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Jones should not be forgiven so easily

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Posted: Thursday October 14, 1999 10:06 AM


By Jeff Pearlman, Sports Illustrated

ATLANTA -- Chipper Jones approached home plate in the bottom of the first inning last night, and Atlanta's Turner Field went bonkers. Men cheered their lungs out. Kids cheered their lungs out. Women, too.

Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh, Chipppppaaaaaahhhh!!!!!

Goooooooooooooo, Chipppppaaaaaahhhh!!!!!

We love you, Chipppppaaaaaahhhh!!!!!

A warm and giving place, Turner Field is. A forgetful one as well. This was the same Chipper Jones who, just last March, filed for divorce from Karin Fulford, his wife of 6 1/2 years. Filing for divorce ain't no big deal (everybody's doing it), unless such has been caused by the lengthy affair you had with a Hooters waitress; by the son who -- surprise, Honey! -- wasn't born to your spouse.

This is the Chipper Jones we should remember.

This is the Chipper Jones everyone has forgotten.

It is funny to me, the way fame finds forgiveness. Just yesterday morning, USA Today came out with a glowing front page story on Chipper and the demons that nearly destroyed him. It was typical of what's been written of the man.

Read the piece: "Standing at third base, the Atlanta Braves superstar would look up into the Turner Field seats, see all those homemade 'We Love You, Chipper' signs and feel as if he would throw up.

"During each at-bat, he would flash to the faces of all those kids wearing his name and uniform number on their Braves T-shirts and jerseys, and he'd wish he could hide.

"His secrets were suffocating him. A hero? Anything but."

Sniff, sniff.

As I sat at Turner last night, watching fans stream through the concession lines to their seats, every other patron seemed to be wearing Chipper's T-shirt. Again, there were men; there were kids; women, too. Would Chipper have been so remorseful had he not been, ahem, caught? Does character matter anymore? Did character ever matter? Does it only matter if you bat .220 with six homers, not .319 with 45? Each year, thousands upon thousands of American men cheat on their wives. Men who are construction workers and contractors and CEOs and taxi drivers and chefs and police officers and clergymen and dog catchers and teachers and therapists. They are caught. They are thrown out. Their lives are -- 99% of the time -- ruined. It is a fair punishment.

Chipper Jones was caught. He was thrown out. He is the most beloved player in Atlanta.

Perhaps their transgressions rest on higher clouds of evil, but why has it taken Lawrence Phillips and Latrell Sprewell and Jose Canseco so long to regain their halos, while Chipper comes clean, sheds a couple o' tears and walks free?

Chipper Jones cheated on his wife with a Hooters waitress and had an illegitimate kid. This is not the story of a nice guy who -- oopsy daisy -- slipped up and has come back strong. It is a story of character flaw, deception, Hooters' world-famous chicken wings, and the last name your kid should have on the back of his or her T.

Jeff Pearlman is a Sports Illustrated staff writer.

The opinions expressed here are solely those of the writer.

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