09 June 2007

Man Law

Billy Donovan. Kobe Bryant. Michael Vick. A-Rod.

All of these sports figures have drawn criticism lately for their actions: Donovan, for his decisions first to go to the NBA and then to leave it; Bryant, for his demand to be traded and his backpedaling; Vick, for his dogfighting fiasco; A-Rod, for distracting Blue Jays third baseman Howie Clark.

All of these players have transgressed against the spirit of former San Antonio Spurs center Moses Malone, who had a simple slogan that he taught Hakeem Olajuwon while The Dream was still a fledgling Phi Slamma Jammer: "Be A Man." Malone toughened Olajuwon up during a long summer of streetball, worked him over in the post - remember, at that time, Malone was one of the preeminent low block players in the NBA.

Donovan, Bryant, Vick, and Rodriguez have each gotten away from Malone's advice; each of them has failed to "be a man," and the only way that each of them can reclaim a part of their public image is to "be a man" and deal with their problem.

Donovan first broke a contract to leave the University of Florida, then broke another to leave the Orlando Magic. That's not Being A Man. Now, Billy will be seen as untrustworthy, unreliable, dishonest; it will impact his recruiting - nobody wants to play for a liar who could leave at any moment - and his future - what leverage does Donovan have now that he's been effectively barred from the NBA for the next half-decade?

Here's the solution, Billy: Be A Man. Admit that you were wrong to leave UF. Admit that you shouldn't have signed with Orlando. Admit that, once you signed with Orlando, you shouldn't have backed out. And then shut up and coach the Gators for the rest of your record-breaking contract. You messed up, and it's going to cost you, but you can still reclaim some portion of your integrity by admitting it.

Kobe Bryant ripped his team's owner and GM in the media, asked to be traded... and then backed off his demand a day later. That's not Being A Man, especially in light of a more significant Not-Being-A-Man incident from Kobe's past, when his defense against a rape charge was that he was just having an affair.

Here's the solution, Kobe: Be A Man. Admit that you messed up. Admit, publicly, that you shouldn't have taken your grievances to the press. So it was in response to an article saying that you drove Shaq out of LA? "They did it first" is only a defense in a gunfight. Admit that you were wrong, and then shut up and do what you're very, very good at - just play basketball.

Michael Vick is being investigated for allegedly (okay, more than allegedly - almost certainly) holding dogfights in his home. When he was asked how the public sees him, he said, "Everybody love Mike Vick, it don't matter what I do."

Here's the solution, Mike: Be A Man. Admit that not everybody loves you unconditionally. "With great power comes great responsibility", and as all your Nike commercials have shown, you have great power. Be A Man, Mike - If you (as seems likely) fought dogs, own up to it, pay the penalty, and go on with your life. You'll be more respected if you do.

Finally, A-Rod, who admitted to yelling "Ha!" as he was running past third base, but has been mum on whether it was wrong - he said it was a part of the game. He's also been quiet on his visit to a New York strip club with a blonde woman who was not his wife.

Here's the solution, A-Rod: Be A Man. Admit that yelling was a bush-league move. Admit that you messed up by going to that strip club. Be A Man. Will things die down? Probably not for a while: you live in New York, the biggest media market in the world. But eventually, if you walk the straight and narrow, own up to whatever mistakes you make, and generally Be A Man, people will come to respect you.

And that's what Being A Man is all about: respect. Respect for your peers, respect for the fans, respect for the sport, respect for yourself. Be A Man: do the right thing; admit when you're wrong; move forward. It's really that simple.

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