Today’s Head-Shaker

August 20, 2009

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Plaxico Burress gets two years in prison for accidentally shooting himself in the leg with his unlicensed firearm.

Donte’ Stallworth gets 30 days in jail – and is released after 24 – for killing a guy while driving drunk.

Are there any lawyers out there that can explain this to me?

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Tiger Woods Has Offended Rick Reilly’s Genteel Sensibilities

July 27, 2009

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ESPN’s Rick Reilly is mad at Tiger Woods. He is mad at Tiger Woods because Woods – like many hyper-competitive and wildly successful athletes – gets quite intense and curses, throws clubs, and displays generally ornery behavior during his events.

More baffling than his selection of Woods is Reilly’s devotion of a paragraph to the admission of Woods’ ultimate harmlessness:

Look, in every other case, I think Tiger Woods has been an A-plus role model. Never shows up in the back of a squad car with a black eye. Never gets busted in a sleazy motel with three “freelance models.” Never gets so much as a parking ticket. But this punk act on the golf course has got to stop. If it were my son, I’d tell him the same thing: “Either behave or get off the course.”

Do you know what has got to stop? Things like Donte’ Stallworth killing a guy while driving drunk. Or like Zach Randolph drunkenly driving some family members around after one of his games. Or Jason Richardson endangering his young child’s life by going 90 in a 35. Or ESPN’s mysterious decision not to cover the rape charges currently facing the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger. Those things have to stop, and deserve roughly a thousand times more coverage than they each received.

Of all the professional athletes in the world to complain about, Reilly chooses Tiger Woods. It hurts to think about all of the interesting, revealing, and progressive topics to which those 800 words could have been devoted.


Yeah, Because That Really Makes Things Better

April 6, 2009

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Los Angeles Clippers forward Zach Randolph was arrested for driving drunk early this morning. You’ve read my thoughts on the despicableness of this crime relative to other, more publicized problems in sports, so I’ll spare you another rant. One thing did, however, catch my eye in the AP report. I give you Clippers’ head coach Mike Dunleavy:

“Obviously this was bad judgment as far as being out the time he was out, etc. My initial thought was, ‘What a fool, this guy was out clubbing,’ ” the coach said. “[But] he was traveling from a condo in Marina del Rey to his home in Marina del Rey, probably about a mile difference. He was in a couple of vehicles with his family members and he was pulled over.”

Right, because drunkenly driving a vehicle containing some family members makes you less of a fool than doing so by yourself after a night out.


DUI Manslaughter Is Worse Than Steroid Use… Right?

April 2, 2009

If nothing else, the ongoing Donte’ Stallworth case serves as another disturbing reminder of how far the sports media has fallen. To summarize, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver was out drinking at a Miami club in the wee hours of March 14th. On his way home, Stallworth struck and killed a construction worker that had just gotten off work. In my opinion, the victim’s failure to cross the street in a crosswalk was canceled out by Stallworth’s blood alcohol content: .126.

I want to be clear about how horrifying it is to drive drunk. It is a disgusting, reckless, and selfish act that has no business occurring anywhere, particularly in a society that is well aware of its dangers. It was reprehensible with Joba Chamberlain did it, when JJ Redick did it, when Deltha O’Neal did it, and when Tommy Kelly did it. All of these athletes made the decision to drive drunk, and, unlike Stallworth, they somehow managed to avoid killing someone. But in all of their cases, they put the lives of others at risk because they were too lazy or dim-witted to call a cab.

Somehow, both this general problem and specific case have induced almost zero outrage amongst the people paid to cover sports. Reporters and columnists can try to justify it by claiming their job is to cover the events and feats occurring solely in the athletes’ professional realm. But that hasn’t stopped them from excoriating Josh Howard for disrespecting the national anthem in a YouTube video, or lambasting Alex Rodriguez for participating in unusual photo shoots. Such incidents clearly took place outside the confines of a basketball court, baseball diamond, or football field, yet the sports media saw no problem with sinking their teeth into those stories.

I repeat: Donte Stallworth killed someone. He did so because he drove drunk, an act that occurs with much more regularity and consequence than taking steroids. An oft-cited explanation for Major League Baseball and the federal government’s “war on steroids” is ensuring the safety of America’s youth. Well, I’d hate to break it to the congressional grandstanders, MLB owners, and baseball reporters that all stand to gain from such a crusade, but it turns out that drunk driving poses a far more serious threat to people of all ages, areas, and creeds. It has for some time now. 

Ultimately, I find it both sickening and heartbreaking that journalists have opted to use their considerable power to write frenzied and unhelpful columns like this, instead of using their time more responsibly. Like any journalist covering any subject, sports reporters have an obligation to write cogently about the events, trends, and participants in the world of professional and amateur athletics. Part of this duty, I think, is bringing perspective and insight to the sports landscape. They have to make honest attempts to make sense of it all, to point out inconsistencies and oddities, to question and probe, and to demand serious thought of their readers just as they should of themselves. Then a prominent baseball player uses steroids – hurting no one but himself, if that – and legions of sportswriters and fans are ready to declare the end of integrity as we know it, sounding the death knell for professional sports and perhaps civilized society itself. Yet when another athlete drives drunk and kills a man, we are given nothing but AP reports and a half-hearted admission of its tragedy. Invariably, we are then shuffled off to Barry Bonds and his latest attempts to kick small children and defenestrate old women.

Sometimes I wonder if the death knell isn’t meant for contemporary sportswriting instead.


No Steroids? No Outrage

February 16, 2009

On Sunday night, Phoenix Suns’ guard Jason Richardson was arrested for speeding in Scottsdale, Arizona. Richardson was reportedly clocked at 90 mph in a 35 mph zone. That’s bad. Upon approaching Richardson’s vehicle, the officer noticed that the player’s 3-year-old son was in the car, and not in a child seat. That’s reprehensible.

If you can do this, you can avoid social ridicule.

If you can do this, you can avoid social ridicule.

But because there are no accusations of cheating, or opportunities for Congressional grandstanding, or threats to the sanctity of a sport, this story will go the Brett Myers route, and disappear within a week. Sometime in March, Richardson will be on the business end of a thunderous alley-oop, and his reckless and horrific endangerment of his own child will be long forgotten because he has a vertical leap of 40 inches. 

Like I said, the steroids scandal reveals a lot more about us than it does the athletes.