Solutions for NFL Knuckleheads

Now comes news that Jacksonville can join Cincinnati as NFL cities of this decade who have seen player after player run afoul of the law over and over and over. Drunkenness behind the wheel, as in the case of two Jaguars players busted on separately last Sunday, is absolutely inexcusable. As someone whose family has been in a car slammed by a substance-impaired driver, you can bet that I would have no hesitation nor difficulty finding a highly skilled and voraciously greedy attorney with the capability to get us both a substantial portion of the salary of any pro athlete who got drunk and hit me with his vehicle*.

Should pro teams care? Yes, and not just because of the usual hidden reason of P.R. My position on such things is this: What an employee does on his own time is absolutely none of the employer’s business as long as it’s legal.

Dumb statement of the year: Crime ain’t legal. It’s hard to be a productive worker for your organization if you’re sitting in the jailhouse or in the courtroom for your own criminal actions. Guess what — some of these knuckleheads don’t seem to grasp that concept, despite the fact that enormous individual salaries and the success of the team as a whole is at stake. Michael Vick cost himself and his team untold millions, clearly is hurting his team on the field, and by extension all his teammates and their own potential, by spending time in the can for dogfighting. Was it worth all this to let pit bulls rip each other to shreds in some backwoods dirt hole, Mike?

Cowboys fans forever and justifiably will recall the 1990s Super Bowl titles. There’s a book out now called Greatest Team Ever about them, and on the field, that case can be made with great confidence. Off the field? Most of them (Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Bill Bates, Darren Woodson, on and on…) were good guys of the field too, despite what a few idiots did. Those few idiots sure caused a mess, though, didn’t they?

Recall the days of the “White House” and Michael Irvin, drunken Erik Williams wrecking car and career, Nate Newton’s big bales of weed, and so forth? Because of that garbage, and the resulting damage to the team’s reputation and bottom line (hey, we are talking about Jerry Jone$), the Cowboys did something very smart that the Jags and other teams should follow: Hire a full time staff of counselor/consultant/mentor people. With Dallas, this effort was and is headed by Ivy Leaguer and former Cowboy all-Pro RB Calvin Hill.

It’s a straightforward and proven way for teams to deal with the problem. If the Jags or another team will (and why not!?!?!), it has to hire someone who is smart, motivated, a highly regarded community servant, and especially, has credibility with the players (in other words, a former player). Fortunately for Jone$, Calvin Hill fills the bill, was a loyal Cowboys alumnus disgusted with some of the shenanigans going on off the field, and agreed to take a regularly delivered truckload of coins from Jone$ to prevent even greater damage to the team’s rep and bottom line. [What about caring for the players themselves? You’d like to think that’s part of the motivation too, and we can hope so…but let’s be real. It’s about P.R. and money!]

This doesn’t mean that players will stay out of trouble, of course; and it’s impossible to count, measure or prove incidents that were prevented. But I have no doubt that Calvin Hill and his group have done good things with players on the margins and kept them off the police blotter, at least while they still were on the roster. For this reason, I’m betting that Tank Johnson stays clean and obeys the old Johnny Cash ditty, “Don’t take your guns to town.”

It’s a sad statement on these young men that such measures have to be installed, or that we even have to discuss this. But the ugly truth is that some people only will choose to be responsible if they are told why, and given extrinsic incentives (even beyond their bloated paychecks). That’s a fundamental personality flaw, but one that can and often is overcome.

Responsible, moral and legal behavior, after all, always is a personal choice in the end, no matter the background. I and some others in my schools came from poor homes, saw fighting and drugs and shootings in the streets, pimping, hustling, stealing, dealing, gangbanging, etc.; and we’re not doing that crap today. It’s a choice. For that reason alone (among many others), “background” is an invalid and unacceptable excuse.

Across society, rich or poor, these idiots and their bleeding-heart apologists use lame excuses like “background” or “race” or “context” as crutches and enablers. Not me. There’s right; and there’s wrong. The choice is that clear. It’s no more complex than that. Period. The solution for the individual is simple: Do what’s right, not what’s wrong. How can that be stated any more clearly?

That stated, I am all for teams and organizations doing what’s reasonable and affordable to help those employees on the margins understand what choices to make, and why. Because each person chooses their behavior, and chooses whether to ingest substances that affect their behavior, you can’t blame a pro team for the stupidity of any one single player. When it becomes a pattern, though (e.g., Bengals, Jags) it’s in their best interests to do more on the team end as far as showing intolerance for and prevention of off-the-field knuckleheadedness. Dallas did, and thank God! As for those who still choose crime, up the river with ’em. You can only lead a horse to water…

* As it was, even though the pot-smoking, drag-racing piece of societal sewage who hit us was jobless and indigent, we still managed to get a portion of my kids’ college education funded as a result. And that dude never will be able to walk straight again or look in the mirror without seeing a deep laceration scar. So I’m satisfied that, indeed, justice can be done, despite the fact I didn’t get the personal satisfaction of kicking the hell out of that moron. After all, Dad told me never to beat up a cripple…and the Lord told me to forgive my enemies. The latter didn’t say it would be easy, though!


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