In her column on the Barry Bonds trial, Sally Jenkins wrote that “if Bonds were anybody but a home run king, the case would have been disposed of long ago.” I think that’s true. It's amazing to me that people have such a fierce craving to see athletes and entertainers fall from glory or get into trouble — the bigger the name, the better, it seems.
Make no mistake about it: If athletes and entertainers didn't mess up, then we’d have a lot less material for our entertainment. But they continue to make the same dumb mistakes, and society waits patiently to pass judgement on the next offender. In some way, is it a measure of justification for the people who did not become the multi-million dollar, successful athlete?
I was an athlete, and I have enjoyed the wonderful things that go along with that. I've also had to endure the harsh realities of all the bad things that come with it, though.
When I was playing football, it confused and bothered me when I came across people who had such strong opinions about me but only knew me in a helmet and pads.
I remember one situation in particular when, a few days after a story came out about my contract situation with the Redskins, I was out to eat with a friend and heard someone saying my name along with words like “jerk” and “cry baby.” I heard the person say, “What a [expletive] cry baby he is, always crying about something!”
This guy had no idea I was sitting right behind him, and I figured I would ask him why he thought I was a cry baby. He said he didn’t get understand I would have a problem with my contract when I was making millions either way.
I played hard and gave it my all, so while I understood if a person didn’t like how I played or didn’t like my team, it bothered me that people who didn’t know me disliked me as a person. Some players didn’t care about those things, and I envied them for having the ability to block it out.
None of us have lived mistake-free or perfect lives. When we rush to pass judgement on public figures such as Barry Bonds, it’s really a coping mechanism for our own fears and insecurities.
It’s safe to say it's part of human nature. I'm certainly not pointing the finger, because I‘m guilty of doing the same — but that doesn't make it right.
Sports are for our entertainment. The athletic accomplishments that have taken place through the years have still happened, whether a person did everything the right way or not. Those memories will still always be there.
I have great memories of playing alongside Darrell Green to watching Lawrence Taylor to going to see Vince Carter in a dunk contest to meeting Bonds, Andy Van Slyke and the rest of the Pirates in an airport when I was 12 years old. If you think for one second that the moment I had shaking Bonds’s hand changed because of alleged steroid use, or that L.T. isn't still one of the greatest football players to ever play the game because of an underage prostitute, you’re kidding yourself.
My memories are based off of what I saw them do on a playing field; I don't know them beyond that. For what it's worth, it suits me just fine to leave it that way.