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Hate the player, not the game

Athletes like Vick, Owens sometimes get off too easy

Posted: Thursday May 17, 2007 4:38PM; Updated: Friday May 18, 2007 10:04AM
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There has been lots of discussion about Michael Vick's influences, but what about the Vick's influence on his friends?
There has been lots of discussion about Michael Vick's influences, but what about the Vick's influence on his friends?
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Bill Y. of Canandaigua, in New York's Finger Lakes district, is not ready to let go of the matter of Michael Vick and the fighting dogs and the whole area of Roger Goodell's crackdown on the NFL's bad boys. OK, I've already expressed myself on where I stand on animal torture, but now I'll broaden this to include the whole area of superior athletes who get in trouble.

For some reason there seems to exist a kind of mythology that someone skilled at smashing a baseball or catching a pass or stuffing a ball in a hoop could not possibly, of his own free will, perform an act that would land him in prison. The euphemisms you constantly hear, and boy, am I sick of them, are: "He made a wrong decision," and "He hung around with the wrong people." Did you ever stop to think that maybe he didn't make a wrong decision at all? Maybe it was a perfectly normal decision, for him, that he'd been making those kinds of decisions all his life?

I mean there are some lawbreakers whose whole history is a highlight reel of anti-social behavior. I'm thinking of Maurice Clarett, who had a reputation as far back as early high school.

And why do we assume that the kind of free loaders who hang around ball players, and God knows why they want them around, actually can exert some kind of leadership influence over them? Most of them couldn't lead themselves from the couch to the armchair. Maybe they are not leading, but being led -- by the same guy with the wrong decisions, the super athlete. Maybe he isn't the one who's hanging around with the wrong people, it's those people who are hanging around with somebody wrong -- him.

I know this isn't a popular position, and no one is saying an unfortunate situation can't be turned around. But the "one mistake" we are told a guy made probably can be multiplied many times. This is just the one that got him.

And as a follow-up, let me offer thanks to John Frazier of Cardiff, Calif., a longtime reader and first-time writer, who appreciates the beautiful sentiments of Henry Beston as much as I do and has promised he is on his way to the bookstore to buy The Outermost House. This earns you the E-mailer of the Week Award, John, but the thing is refundable if Andrew, who is monitoring your purchases, reports that you just paid lip service to the gesture and never bought the book at all. As you know, we do have our own spy network here.

And over to the Hall of Fame we go ... seems that we generally manage to wind up there every week, at least in the offseason. Kipps of North Bay, Ontario, says that if I'm anti-Randy Moss, then surely I have to have kinder feelings toward Terrell Owens, whose on-field commitment cannot be questioned, despite "Peter King's crying about his alligator arms." Waddya mean, crying? Put me down as agreeing with Peter. In San Francisco T.O. would give up on patterns and passes that called for him to extend himself in ways he didn't care for. He was notorious for that. And then he'd blame Jeff Garcia, of course. He wasn't as bad in Philly and Dallas, but you could see it every now and then. But here's the thing I don't like about him. He's a bully. He's got a mean streak. You'll notice that whenever he went after someone, it was when the person was in a weakened situation.

He took heavy shots at Garcia when the QB was struggling, even questioning his sexuality. He kept a careful eye on Donovan McNabb, and waited until he showed weakness, following the Super Bowl loss. Then he went after him. And now that Bill Parcells has retired, tired and discouraged, Terrell has begun to open up with his sniper fire. Hall of Fame? Not if I'm still a selector.

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