Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Don't judge all athletes the same

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It's been another dark spring for athlete criminal misbehavior against women, with outcomes ranging from disgusting to horrifying.

The police-blotter roll call includes Ben Roethlisberger's escapades in Milledgeville, Zach Mettenberger's drunken gropes in Remerton, Lawrence Taylor's alleged rape of a minor in New Jersey and a college lacrosse player's charged beating death of a former girlfriend in Virginia.

Assuming all the allegations of fact are true, these four men rank right below Neanderthal in their evolution of personal conduct. They make Tiger Woods seem like a paragon of male discipline in comparison. They all deserve double whatever consequences they are dealt by various authorities.

What doesn't deserve to happen is that all male athletes get branded as the same classless species as these idiots.

As soon as any athlete gets in trouble, the "experts" crawl out of the woodwork to generalize on the theme. You'd be stunned at the amount of e-mail solicitations that get sent to sports writers and broadcasters offering their take on what the latest scandal means in the broader scheme of things. I personally can't delete this intellectual spam fast enough.

Unfortunately, some media take the bait. The 24-hour news cycle requires that every bit of available space gets filled, and most of it with garbage.

The analysis on the TV news about the disturbing case surrounding the lacrosse murder at Virginia is a classic example. It is a horrifying story in which men's senior reserve George Huguely violently attacked women's player Yeardley Love, a former girlfriend. Huguely reportedly admitted to banging her head against the wall until she fell dead in a pool of her own blood.

It is a grisly story that makes you ache for the victim who was to graduate in just a few weeks.

That they were both athletes is, frankly, irrelevant to the circumstances. From all accounts, Huguely is a disturbed young man who was often on the edge of tragic eruption.

But the good folks at ABC News (among others) jumped on the stereotype bandwagon because this tale involves athletes. They dragged in former FBI special agent Brad Garrett (let's presume he's no relation to the one who played the cop brother on Everybody Loves Raymond ) to add his uninformed two cents on the case and brand all athletes as flawed.

Garrett suggests that Huguely's "star-athlete" status and the attention bestowed on him as such is what likely influenced his behavior in dealing with others. (Never mind that Huguely never started a single game in four years on one of the nation's elite lacrosse teams -- for the purposes of this generalization, he is deemed an "All-American star.")

"They almost feel like they're royalty," Garrett said in a blanket indictment. "The problem with all that is they never really develop empathy, they never develop an ability to care about other people."

Nothing like smearing the majority with the flaws of an individual. If we did that to any race or creed it would be called prejudice, bigotry or profiling. Guess it's perfectly P.C. to label athletes with gross generalizations.

Certainly some superstar athletes are inclined to develop a sense of entitlement that can on occasion lead to poor behavioral choices. But the vast majority of people in sports are as upstanding as most everyone else in society. And the vast majority of crimes -- including violence committed against women -- are perpetrated by folks with no athletic affiliation whatsoever.

It's human nature to see a spate of headlines involving athlete misbehavior and start jumping to conclusions. A run of alcohol-related infractions at the University of Georgia, for instance, can cast a disproportionate shadow on the athletic program. In truth, misconduct involving athletes on any campus is by-and-large proportional to the entire student population. The athletes, however, tend to be the stories that get the most publicity.

So let's not fall for the rhetoric of the so-called experts. Just judge on the facts available.

This Virginia lacrosse player was an uncontrolled menace to society. L.T. harbors demons few of us can imagine. Roethlisberger displays serial womanizing tendencies.

These are all flawed men who happen to also be athletes. Certainly some of their lifestyles contributed to their transgressions.

But let's leave the lawnchair psychology demonizing sports culture and its participants behind. These individuals made the choices to be bad human beings all on their own.


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