When I was a kid I lived in a very small town. We had a weekly newspaper that kept up with the goings-on in the town and one of the best parts was the police blotter that was included. Usually there were only about 4 items a week, but I always hoped some huge crime had happened or someone I knew had gotten arrested so that things would get exciting around our parts. Well as I'm realizing over the past few months, if our little town back in Connecticut can have a weekly police blotter for such things as speeding tickets and petty theft, than the NFL should too for all the arrests that occur on a nearly daily basis.
Brandon Marshall, a wide reciever for the Denver Broncos, was arrested for the third time this year yesterday for hitting his girlfriend. In other news, grass is green (except in Athens, go drought!!). Last week another wide reciever, Javon Walker, had his ass whooped in Vegas after apparently spraying a crowd with champagne. Cedric Benson has been arrested twice for DUI charges. Jevon Kearse got a DUI arrest last week. The list of players goes on and on. I'm even going to argue that this current NFL is the most crime-infested league in the history of American sports, and yet somehow the league is as teflon as ever. Television ratings continue to be high and the popularity of the sport is easily number 1 even if every team seems to have multiple players arrested during a typical offseason.
While the crimes committed by players in the NFL players are both terrible and embarrasing, they are not even considered to be a 'thug' league by society in general. Actually, college football is thought to be much more crime-ridden than the pro's even though that assumption is absolutely false. While players do get arrested on college teams, it should be considered that college teams have many more players therefore making crime more likely simply by sheer number. Secondly, it should be remembered that college players are, surprise suprise, college age. I know for a fact that I did some stupid shit in college that probably could have been arrested for, and I bet you every journalist or TV commentator that rags on thuggish college kids could say the same. The thing about NFL players is that they are grown ass men. I'm almost 25 now and i've cut out a lot of the stupid things in my life, why shouldn't NFL players be able to?
Another league that is commonly referred to as a "thug league" is the NBA. If you never actually watched a game, you'd think that every player in the league is a rapper wannabe who spends times with hoodlums and smokes weed. In reality, the NBA is filled with great people, black and white mind you, who have done a lot to clean up the image of the league while being highly active in charity and outreach events. Two examples of this include the league-wide effort to rebuild New Orleans during the All-Star weekend, and Stephon Marbury creating his own basketball shoe to be sold for 15$ so inner city kids could affort them. And yet these two events are spun in a way by our society so that potential crime at all-star weekend is a bigger story, and that Marbury is a selfish punk who only cares about himself, despite the fact that he's created his affordable shoe line and has donated over a million dollars to New York Public Schools.
As is usually the case, there are a lot of people to blame for this situation. Here's who should be taken to task, and what they are doing wrong:
1. The entire NFL. Its bad enough for the players and coaches in the NFL to do so many stupid things to get arrested, but its even worse for such a popular and succesful league to let this culture of violence be allowed to exist. Sure Roger Goodell played to the PR set pretty well by crucifying Michael Vick, and I guess he's done a fair job of suspending players with a criminal history, but its still pretty obvious that his own players don't fear his suspension policy. Its not stopping these guys from driving drunk, beating up their wives, being involved in drugs and possibly committing murders, so obviously something else has to be done. First of all, Goodell should make it clear that NO crime can be permitted, and if you do something stupid you are out of the league for good. If I got arrested, my employer would fire me tomorrow and it would be extremely hard for me ever to get a decent job again. So tell me why an NFL player should be any different, because he can catch a ball? Or because he's fat? The league should make it known that if you want to do stupid stuff, you don't belong. I really doubt Chicago would miss Cedric Benson, or the Broncos would miss Brandon Marshall in the long run.
