Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Bit of Sport-Related Confusion

So, I initially thought that I’d inaugurate this blog with some kind of review of this year’s Bonnaroo festival, from which I returned two days ago. However, this morning, I came upon a bit of startling news from the sports world (yes, I’ll probably write about sports from time to time). Said news involves troubled Cleveland Browns receiver Donte Stallworth.
For those who don’t know, Stallworth recently plead guilty to charges of manslaughter for killing a pedestrian while driving drunk. He was clearly at fault, and there is no excuse for what he did; a man is dead because Stallworth made a colossal mistake, one that hundreds make yearly, albeit usually with less serious consequences.

The court system handed Stallworth a 30-day prison sentence, along with two years of house arrest and eight of probation. Undoubtedly, Stallworth got off on the light side; he could have served 15 years in prison, as many others certainly do for the same crime. The presiding judge likely thought that Stallworth’s obvious and apparently heartfelt remorse, along with a private settlement he made to the victim’s family, deserved a certain amount of leniency. In this case, I agree; the man clearly knows what he did wrong, and while I think the judge went a little on the light side, I do not think a 15-year sentence would have been appropriate.

More confusing to me is the second piece of Stallworth’s punishment, an indefinite suspension handed down by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Read again: indefinite suspension. This means that Goodell could change his mind and reinstate Stallworth tomorrow, but it could also mean that he never touches a football again.

Have no doubt, friends: Stallworth’s career will never be the same again. I have my doubts as to whether or not he will ever play again. This places him in the same category as Michael Vick and Pacman Jones, to a lesser extent. Think about Vick’s current situation: he is in house arrest, out of prison, but utterly and completely broke, having filed for chapter 11 weeks ago. Some think that he will find a place in the NFL again, but I have my doubts. I seriously doubt that he will ever be an effective quarterback ever again.

What concerns me about this comparison is the arbitrary nature of Roger Goodell’s decisions. The man has complete disciplinary power in the league, and he has made questionable decisions before. He wants to send a message that resonates with fans, but by being so harsh on Stallworth, he has called his legitimacy into question. Stallworth owned up to his mistake, and while he deserves punishment, Goodell is not the man to hand it down. Vick was suspended after making plea agreements with the courts, and throughout the judiciary process, his ‘remorse’ was little more than regret at being caught. Make no mistake: Michael Vick is a first-class douchebag, or at least was before bankruptcy ruined him. In light of this, it is unfair that the two men receive identical punishments from the league. Personally, I think it’s time that the disciplinary process in the NFL receives an overhaul: one man should not have this kind of power over an entire league of players, especially an inconsistent, unfair individual like Goodell. These issues will continue to arise until the system is fixed, and though plenty of responsibility sits with the players, the message the league attempts to send time and again has lost its value. In the end, I have faith fans will figure out that Goodell is a terrible commissioner, and the sport will begin restoring its once admirable image.

Holy shit, that was a long post. My bad. Music stuff coming soon.

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