- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 18, 2003

Chris Webber, the convicted liar who sentenced the Wizards to several seasons’ worth of incompetence, has been ordered by a federal judge to be a volunteer at a six-week summer literacy program for middle-school students in Detroit the next two summers.

His sentence for lying to a federal grand jury has been deferred until August or September in 2005, when it is assumed Webber will be allowed to walk away from another one of his messes.

His reading assignment comes out to 150 hours each summer, which Webber should be able to juggle between his demanding trips to the bank.

It is hard to grasp the purpose of Webber being in a classroom with impressionable children unless it is to demonstrate how a person can beat the system, which he is in the process of doing again.

Lying to a grand jury is often a bad career move for those who do not have wealth, fame and a smart attorney. If you are an average Joe and lie to a grand jury, you probably are not going to be dispatched to a classroom to read to a bunch of children. If anything, a judge might consider a classroom to be the last place to send a bad influence.

The NBA already has its Read to Achieve program to influence children.

Now this judge has placed Webber in the Read to Repent program to influence children.

This is just wrong on so many levels.

However nice it is to know that Webber is able to read, he represents much of what is wrong in sports.

He is an example of what you don’t want your kids to grow up to be. You don’t want your kids to grow up with a sense of entitlement. You don’t want them to always blame others when things don’t go their way. You don’t want them to make a spectacle of themselves, to be so driven by material goods that they would compromise their character.

Webber has left a trail of messes in his wake: at Michigan, at Golden State and in Washington. He has been adept at pointing fingers, at twisting the facts and ignoring the obvious. He has flashed a smile or two along the way, spun a number of fantastic tales and gone about his merry way. He has been a bad actor.

The judge, perhaps as starstruck as a lot of Americans, obviously believes in the power of Webber’s mug.

Judge Nancy Edmunds probably believes if Webber can save just one child from a lifetime of ignorance, then her absurd judicial ruling will have been worth it.

Please. If America needs a celebrity to learn how to read, then America has some fairly serious issues that need to be addressed by someone with more expertise than a celebrity.

Tell you what. If you pop an ankle today, go see a sports medicine expert instead of a celebrity, even if the celebrity is willing to kiss it to make it feel better.

Webber is not out of his predicament yet. In a sweet turn, Michigan’s officials, in calculating the costs of the booster-player fallout, have asked the judge to order Webber to pay $695,000 to the university.

Ed Martin, the booster who died almost out of convenience earlier this year, had a number of Michigan players on his payroll, starting with Webber, who reportedly merited payments totaling $280,000.

Martin was able to recall the numbers in great detail, which, of course, was not one of Webber’s strengths. His memory is never the best in these matters. Sometimes his memory is in conflict with the truth, which is why he is destined to end up in a classroom with a book in his hands.

“My heart bleeds maize and blue,” Webber says of his two-season layover in Michigan.

Right now, the Michigan basketball program is just bleeding a lot of green because of Webber’s quality of life issues while he was there.

Given Webber’s fat contract with the Kings and the heart that bleeds maize and blue, you might think he would write a check in the amount requested by Michigan’s officials and call it a bargain. But that would require some integrity and honor on his part, something at his core that is genuine.

But he just does not have that. There is a startling emptiness about him.

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