Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hero Worship and the Fans' Warped Perspective

After a couple of recent incidents involving scuffles and the apparent drug use of some of his friends, Adam PacMan Jones has been under fire here in Titantown. I listen every day to both local afternoon sports talk shows, and between the hosts of those shows and their callers, Pac Man has been getting shelled. He's getting called Punk Man and Thug Man. There are a number of writers in the Tennessean that have taken just as harsh a stance. Many are calling for the Titans to cut the kid, which is ludicrous for a couple reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Jones isn't even signed yet.

And I think it's important to take a moment and state that this is a troubled kid. He's barely out of college, not yet signed by the NFL team that drafted him, and he's already had three incidents involving fights and police, all of them relating to the behavior of his "posse" (someone wanna tell me why this guy already has a posse?). Cleary there are lessons he needs to learn. And I think a large amount of the criticism is justified and necessary if he's ever going to grow up.

But the backlash has been, in my opinion, WAY too big and FAR too sustained. And here's why:

He's a kid. He's fresh out of college. Let's look at his incidents since being drafted: two bar fights, and one rumored run-in at the Gaylord Entertainment Center where his posse was smoking weed. Is it just me, or does this sound like a whole lot of college kids? As unfortunate as it is, bar fights and having a posse and smoking drugs are fairly common behaviors for guys his age. But because he's a football player, and because he's about to be a Titan, we are acting as though his actions are an unexpected surprise. Granted, any player who hopes to have a long career in the NFL needs to be conscious of off-the-field actions, and we cross our fingers and pray that such a player acts right. But to pretend to be floored when he gets in a bar fight is just hypocritical to me.

The other thing about this that bothers me is that Jones is receiving more vitriol and venom from the local media and fans than any of the other Titans who have had a run-in with the law recently. For the record: Samari Rolle was arrested for beating his wife. Steve McNair was caught driving drunk with a loaded gun in the vehicle. Brad Hopkins assaulted his wife in a public parking lot. Tank Williams was arrested this off season for drunken driving. Tyrone Calico was cited for public indecency for having sex in a car with a young girl while the car was parked on a public street. And if I'm not mistaken, our new running back that everyone seems to be embracing, Travis Henry, has had at least one underage-girl-related incident in his past too. (side note: be glad we don't have Najeh Davenport on our roster, who in the past year was accused of sneaking into a college dorm room to defecate on an ex-girlfriend's belongings).

Now, I don't necessarily think that we should split hairs on what type of arrests are the worst--any arrests for our professional athletes are unacceptable--but I would have to say, looking at that list, that getting in a bar fight and hanging around guys that smoke marijuana are among the lowest on the totem pole of Titans off-field mistakes.

Why do we give McNair, Hopkins, Rolle, Williams, Calico, and Henry a pass while we pummel this kid for a fist fight? Doesn't that seem to be speaking out of both sides of our mouth? And I know the reason: it's because we already know and love these other Titans players. We've seen them don the uniform and compete at the Coliseum. We've bought jerseys with their names on them. McNair led us to the Super Bowl. So we give them more leeway than the new kid. But isn't that the exact opposite of what it should be? Shouldn't the younger guys get the leeway, and the older guys who've been in the league a while get blasted for acting stupid? Personally, I loathe drunk drivers and wife-beaters. And while I wish Pac Man had chosen to walk away rather than fight...and that he had chosen his friends more wisely, I can't honestly get as worked up about bar fights and weed.

What's most alarming to me, though, is the local media's insistence that they are being fair. Yesterday afternoon, a caller from Huntsville (who listens through the stream on the web, and who lived here for ten years before moving to Alabama) called in and basically told the 104.5 The Zone crew all the stuff I just mentioned...that while Pac Man screwed up and should be held accountable, we were being too harsh on him compared with the other Titans who have screwed up even worse. And do you know what George Plaster, arguably the most popular sports talk guy in Nashville, said in response to this thoughtful critique? He got hot under the collar and clearly bristled at the criticism...and then he told the gentleman from Huntsville, "You aren't here. You don't know all that's gone on. There have been several incidents you don't know about. You aren't here." Man, that fired me up...enough to write this post.

Why can't sports media types ever admit they're wrong? Or they overreacted? Why is it so hard for Plaster and his kind to see that saying relatively nothing negative about McNair's arrest for drunk driving (with a gun in the car) and then spending a week bashing an unsigned rookie for a bar fight is not fair and equal treatment. It's not impartial.

