A player's worst foul

NFL running back scores zero points for offensive comments

Remember the days when all you knew about your favorite athlete or singer or actor was that he or she could play or sing or act really well?

Wouldn't it be great to go back there about now?

Instead, the Dixie Chicks, the Danny Glovers and Sean Penns and the Barbra Streisands and all the rest just have to tell you what they think. How doltish your president is. How great Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez are. How awful America is.

Now you're being told by your latest friendly neighborhood know-it-all celebrity -- Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall -- that it's wrong for folks to have reacted happily at the death of Osama bin Laden. And do you know why?

Because bin Laden was "a man they have never even heard speak. We've only heard one side," Mendenhall wrote in a "tweet" on the social networking website Twitter.

That thunder you hear is the rest of the Steelers organization running from Mendenhall like they're after a loose football. And for good reason.

It's one of the dumbest, most ignorant, offensive things you'll ever read.

For one thing, the world heard plenty from Osama bin Laden -- in threat after threat, in exhortation after exhortation to Muslims over the decades to kill Westerners. Where in the world was Mendenhall when all that was happening?

For another thing, what in the world does this guy think the "other side" is? Should we line up to hear the finer points of killing innocent men, women and children -- such as the approximately 3,000 souls bin Laden ordered killed in cold blood on 9-11? Pray tell, Mr. Mendenhall, just what is the other side?

To make matters worse, in a "clarification" after a torrent of criticism, Mendenhall tried to come off as pro-United States and pro-troops -- but wrote that his "controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder."

Two problems with that.

First, his use of the term "murder" -- which connotes an unjustified, criminal act. Is that what he thinks of killing the world's most heinous terrorist? That our forces committed a "murder"?

You're not exactly tamping down the critics, pal.

Second, those who are critical of the spontaneous outburst of relief and joy Sunday night simply don't understand what's at work. It wasn't celebrating anyone's death -- anymore than the parades and ticker tape and kissing of strange women in the street after the end of World War II was meant to fête the deaths of so many Japanese or Germans. It was the elation and relief of knowing that a terrible chapter was over, that a new day was dawning.

If only that new dawn could bring back the days when celebrities didn't feel it necessary to share every banal notion that seeps into their heads.

Social media such as Twitter are great ways to see into the lives of the athletes, singers and actors whose careers we like to follow. Be warned, though: That allows us glimpses inside their heads.

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