the killer whale. Still dripping from the performance, Heather Keenan tells him he can do even better: He can kiss Lolita.
Johnson's eyes widen with excitement. He strips off his blue and red Jordans and clamors onto the tank's narrow walkway. He waits nervously on his knees. Like a stealth submarine, the orca silently emerges from the water headfirst. Her mouth opens a foot from Johnson's face, exposing sharp six-inch teeth.
The animal lifts herself out of the tank toward him, but at the last moment, Johnson pulls back. The trainers burst out laughing. Keenan tosses fish into Lolita's mouth and tells Johnson to try again. This time, he leans in and plants his lips on Lolita's tongue.
Johnson jumps up as if celebrating a touchdown. His smile is back. "I don't need a woman when I'm tonguing a killer whale," he says on his way out of the Seaquarium. "My life is made."