Personally I would like to see a world where athletes act like role models, where no Titans are arrested for foolish and illegal behavior. But before we go branding Adam Jones a lost cause, let's keep in mind a few things: he's young (young enough to learn), he hasn't been convicted of anything yet, and he's far from the first of our Titans to act like an idiot and break the law. So let's keep this fair and even-handed, shall we? Because I don't think it's right to call him Punk Man if you're not also going to make references to Brad Bopkins ("bop" as in punching his wife) or Samari Rolle-Your-Wife or Drunk Tank Williams (as in the police station drunk tank) or Steve McDrinky-Drive...well, you get my drift. Let's not give some players the benefit of the doubt just because we already got their autograph and bought their poster. Let's hold all professional athletes accountable for their actions to the same degree.

Thanks for letting me rant.


At 7/19/2005 01:27:00 PM, Blogger NLock said...

This makes sense to me, but I believe the public statement by the Titans organization says just about the same thing. He's an immature guy and he hasn't had a chance to go through the maturation process yet. But all of us come to our professions with some level of behavior control, some kind of "that ain't right" built in. I don't think the "maturing process" takes place inside the Titan organizational vacuum, you have to come to the table with some savvy. I fear his contract is in danger and it's time for a come to Jesus meeting. Bring him into the board room with a big table, Jeff Fisher sitting down at the end of it, Bud Adams sitting there, and say, "One more time and you are out of here. Kiss any kind of contract good bye." Give him a chance to let this media frenzy sink into his brain (start the maturing process) and lay the facts on the table.

At 7/19/2005 01:34:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Totally down with everything you've said.

I'm just saying that there seems to me to be no more reason to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with Jones than with any of the other players I listed.

If we're going to sit down young Pac Man and have a heart to heart and say, "One more time and you're gone, kid," then we need to have the exact same talk with any Titan that breaks the law...regardless of veteran status.

I think Jones is an idiot and a hot head. I don't think for a second we should come off of our criticism of him. My point is that there was no such similar criticism (in terms of heated words and length of the grudge held) for the other guys...and that seems to me to be wrong.

Granted, the Titans have been clear in admonishing all the players equally...and my beef isn't with the organization. But the fans and the media are holding on to this Pac Man stuff way longer than they did with any of the other athlete's misbehaviors...and that doesn't make sense to me.

Nice to meet you by the way, Tim...at least to meet you electronically. Always good to have another voice on the blog.

At 7/19/2005 01:41:00 PM, Blogger NLock said...

True. This guy isn't even on the team yet and the media is over-asserting his star power. So far no pattern of equally aggressive media flame jobs for the big stars and leaves you thinking....wtf...

Hey, good to meet you, too, and thanks for having me on.

At 7/19/2005 05:18:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

It's that media mentality that has crept into sports. Kenny Rogers goes ballistic and I'm hearing people say, "He should be fired!" and well, yeah. He's 40. He knows better.

But now, suddenly, that same attitude goes toward 22-year-old kids. I think half the NFL would be talent deficient if they cut everyone who ever did anything during or immediately after college.

At 7/20/2005 07:21:00 AM, Blogger NLock said...

Talent would definitely diminish. One thing about it, though, you can give one more chance to the young kid with no contract and no money and still benefit from his talents. Then after they get a contract and start making money and maturing, hit them with a hefty fine if they screw it up again. Hey, it hurts me when I have to pay a $175 speeding ticket...makes me slow down a little bit. So don't fire 'em just fine 'em enough to make it hurt. Poor guy might have to hold off on the beach house until next year you know.

At 7/20/2005 08:55:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Wow. $175 speeding ticket? How fast were you going?

At 7/20/2005 10:23:00 AM, Blogger NLock said...

Dood, i was doing 40 in a 30. Crap....now I go like 28 down that street.

At 7/20/2005 10:28:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Man, that is some serious fine-age! I can't believe they're able to charge that much for such a small infraction.

At 7/21/2005 09:11:00 AM, Blogger Kevin Rector said...

This is an excellent post. Possibly the best post ever on L&N. Very well written and articulate. It should be an Op-Ed piece in the Tennessean and KW should get paid for writing it.

That's just my two cents.


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