I agree with Michael Wilbon on several points in his Oct. 15 column ("With Warrick, It's Not That Simple"): I agree with the points made about today's athletes being socially conditioned toward "entitlement." I agree that the frequency and severity of bad conduct is alarming. I do not understand and I am troubled by Peter Warrick's comment made in his own defense (it indicates that his perceptual framework needs work). I think the greater context should be included in discussions about the case by the media. (I believe that these college athletes should be paid pocket money based on their economic standing.)
Unfortunately, it seems that this is a chance for a public official to make a name for himself at another individual's great expense. Warrick may or may not be a bad guy, but he needs to understand that he has made a mistake that is serious because of the law. The same law that appears to be injurious to Warrick and Laveranues Coles now, will protect their property rights when they start earning million-dollar contracts. My personal feeling is that if the employee of the retail store was not coerced or intimidated into selling the merchandise at a discount, it puts Warrick and Coles into less criminal light and they should receive greater leniency. Regardless, as hard as it is to accept their lack of judgment, it is a crime. Thus, they should be given maximum probation, community service, to make a statement about "entitlement." Wilbon goes off the mark when he compares this incident to perks. The major difference in this situation is that the ownership party did not authorize the sale of the merchandise at the give-away price.
A Sharp Distinction
Mr. Wilbon, you have this uncanny ability to write some really foolish things in the middle of an otherwise well-written, well-reasoned column. You are absolutely correct that there's something wrong when Bobby Bowden is making $1.5 million per year, while Peter Warrick is working for free. Of course, there are all the other players, student-managers, etc., who are working for free and don't have a big pro contract waiting for them a few months down the road, but nobody seems to care much about them.
But it's just wrong to suggest that some rich guy getting free rounds of golf is the same as Warrick stealing clothes. The former is legal, the latter is not, and the distinction is very sharp.
Don't Trivialize the Theft
In response to Michael Wilbon's column "With Warrick, It's Not That Simple," I must say that I am appalled at Wilbon's trivialization of a felony theft charge. Paying $21.40 for $412.38 worth of clothing at a department store is not taking advantage of a "discount at the register" as Wilbon calls it, but the equivalent to stuffing $390.98 worth of merchandise down your shirt and running out of the store. For Wilbon to suggest that Warrick walked up to the register with $412.38 of clothing not knowing beforehand that he would be getting a "discount" is extremely naive. Comparing the theft to a celebrity journalist who will only play golf if someone else pays for his round is pure lunacy. I should hope Wilbon knows the difference. A rule is a rule and Peter Warrick knew it. To make light of his criminal activity by portraying him as a "very sophisticated kid ... with virtually no means" is a slap in the face to all those student-athletes who strive for excellence on and off the field. Get over your "conflict" Michael Wilbon . . . with Warrick it is that simple.
In his column, Michael Wilbon invites anyone to explain the difference between his noted journalist friend receiving a free day of golf and Peter Warrick's department store escapade. Okay, that's easy. The golf course knowingly gave Wilbon's famous pal a freebie as a promotion. That makes Wilbon's friend lucky. The department store did not intend to give Warrick free duds -- instead, he stole them with the help of a clerk. That makes Warrick a shoplifter.
Wilbon also invites us to accept Warrick's crime because, he argues, during our lean years at college, we also would have stolen roughly $400 in clothes if given the chance. Not on your life. The typical 5-year-old understands this is theft, let alone a fifth-year senior like Warrick. Further, this begs the question of what Warrick intended to do when he brought around $400 in clothes to the register. If he intended to pay, then he is financially better off than Wilbon presumes. If he intended to steal, then he didn't shoplift simply because the opportunity unexpectedly arose, he planned to do it all along.
By raising these excuses for Warrick's criminal behavior, Wilbon is guilty of worshipping at the same altar of celebrity he criticizes.
Ryder Cup Redux
Now that the excitement of the 1999 Ryder Cup is over, I hope that both the United States and Europe have learned some lessons. It was an extraordinary match in which your players surpassed themselves and played some wonderful golf to snatch an unexpected, but well deserved, win.
The match was, however, tainted by some overzealous behavior. Surely it is not right to cheer your opponent's miss or to interrupt a player in mid-swing. Neither should any player have to endure the bad treatment given to Colin Montgomerie. Then we hear of Mark James's wife being spat upon. Such enthusiasm borders on hate.
Of course, we all like to win, but we must not lose our perspective. Players come and go but the most important thing, win or lose, is the game and the way it is played. I hope that when the next Ryder Cup takes place at The Belfry, any talk of revenge is forgotten and that it is played in a sporting manner with mutual respect. If players and public are not better behaved, then we might as well call the whole thing off, and that would be a tragedy.
Bexleyheath, Kent, England
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