Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Glorious Guest Post: Pac Man Jones Situation - Can we shift the blame?

Hello, friends. My name is Ted, and I regularly write here, although I also pen things in other places, from time to time. Feel free to stop by my site and leave some love. I need all the help I can get, as a human being.

I'm doing a little guest work for my boys at The Sports Flow this morning, and since Pac Man seems to be on everyone's mind, I figured I'd address it as well. Here goes nothing:

The Pac Man Jones situation is obviously a black eye for both the Tennessee Titans and the National Football League as a whole. Not to restate the facts, because I'm sure most people who would read this site are already aware of them, but Pac Man has been involved in altercations in which the police were also involved ten times in the previous year.

It's the first part of the equation above - the Tennessee Titans - that I'd like to address. Listen, the situation with Pac Man is obviously a terrible one, and something we see far too often as sports fans. A guy with all the talent and ability in the world - stuff that an average Joe couch potato would kill for - either can't handle the pressures associated with athletic fame, or has loyalties too deep to less-than-desirable forces from back home, resulting in trouble. The situation repeats itself over and over again in sports, especially in the NFL, where 50 players have been arrested in the past year (mostly a slew of Bengals and Chargers, although the Chargers arrests are often glossed over, it seems).

The Titans, though, used to represent the pinnacle of sports management. First of all, they embody consistency: Jeff Fisher has been there since 1994, and Floyd Reese, before he walked this January, had been there about 13 or 14 years as well. Their draft process was once the top of the heap: they brought in Steve McNair and Eddie George in back-to-back years, serving as the cornerstones of their eventual AFC Title run and also representing two tremendous character guys. I've never heard a negative word uttered about McNair or George, except by a few disgruntled Titans fans (and maybe a couple of Baltimore ones this January).

Beginning in 2000, though, things began to slide a bit for the Titans. They brought in Albert Haynesworth that year - we all know what happened with him this past season (in the same game where Pac-Man covered T.O. one-on-one in what might represent the most emotionally f'ed up cover scheme in NFL history). They also brought in Pac Man two years ago. Other draft picks during this period include Keith Bulluck, who has never been arrested but seems like he's not entirely on the level.

Since the tragedy of Pac-Man became national news, various stories about his development have seeped out. He came from poverty, and lots of heartbreak; this is common among some top athletes, including Adrian Peterson, a soon-to-be NFL player who saw his brother murdered in front of him and had a dad spend time in jail. The difference is, Peterson doesn't "make it rain," or at least hasn't yet. There's a way to manage your life, and since NFL teams spend millions of dollars evaluating every component of a potential addition to their squad, these things need to be front and center. If the same Titans draft machine can grab Steve McNair, Eddie George, and Vince Young, it needs to be more vigilant on picks like Pac Man and Haynesworth, who are clearly troubled souls with displaced passions. The hot item on Pac Man these days is that when asked if he would choose his boys or the NFL, he replied without batting an eyelash, "My boys."

Now, I'm not trying to make a broad generalization here, although it might come across as such. For two years ('03 - '05), I taught in the inner city of Houston, at the elementary school level. Houston has produced a ton of athletes in the past decade or so, from hoopsters like Emeka Okafor to football guys like Young himself, to baseball players galore. Having worked in what is essentially "the ghetto," I can tell you that athletics in those communities are as important as it gets. The chances of escaping that life based solely on academic achievement or some type of non-sports extracurricular excellence is very rare, based on the way our society is currently structured. Kids play sports in the inner city for two reasons: (1) enjoyment and escape, and (2) a possible ticket out.

When and if you get that ticket out - if your persistence and your skills get to that level - you have a major choice on your hands. A guy like Allen Iverson, who has done jail time, has traveled with a posse / entourage since he was playing for Georgetown, but never got in seriously major trouble, or at least repeated scrapes with the law. He knows how to manage, generally speaking, the fact that when 1 gets a ticket out, everyone else wants to ride with him. Pac Man clearly doesn't, and that's sad - but it's a fact of life. If you throw millions of dollars at someone that might have spent a portion of their childhood going multiple days without eating, there's going to be a breaking point that he has to handle, and maturity doesn't always catch up at the same rate your 40 time does.

But it's the responsibility of the Titans, who hire guys solely to evaluate whether a kid can make these decisions about how to live a life with millions, to separate the "wheat" from the "chaff," if you will. Blaming Pac-Man for his transgressions is valid; he certainly could be a lot smarter with his decision making. Someone, though, needs to turn the harsh light of this situation on Fisher and Reese. How do you let this happen? Two of their first overall draft picks across the past seven years will miss a combined 21 games of man power between September of '07 and September of '09. Sure, they were big talents, but were they worth it?

All I'm saying is, Pac-Man isn't a nice individual, and neither is Haynesworth (seemingly). But is that truly their fault, or somewhat the fault of the men that put them in those situations despite likely having better judgement?

1 comment:

grittysquirrels said...

I'm still going to stick with my stance on this one. It is all on Pacman. I'm sure there's also stories that start a lot like his but don't end or even come across anything like he is experiencing right now.

It is really impossible to put this on anybody but Pacman...sure the Titans made a risky move but how were they to know that he would eventually get in enough trouble to serve a full year suspension?

Maybe it was a risky draft pick...but this is all on Pacman. It is a shame though that not only Pacman, but that the whole team has to suffer wit hthe punishment.