Monday, September 27, 2010

On Braylon Edwards

So some people I've done interviews with in recent weeks have asked me, since I wrote a book about the 1980s, whether I think that was the moment when athletes became overly entitled, spoiled, insufferable bozos. I don't pretend to believe it's that simple. I think we often overreact, especially when athletes engage in harmless acts of self-aggrandizement. I think it's too easy to fall back on lazy stereotypes. I think most of the time, it's best to examine these things on a case-by-case basis.

I mean, I get what the NFL is trying to do. There's more attention than ever paid to the transgressions of modern athletes, and since sports are a business, this business must be carefully controlled. But I do find Roger Goodell's crusade to rid the NFL of misbehavior a little Orwellian, largely because this new standard of "personal conduct" seems remarkably arbitrary. I don't understand what's truly "bad" and what isn't. Case in point: Braylon Edwards drove drunk in a city with so many readily available car/limousine/taxi services--not to mention construction/traffic/bridge closure issues--that he should be suspended simply for violating the league's common sense clause. And there was no punishment for this. Not really. The Jets suspended him for exactly 17 plays, and in a moment of refreshing honesty, their general manager essentially admitted they weren't suspending him any longer because they wanted to win a football game. Which they did.

So it would seem that DUI--apparently the most common of NFL transgressions--is not a suspension-worthy offense unless someone is killed in the process. And I understand that there are union issues that complicate these matters, but this lack of a defined standard, I think, makes it more difficult to Goodell to consistently take the moral high defend, say, the suspension of Ben Roethlisberger for a large chunk of a season for incidents in which he was never officially charged. And it also makes it more difficult to forward the notion that an NFL defensive back named Tanard Jackson, who apparently endangered no one (perhaps not even himself, depending upon his choice of drug), is somehow being more "selfish" than a man who drives while intoxicated for no apparent reason at all.

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