What exactly are we beating?

Sports are obviously about beating someone – the opponent. But no one can turn a blind eye to the beatings that have been all over the media lately, headlined by Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings.

I’m all about high level competition, and I’m constantly amazed by the almost unreal performances of gifted athletes, but until recently, I’ve never given much thought to the damage that these same gifted individuals can cause.

Names like O.J. Simpson, Michael Vick and Aaron Hernandez come to mind when we think of traditional NFL monsters, but the list goes on and on. Now, with Rice and Peterson added to the list, the league is finally coming under fire and I think it’s safe to say change is inevitible.

When you’re constantly watching someone and making them a public figure, you’re setting them up for failure. But they know what they’re signing up for, and they gladly accept the limelight when they take their multimillion dollar signing bonuses. As of late, it seems like they’re also signing up for invincibility.

A professional athlete might ask themself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” And then instantly respond: “I don’t know, maybe a two-game suspension, maybe six games, oh wait now a lifetime ban from the league.”

When it comes down to it, these athletes don’t know how they’ll be penalized, and that’s why they’re willing to do the crime. The inconsistency of punishment within the league is exactly what promotes the consistency of incidents. Honestly, if I knew I could get away with something I shouldn’t, I would probably do it, too.

But that’s the norm for these athletes. Because they’re superhuman freaks of athleticism, we hold them to higher standards when it comes to performance on the field and then cause a media storm when they perform poorly off the field. Poor off the field performances should illicit the same punishment that any normal person would receive – but we all know that isn’t always the case.

When I watch the video of Rice knocking his wife unconscious and see the photos of Peterson’s four-year old son, I can’t help but cringe. And the fact that Rice’s now-wife, Janay, chose to marry him after the incident, makes me cringe even more. Both men exceed 200 pounds and are at the peak of their body’s strength due to weightlifting, workouts and strict diets. Their victims were indefensible, just as I would be in their situation. These are the men that I look up to: the men that we watch every Sunday and the men that I hope to work with someday.

I understand that everyone makes mistakes. I understand that Rice was intoxicated, and that Peterson was punishing his child for bad behavior. But when you’re an exceptional person, shouldn’t you behave exceptionally at all times? They know cameras are always running, and they know they’re under constant criticism. I don’t know if this says more about their levels of intelligence or their character. Either way, these aren’t men that I want to look up to anymore.

I hope they can both come out of this as better people. I also hope that Janay finds the strength to leave her husband, and that Peterson’s son is never touched by a man five times his size again. But mostly, I hope that the NFL can get it together and punish them justly, and soon.

Do I blame NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for these incidents? No. (I do blame him for some other things, but that’s a whole other column to be written.) I blame these individuals, because they’re the ones at fault. With the world at their fingertips, they decided to hurt not only their loved ones, but their colleagues and fans. They’re giving a bad reputation to a whole group through their actions. Instead of paying for counseling – which would be pocket change for these men – or taking their anger problems out on the field, they made their lives our issues, and these issues aren’t going away any time soon.

 

Column by Mallory Tucker, Sports Editor