HOLDEN: Should we care about athletes’ off-field transgressions?
DENVER — Philadelphia is notoriously hard on their athletes. So does the fact that they aren’t booing Michael Vick on a weekly basis mean they’re getting softer, or that they’re just equally hard on their dogs?
What does it say about Philadelphia fans that they seem to have spent about as much time berating Donovan McNabb for taking a break from offseason workouts to attend a charity function as they have criticizing Vick for the offseasons he spent drowning, electrocuting and stringing up defenseless animals?
It says Philadelphia fans care a whole lot more about what their athletes do on the field than what they do off of it.
Sure, Coloradans will boo Vick when he shows up with his Philadelphia Eagles to take on the Denver Broncos this Sunday. And yes, there are still those who hate Vick so thoroughly that they’ll force one of his autograph sessions to be cancelled by burying the host of the event in death threats.
It’s easy to hate a guy like Vick when he’s playing against your team. It’s easy to pass judgement on a convicted felon when he’s in handcuffs and not an NFL uniform.
But what happens when that guy starts winning football games again? Type Vick’s name into Google and you’ll find out.
Gone are the predicted search terms “prison,” “dog fighting” and “bankruptcy.” In their place stand the terms “stats,” “fantasy football” and “net worth.”
It begs the question: How much do we really care about what our athletes do off the field?
Would the deafening roars for Peyton Manning during this record-setting season be muted if we found out that he actually did pelt fourth graders with footballs in his spare time — instead of just joking about it?
Will anyone remember Von Miller failed a few drug tests, more or less lied to us about the whole thing and also had a couple outstanding warrants if he comes back from his suspension this season and helps lead the Broncos to a Super Bowl?
Probably not. And in truth, that actually doesn’t seem that terrible.
In the increasingly-hostile world we live in, where it’s easy to tear someone apart over social media without ever having to look that person in the face, it’s nice to occasionally see that we still have the capacity to forgive one another.
But it raises another question: Why do we seem so much more willing to forgive athletes for transgressions in their personal lives than we are with other public figures?
Lindsay Lohan got run out Hollywood after developing a drinking problem and racking up some traffic citations. Anthony Wiener’s political career was effectively ended by a lewd tweet. Bill Clinton was nearly impeached for having an affair.
All of those folks were at least arguably good at what they did professionally before making mistakes in their personal lives — mistakes that wouldn’t have even saddled any of them with a criminal record. Is there no chance that they would have taken a shot at redemption and run with it?
Apparently not as well as a speedy football player.
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. If only we were capable of granting it to those who aren’t physically capable of out-running their problems.