John Feinstein offers an insightful and timely argument in today’s edition of The Washington Post. In “Teach the ‘Good Kids,’” Feinstein explains that athletes often get a pass on bad behavior — even criminal behavior — because teams are desperate for their talent.
Feinstein begins his column by referring to former Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick, who was kicked off the team after stomping on the leg of a University of Louisville player in the Gator Bowl. After being kicked off the team for bad behavior on and off the field (he was in trouble this past weekend for threatening three teenagers with a gun), Vick retorted: “It’s not a big deal. . . . I’ll just move to the next level, baby.” As Feinstein explains, Vick is almost surely right. Some professional team will sign him, bad behavior notwithstanding.
From his article:
And the truth is that if he can play, he’ll be welcome at the next level. Professional sports teams don’t care if you’ve been to jail, been stopped a hundred times for traffic violations, stomped on 10 opponents’ legs or made profane gestures at opposing fans (which Vick did at least once this season). They care if you can play. Period.
All of which brings us to an issue that goes well beyond the troubles of Marcus Vick. His story reflects a much larger problem at all levels of sports: the existence of a place that we might call, for want of a better term, “The Land of Never Wrong.”
This is where truly gifted athletes live. They are given second, third, fourth and 15th chances solely because of their talent. That’s why so many of them come to believe that rules and laws, even rules of decent behavior, don’t apply to them.