Monday, September 20, 2010

Heroes For Our Sons

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Sordid tales from the NFL
by Robert A. Waters

Some reasons for the popularity of Tim Tebow are his decency, wholesomeness, and traditional stances on moral issues. In a football league loaded with thugs, the Denver Broncos quarterback is a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, there are few Tebows in this league. The following is a list of players who have brought shame to themselves and disgrace to their profession. Those included in this list are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I could have added hundreds more. But these are some of the people our children have looked to as role models.

Ben Roethlisberger -- Recently, Big Ben was suspended by the NFL for his out-of-control behavior off the field. Although he was never charged, his latest episode with a co-ed in a Georgia nightclub got him booted for six games (later reduced to four). As a franchise player and one of the high-profile faces of the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell seemed disgusted by his behavior. “There is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville,” Goodell said, “that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."

Reggie Bush –- The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner no longer owns the trophy. The University of Southern California recently returned theirs, as did Bush. Why? Because, according to an NCAA investigation, Bush and his family illegally received nearly $300,000 in gifts and loans from a sports agent while still in college. In addition to Bush, the entire Trojan program was hit with severe sanctions as well. As Pete Carroll fled just ahead of the law to the more friendly confines of the NFL, the administration of USC crumbled. Now Reggie has “moved forward.” He’s a star in New Orleans, and has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. He has faced no real punishment at all for the havoc he caused USC, and probably never will.

Michael Vick -– Maybe Michael Vick has gained some measure of redemption. I hope so. Spiritual leader and former Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy advised the jailed star on how to rehabilitate his career and, more importantly, his life. So far, it seems that the former superstar has listened. After his troubled college career and his even more troubled NFL career, Vick ended up a pariah, having pleaded guilty to felonies related to dog-fighting. The sight of tortured animals being evicted from his Virginia mansion infuriated many. Vick served 21 months in prison and was forced to declare bankruptcy. After being reinstated by the NFL, however, he has worked hard to re-establish himself. Here’s hoping the former bad boy can redeem himself completely. But I wouldn’t count him as my son’s hero.

Chris Henry –- While I hate to speak ill of the dead, Henry ranks as an All-Star in the League of Those who Never Learn. Year after year, from 2005 to 2009, this Cincinnati Bengals star racked up arrest after arrest. Gun crimes, driving while intoxicated, providing alcohol to minors, illegal substance abuse, and assault were a few of the charges. He was suspended for two games in 2006 and eight games in 2007. In 2009, according to the Charlotte, North Carolina Police Department, Henry fell out of a truck while involved in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. He died a short time later of head trauma. In what must have been a bizarre joke, the NFL honored Henry with a moment of silence before all its games on week 15 of the 2009 season.

Lawrence Phillips –- In 2005, Phillips, a sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams, deliberately drove his car into a crowd of teenagers with whom he’d had a dispute. Previous charges for the troubled running back included domestic battery, child abuse, and a litany of drug offenses. Phillips never lived up to his potential in the NFL, and squandered most of the millions he received for signing with the Rams. He finally ended up playing for the Canadian Football League. In 2006, Phillips was convicted of seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon for trying to run over the teens. He is currently serving ten years in prison. Another role model we can do without.

Donte Stallworth –- The Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver was suspended for the entire 2009 season after killing a construction worker while driving under the influence of alcohol. Stallworth had just received a five million dollar bonus from the Browns and was celebrating at the posh Miami Beach Fountainbleu Hotel. After the accident, alcohol in his system tested well above Florida’s legal limit. For his crime, Stallworth was convicted and sentenced to thirty days in jail, two years of house arrest, and eight years of probation. A beleaguered Roger Goodell, who must sometimes think he’s managing Attica instead of the NFL, wrote to Stallworth: "Your conduct endangered yourself and others, leading to the death of an innocent man. The NFL and NFL players must live with the stain that you have placed on their reputations.” But suspensions in the NFL are not permanent, as fans know. So in 2010, our once-wayward hero signed a new contract with the Baltimore Ravens.

Fourteen players were suspended for one or more weeks at the start of the 2010 season. These included Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans who’ll sit out four games for substance abuse (i.e. steroids). Also suspended for four games is Santonio Holmes, arrested for possession of marijuana and domestic violence. Vincent Jackson will lose three games. The San Diego pass catcher has recently been arrested at least twice for DUI. When questioned about his character, Jackson had a classic response: “You know, I've done everything off the field right except [for] two bad choices.”

New England Patriots offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka was suspended for one game after being arrested for battering his wife. When she read his Facebook account and found out that he was flirting with another woman, she confronted him. Ojinnaka was accused of throwing her down the stairs in their home. Aqib Talib of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sat out the first game after punching a cab driver. LenDale White, another former USC player, was suspended for four games after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The dreams of Roger Goodell can’t be pleasant. He must wish he could shut down strip clubs and bars and drug labs across the country. Since he can’t, he must dread to hear the telephone ring.

If you want role models for your children, you might check some profession other than the National Football League.

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