Posted by: Mark Nielsen | January 6, 2012

Chicago Sports 2011-2012: It’s a Crime!

Bear Wide Receiver Hurd Exposed As Drug Kingpin

Franchise Cub Shortstop Castro Implicated in Rape Charge

Daniel “Car Bomb” Carcillo Suspended 7 Games for Vicious Head-Injuring Hit

Sam Hurd, formerly of the Chicago Bears & Dallas Cowboys (image via NY Daily News)

I awoke this morning and innocently turned on sports radio while doing some chores. I was hoping for a bit of “light” listening. Silly Mark! Lately, in the wake of the Penn State scandal, sports radio has become the last place one should go for good, clean fun.

The sujet du jour on my radio today was a young woman’s accusation that Chicago Cub shortstop and rising star Starling Castro had raped her. So the radio personalities (Mac and Speigel on The Score, for those who care) made the obligatory mentions of comparable past sportsmen accused or convicted of a similar crime: Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant. (I’m not sure Kobe was actually mentioned, but I sure ain’t giving him a pass here just cuz Mac may have for the moment. Kobe’s a jerk.)

Full disclosure: I didn’t stick around for many details about the Castro case, and I’m not planning to provide them now, either. That’s what the REAL news outlets are for.

And yeah, I know most of the above is “alleged” –not to mention a hard hockey check (as referenced in my mock headline clipping) is not nearly in the same category as an actual felony– but I got a bigger point to make, and painting in broad strokes is simply what bloggers do… because we CAN! So don’t come in hard at me with your shoulder saying hockey enforcers have a place in the game, because that’s not what we’re talking ’bout here, okay?

What we are talking about here is the erosion of trust in people, in coaches, and in our “heroes”. Meanwhile, what’s this? I just saw Charles Barkley on tv the other day saying he’s still not a role model… except now he’s a pitch man for Weight Watchers and advocating better health. So which is it, Chas, are you a role model, or not?!

I also think with the Chicago guys (though they’re not from here, they just play here), we are facing an erosion of the generally wholesome values that used to be associated both with organized sports as a pastime, and with the Midwest as a whole.

Maybe I’m being naive again, but I don’t remember it being like this when I was a hopeful 10, 12, or 14-year-old student athlete and fan — when I had my un-tarnished sports hero posters plastered on my wall. (Okay, I also had a HOT Cheryl Ladd poster when I was 14, but that goes without saying…)

Steroids, cocaine, horny young men… yeah, I know they’ve all been around a long time. And the 24-hour sports networks and radio stations actually have not been around that long, all things considered. We’re still writing and re-writing the rules in some ways.

But as to the question of whether things are actually getting worse, or if we’re just finding out about them more frequently, I think things really are getting worse. For example, when technology advances, the ease of drug distribution would tend to advance as well. It’s simple science, with a large dose of moralizing, religious dialogue and political posturing thrown in just to muddy the water.

The religious piece is why I find the Sandusky (Penn State) and Sam Hurd cases so troubling.

In Sandusky’s case, the name of his supposedly charitable organization was The Second Mile. It’s a direct reference to Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount to “go a second mile” as proof of one’s own kindness and therefore of God’s goodness. So now my Jesus and his teachings are permanently tarnished worldwide by this sick old man out in Pennsylvania, and the unkind enablers who let him get away with it.

Meanwhile Hurd, at least according to the accounts of many in Dallas, was a very involved churchgoer and gave his props to Jesus in interviews plenty of times. So now his apparent “double life” comes out, and by association many other Christians end up looking like idiots, hypocrites, or both.

Not that we aren’t. Like President Jimmy Carter, I too can admit to mine eye causing me to sin in my mind plenty, like with that Cheryl Ladd poster I mentioned above.

But Americans tend to like keeping things simpler. One is either a good person, or a bad one. Sure, we often give our Charlie Sheens and Mike Tysons second chances, and sometimes they make good on those chances. But we also seem to want them to be bad, or to fail. We like our scapegoats, or our guilty pleasures, however you want to spin it.

Winning!  (Or are we just devolving into a bunch of overgrown teenagers?)

When it comes to crime, or law and order, we can be a puritanical lot, as well. It’s easier to demonize someone than to face the hard truth of “There but for the grace of God go I”. This “tough” attitude also gets certain people elected, whereas humility is generally derided as unnecessary in a leader.

So I predict that one of these big Chicago sports/crime cases will end up at least as the basis for a Law and Order episode by the end of 2012.  The dramatic potential, for example, of Starling Castro leaving the country (on a previously scheduled trip) the day after the alleged incident, is too tasty a titillating tidbit for tv producers to avoid indulging.

Okay, hands successfully wrung.

Now would my Chicago Bulls please just get through this short season with minimal scandal (or injury), and bring the NBA title back where it belongs… to the Heartland!


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