2. TV Media. Not only does the media have a very visible love affair with the NFL, but it also has a pretty obvious bias towards the NBA and other sports. When a football player gets arrested, it usually draws a few murmors from the sports stations and a blurb on the bottom line of those news channels, but rarely is the story more deeply covered unless a station is forced to. This is because many major networks are in bed with the NFL and it would be bad business for them to draw a negative light towards the sport that pays the most bills. You think ESPN is going to hype up NFL crime the same way it does other sports, when it relies of Monday Night Football for so much revenue. And do you think GE, which owns NBC, is going to dedicate time to its networks to criticize the NFL when its trying to entice casual viewers to watch its Sunday Night Football telecasts? On the opposite end of the spectrum, any little news that comes out of the NBA is made into a huge deal. Carmelo Anthony has pretty much been vilified for a DUI arrest, which while stupid and dangerous is no different than what happens in other sports constantly. Shaq's apparent freestyle about Kobe is not just a story about two spoiled men with immense ego's, yet has to be something more about the thug rapper culture that permeates in the NBA. And events such as fights between teams like the Nuggets and Knicks are blown out of proportion to be an indictment of the entire league and its African-American players despite the fact that the same sort of event is glorified in sports like baseball and hockey, and worshiped as competitive fire in the NFL. With a double standard so evident in coverage, it's pretty obvious that public perception is trying to force people to like one sport more than another. Its pretty dumb for people to believe this crap, but I guess I wouldn't have a third group to blame if they didn't.
3. Our stupid society. While this last point could go on forever, I'll try to sum up this point in how it relates to this specific topic by saying that its time for people to try to form their own opinions and understandings based on their own experiences than by assuming that what someone else says is true. If I had a friend tell me that the Waffle House was the greatest resturant in the world and I believed him at face value, my own opinion on Waffle House would be invalidated because I never experienced their food enough to agree or disagree with his claim. Only by going to Waffle House and realizing that it is in fact the shittiest resturant in the world do I have the requisite evidence to not only question my friend's opinion but to support my own opinion. In the same way, we live in a society in which we are told what to think by others, instead of being encouraged to form our own individual opinions. And if what we are told plays into our pre-conceived notions of black men and their pursuits in life, than all the more better. 99% percent of casual American sports fans think Allen Iverson is a complete thug riding around smoking weed and slapping bitches, yet none of them have actually met him and gotten to know who he truly is. Iverson may in fact be exactly that, but it is unfair and wrong to assume anything about someone you really have no idea about. Yet because America seems to still fear black people so much, they eat up the idea that players in the NBA are threats to them, and that white NFL superstars like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are better people who we can feel safe in giving our adoration to, even though we know just as much about their true character as we do about Carmelo Anthony or Ron Artest. Racism is old, outdated and completely uneccesary, and it makes me embarrased that the majority of our society still uses it to form narrow-minded opinions of people and cultures they are simply too lazy and ignorant to try and better understand.
Tonight is the NBA Draft. One of the top prospects, Michael Beasley, is reported to be dropping because of "character issues". Among these character issues are that he is immature, and that he may not be totally dedicated to basketball. The evidence used to support this claim is that he carried around 4 cell phones in college, pulled a prank on a teacher once and attended 6 different high schools. What is failed to be mentioned is that Beasley is only 19 years old and that as a college superstar in a small town in Kansas, he was probably the center of attention anywhere he went. And I'd be willing to guess that there were other important factors playing into him moving around so much in high school than simply that he was immature. All of these indictments against Beasley not only further drive pre-conceived notions of NBA players and the sport in general, but also plants the seeds for opinion to be formed on Beasley based on racial stereotypes before the kid (19 is still a kid folks) has even bounced a basketball in the pro's once. So now if Beasley fails to win 10 NBA Titles or become the next Tim Duncan, its because he's lazy and immature instead of being that is simply not good enough to be what people expected him to be. I guess people can be critical of Beasley to a point, and the NBA isn't exactly the most wholesome organization of the face of the planet, but its situations like these that sum of the point i'm trying to make perfectly. In the NFL you can literally get away with murder, in the NBA you can't have more than one cell phone. Hopefully people will turn down Bill O'Reilly, Nancy Grace or the talking heads on ESPN long enough to realize the existence of this dichotomy, but then again this is America, where double-standards are about as common as high gas prices.