I haven't been this angry in a while so bear with me -- I might have to find my way back into my anger groove.
The headline in the news is "Donte Stallworth of Cleveland Browns is suspended for 2009 season." My first reaction was "oh great...now my fantasy felon football team will have a wide receiver for Vick to throw to." Then I started reading the articles. The first two, weighing in at about 60 words each were inoffensive enough. Articles reported that the Florida limit is .08 and he ran a .126 and that he received 30 days in prison for driving drunk and killing someone. I was annoyed but I was dealing with it. Then I got to the LA Times, bless their souls.
In it, I learned the following facts:
1. He only served 24 of the 30 days.
2. He feels that by killing a human being he has done "irreparable harm" to the family of the man he killed.
3. Commissioner Goodall wrote that he is "clearly guilty of conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL."
4. He did what he did "even though safe and confidential alternatives, such as the 'Safe Ride' program, were available"
5. and finally..."The suspension is twice the eight-game penalty the St. Louis Rams' Leonard Little received from then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue in 1999, after Little struck and killed a woman while driving drunk."
Where should I start? Should I fume about the 30 day punishment for killing someone? This is the same Stallworth who was pulled over in March of 2006 and tried to drive off, and refused to exit the car when asked. When arrested then, "Donte Stallworth told the detectives that the incident was going to cost the policemen a lot of money and that he would have their jobs." Maybe I should point out that serving only 24 days of an insultingly short sentence is even more insulting. Can I point out how disgustingly glib and heartless it is to summarize the killing of a pedestrian which leaves behind a 12 year old daughter as doing "irreperable harm." Somehow I think that something a bit more effusive, like "I'm sure that I have given her a trauma which will adversely affect her maturation process and from which she may never fully recover" would be called for.
But for the commissioner to say that his behavior is what is calling in to question the integrity of the NFL is laughable. Anyone who is holding these athletes up as pillars of the community who make intelligent long term plans, who espouse philosophies and values which we should admire or who take their fame and celebrity within a grounded viewpoint and a context of social responsibility is a fool. I'm not saying that all (or many, or anything like that) football players are evil, shortsighted or some other deficient label, but I am saying that the league (as with most professional sports) is full of its own crises that make people rethink the integrity issue frequently. Haggling for insane contracts, behaving on and off the field in immature fashion and such have sullied sports that haven't been "gentlemen's games" for a long time. Did the arrest of Mel Gibson compromise the integrity of Hollywood? Either it is a reflection on the individual or we have to admit that the track record of people in the spotlight is so poor that one more 'event' isn't tipping the scales.
But, now, speaking as an occasional drinker (with those occasions being days that end in "y") does anyone expect a pro football player, surrounded, no doubt, by his entourage to push aside the bling and leave the Bentley in the parking lot so he can call the Safe Rider hotline and get someone he doesn't know to drive him home? Maybe the teams should assign a driver to go along with the players when they go out...maybe a floating chauffeur system. Or maybe, players shouldn't think that just because they are into the off season, their best use of a Friday night is to go out and drink.
That this suspension from 1 year's worth of football (during which one wonders if he'll secure some other speaking gigs or work out with a college team or do something to keep his hand in, or if he will volunteer to use all his free time to help raise the fatherless girl) is twice what was done 10 years ago isn't comforting. Kill a guy and miss playing a game. Considering his injuries recently, I think he'll be used to not playing. Gosh, I hope he can live on his 4.75 million dollar signing bonus. That must be tough.