onsdag 3 december 2008

"Those girls did look awfully young"!

Professional athletes need to serve as positive example!
Column: by Ben Woody, regular columnist; Monday, December 1, 2008; 9:47 PM

The New York Giants took on the Washington Redskins Sunday afternoon on the first anniversary of late Redskin Sean Taylor's death. The Skins weren't the only team with a conspicuous absence. Late Friday evening, Giants star wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg while attending a nightclub with teammate Antonio Pierce. Early Monday morning, Burress turned himself in to the New York City Police Department on charges of criminal possession of an illegal firearm.In his absence, the Giants handled the Redskins quite easily, winning by a margin of 23-7. This shooting is just another example of senseless jeopardy to which professional athletes subject themselves. Two active NFL players have been murdered in nightclub-related shootings, one (Taylor) murdered in his own home, and a host of others have committed a host of other felonies.Off the top of my head, I know of three well-publicized arrests for possession of illegal substances -- Matt Jones, wide receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars, for cocaine; Nick Kaczur, offensive guard for the New England Patriots, for Oxycontin without prescription; and Santonio Holmes, wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers, for marijuana possession.In what was supposed to be the bildungsroman of the season, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones took a chance on troubled cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones and signed him to a lucrative contract. Much to his surprise, but much expected by rational football fans, Pacman Jones was the focus of an altercation at a hotel with his own bodyguard. Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, had told Jones that he was a jaywalking-ticket away from banishment from the league. A three-game suspension was levied, which Jones used to enter an alcohol-abuse rehabilitation program.I know it isn't too cool to cite a native son, but Marcus Vick pulled a gun on some hecklers in a parking lot. His older brother -- Michael "Ron Mexico" Vick -- decided to set a better example by trying to stash marijuana in a secret compartment of a water bottle, only to be accused of and prosecuted for running a dog fighting ring.Major League Baseball is cleaning up its PR problem. Steroids stories are no longer as common as foul balls, and our once-and-future national pastime is reinventing itself as the true underdog sport.The Olympics in Beijing saw controversy with allegations that the Chinese government doctored the birth certificates of its gymnastics team. Those girls did look awfully young. What is happening to sports? How come our entertainers have to remain in a state of infidelity, deception and imperceptiveness? When I was little, I looked up to professional sports as an escape from my hectic life of multiplication tables and talking to girls. My fascination with St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire reaffirmed my love of baseball, as I idolized him as some sort of folk hero. Unfortunately, much as everything in childhood, McGwire turned out to be a phony. The MLB's most inconsiderate alumnus of the century, Jose Canseco, decided to profit on the character flaws of his cohorts in his tell-all book "Juiced." In the book, Canseco recounted his fun anecdotes about using steroids by himself and with a bunch of his teammates, including McGwire. In one great swoop, Canseco was successful in destroying the image of baseball for the entire nation.The unofficial anointing of football as our nation's pastime occurred in 2002, when Barry Bonds broke the single-season home run record McGwire had posted four years earlier. Today, the pastime pendulum is swinging back toward baseball. In a sport where the most easily recognized player is always jawing on and on about how he never receives the ball, there is a strong need for change. As the ultimate team game is full of "I's" and the giant metaphor for global togetherness showcases one government trying to beat the system by cheating, reform may just be only a pipe dream. And I'm looking at you, Santonio Holmes, for that. There's no reason for professional athletes to be throwing their talents away at this rate. Steroids easily knock off four or five years of a baseball player's career. Gunshot wounds usually end careers. Drugs and domestic abuse draw.Yes, the fame and money might affect these athletes, but they have a responsibility to uphold. Young boys across the country idolize these men as if they're their own fathers or brothers. High school athletes with collegiate aspirations look to the professionals for how to get ahead of the competition. The men playing these sports must understand their duty to provide a good role model for boys across the country that otherwise may not have a role model. If they can't live up to these expectations, then they should not be given the privilege of playing professional sports

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