October 17, 2001

Living a Dream

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Professional athletes live the life so many of us grew up imagining we might one day achieve. They are handed millions to do the thing they love most. They have fame, fortune and a job that involves playing sports before thousands of beloved fans on a nightly basis. They live a dream and are paid inordinate amounts of money to do so.

They can also be complete morons.

This weekend before the Jets’ 21-17 victory over the Dolphins, a sniffing dog discovered a Bushmaster .223 assault rifle in the trunk of New York safety Damien Robinson’s truck. Robinson was also carrying three high-capacity magazines that hold 30 rounds each and two boxes of ammunition containing 100 rounds each.

I’m not what you’d call a gun connoisseur, but it sounds to me like Robinson was basically ready for a war.

The rifle and the magazines were both illegal under a New Jersey law that bans possession of a number of such automatic weapons. That is to say, these were not Uncle Chuck’s pea-shooters — this was some serious artillery.

So, you may ask, what was Robinson thinking?

“I inadvertently left it in the back of my truck when I went to the stadium with my family,” he said, “It was closed up in a case and not loaded.”

Well good Damien, at least you weren’t going to pop anybody.

In a time of blatant national paranoia, such negligence is not only unacceptable but is nothing short of lunacy.

Athletes have a certain responsibility to act decently in a society that does nothing but spoon-feed them anything they desire.

Charles Oakley of the Toronto Raptors has been quoted as saying that he believes that 80% of NBA players use marijuana on a relatively normal basis. And sadly, the record seems to back him up.

It seems that everyday there is a drug-related arrest in the NBA news. The perpetrators are not bench-warming no-names who can afford to smoke their brains out before practice. They are high-profile, all-star quality players.

Some may argue that, “Sure these guys are athletes, but they are also people with human frailties just like you and me.”

That’s ridiculous.

Professional athletes are given a uniquely mystical place in our world and they are larger than life to their millions of fans around the world. They have things most of us couldn’t dream of and have privileges that most of us can only hope to win by collecting Monopoly pieces off our McDonald’s french fries.

Therefore, they have an obligation to live lives of an unearthly repute. Yes, they’ve worked hard and are blessed with unimaginable talent. But they are also the luckiest son of a guns in the universe.

Their luck, therefore, calls for a certain type of behavior in return — quid pro quo fellas…look it up.

For an athlete to expect our sympathy for his propensity towards casual cocaine use is completely non-sensical. For Damien Robinson to expect us to understand that he “forgot” about the small army in his trunk is laughable.

Asking athletes to act like the blessed individuals they obviously are would be a reasonable expectation of their gratitude for the fortuitous actions of the cosmos in their favor.

I am sick and tired, as are so many others, of hearing that yet another athlete has been found acting outside the law of a society in which they are kings.

This is not to mention our beloved collegiate athletes who many times do not act according to their visibility as representatives of their respective institutions.

Cornell hockey fans (and ahh, their number is many) may be interested to know that Vermont’s icers have been the most recent sufferers of such criminal behaviors.

UVM senior Graham Mink, a 17-goal scorer from last year, has been forced to leave the Catamounts squad due to an incident that took place on September 16.

Mink allegedly assaulted an individual causing what police called “serious bodily harm” to the victim of an off-campus altercation early that morning. Mink was also involved in the now infamous hazing incident in which UVM rookies were forced to perform a ceremonial elephant walk at the beginning of the 1999 season. (If you are not familiar with the logistics of an elephant walk, consider yourself lucky).

Mink is currently in the Washington Capitols training camp where he has a good chance of earning a spot on the team. He also has a good shot of earning himself 15 years in prison.

Sounds like a true professional.

All this is basically to say, come on all you professional athletes and those who have a chance to be such — act your age, acknowledge your status and uphold your responsibility to all those who would give their right arm to be in your shoes.

All athletes are role models to some extent. They are a select group who are revered and admired by all those who weren’t good enough.

To those doing their part, thank you. To the athletes of this campus, good work. Cornell has not been infected with the plague of athletes acting irresponsibly and for that we can be proud.

Yet, that is not the norm for most athletic teams recently. It may say something about the moral degradation of our society but I believe there is a much simpler analysis.

Until professional athletes accept the fact that they are being watched and are expected to be super-human, they will continue to use the same excuses we have heard since Charles Barkley claimed that he is not a role-model in a commercial that made him 1.5 million dollars.

We can all go through life making excuses, but professional athletes are stripped of such luxuries.

If only they could accept that reality as easily as they insist on a contract extension worth $5 million more a season.

Archived article by Scott Jones