Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Why aren't both of them pariahs?

These are the days of wine and roses for sports columnists. Our cup runneth over. The struggle is not for subject matter, but for finding enough time and space to chronicle the exploits of all the idiots.

Which brings us to Ray Rice.

He is a running back for the Baltimore Ravens, a pretty good one until he had a mediocre season last year. He went to Rutgers, a really good school that must be swelling with pride now.

My grandson lives in Baltimore and has, or once had, a Ray Rice jersey. My daughter will now be ordered to burn it or be taken out of the will.

The Rice story overlaps the saga of Donald Sterling. The media juxtaposition of the two idiots is just one fascination.

Idiot No. 1, Sterling, offends an entire race and is a big headline every day, certainly around Los Angeles. Idiot No. 2, Rice, offends an entire gender, half the world's population, and it's worth — in most places except Baltimore — a couple of paragraphs on Page 10.

This is what Rice did, according to police reports and a video from TMZ. (Yes, they are everywhere. TMZ is fast becoming the new documentarian of our society. Pray for us. If you look closely, you'll find the fall of the Roman Empire coincided with the invention of the video camera.)

On Feb. 15, at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J., Rice and the woman who was then his girlfriend, Janay Palmer, apparently became involved in an altercation that resulted in Palmer's being knocked unconscious. TMZ later acquired a tape of Rice dragging her out of an elevator. It was then alleged that Rice hit Palmer, and the initial charge against Rice of simple assault was upped to aggravated assault.

The day after Rice was charged with aggravated assault, he and Janay got married. Love conquers all. Wouldn't Freud love this?

Until Friday, there wasn't much else. The case lingered in the limbo of what the NFL would do, what the Ravens would do. Also, probably, what kind of public relations spin would be tried.

One thing was clear. Rice wasn't going to jail. Average Joe knocks out a woman and probably spends three to five in a starchy gray uniform. Rice is a professional athlete. He is on TV a lot, making him a celebrity and immune from the usual consequences of society. Around the Ravens, they call that the Ray Lewis Rule.

Friday came and Mr. and Mrs. Rice called a news conference. Afterward, it was mostly called a disaster.

Rice said he wouldn't call himself a failure, because a failure was not being knocked down, but failing to get back up. That was not only stupid, a typical jock non-apology apology, but also an alarmingly inappropriate use of words.

Then Mrs. Rice apologized for her role in the events that night. Women everywhere rolled their eyes and gritted their teeth. Apparently lost on Mrs. Rice is the fact that nothing she could have done short of pulling a gun justified being punched out and knocked cold.

It's called assault. Somebody hits you, you are the assaultee. It's also, depending on the circumstances, a felony. Average Joe goes to jail for that. NFL players find intervention programs, which is what Rice did.

The news conference brought out the best from the tweeters. One asked that the Ravens check the padding in Rice's helmet.

Again, the relative elements of our idiots, Nos. 1 and 2, are fascinating, although perhaps a bit of apples and oranges. Sterling is an owner, Rice a player. Sterling has vast influence in boardrooms. Rice has vast influence with our 12-year-olds.

Nevertheless, the way we pigeonhole each, the way our political correctness works these days, is food for thought.

Sterling committed no crime and has the right of free speech in a country that takes great pride in that. Some observers wondered whether mental illness is involved after seeing him on CNN — it somehow managed to cut away for a few minutes from its Malaysian Airlines coverage — and stepped on his racially misguided tongue even worse. Yet he is an American pariah and a huge daily headline that may never stop.

Rice is accused of a serious crime, punishable by the laws of our land. He allegedly assaulted a woman, and the charge he faces was changed to third-degree aggravated assault because, according to prosecutors, it involved "significant bodily injury." Yet his biggest fear may be whether he misses one game or two.

By November, Sterling will be no less despised. By November, with a couple of long touchdown runs and an improved yards-per-carry rating, Rice will be coveted on fantasy football teams.

Is this a great country or what?

In the meantime, we spoiled sports columnists will wait for the next shoe to drop. Who knows? Maybe some baseball player will get into a fight with his teammate and bite off a large chunk of his ear.

Nah, that could never happen.

— Los Angeles Times

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