Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Bad Childhood Defense

Gene Wojciechowski has an column titled "Common lives, plenty of questions for Vick, Clarett." This particular column, which deals with the travails of Maurice Clarett and Marcus Vick, is a classic example of cliched sportswriting about how the troubles that sociopathic jocks face are all attributable to their traumatic childhoods.

The column is about what you'd expect. It's full of existential angst (
"they share a childhood, a confusion, a confluence of circumstances that should give you pause before dismissing them as knuckleheads who deserve whatever bed they've short-sheeted"), bad metaphors ("Vick grew up in a part of Newport News, Va., that was harder than the back of your father's hand") and the inevitable self-serving quote from one of the sociopaths himself ("You don't know what I've been through, so you can't judge me"). Wojciechowski lets you know he really has nothing to say about either Vick or Clarett by concluding his column like the lazy man on deadline that he is: "But whatever happens, I'm not going to judge. That's for someone else to do."

Ah, yes, the old "Sermon on the Mount" punt, much beloved by muddy headed thinkers and bleeding hearts everywhere. Isn't it funny how frequently this part of the Sermon on the Mount gets tossed around, and how infrequently you see references to some of the other parts of it? Like, for example, the part where Jesus says "by their fruits ye shall know them."

I find it remarkable that sportswriters like Wojciechowski are so willing to excuse or explain away bad conduct by guys who, unlike millions of other people in this country with equally tragic childhoods, have been singled out for special treatment because of their athletic ability since before they started high school. Where's the sympathy for the poor black kid from a broken home who doesn't run a 4.5 forty? If you don't mind, I'll save the kind hearts and coronets for that kid. Clarett and Vick had opportunities that go to one kid in a million, and because of their talent, had second chance after second chance from teachers, coaches, the justice system--you name it.

Tell me, what would you say the chances are for a kid from Youngstown with three stints in a juvenile detention center to get Ohio State to not only admit him, but pick up the tab for his college education and provide him with personal tutors to make sure he passes his classes? Unless that kid's an athlete like Maurice Clarett, I'd say they're about zero. Oh sure, they don't do it out of the goodness of their hearts; they do it for the money that the football program generates. But so what? The point is that they do it.

You're not being compassionate when you refuse to pass judgment on guys like Clarett and Vick--you're being an enabler, which is the last thing an 18 year old pumped full of ego and testosterone needs. Remember, college and pro sports are full of guys with backgrounds like Clarett and Vick's, but the vast majority of those guys somehow manage to make good decisions and go on to successful lives. Sure, there's a lot that's screwed up about college athletics and American society, but when somebody's handed a golden ticket, it's his own damn fault if he tears it up.

1 comment:

Vinny said...

Can I get an "Amen" for Brother Rhino?