- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2006

Raise the white flag over every stadium, ballpark and arena. Raise it any place games are played, games that are supposed to bring us joy and satisfaction.

It’s over. The good guys lost. The bad guys won.

The battle for simple human decency is a lost cause in the world of sports. Fans now must decide if they can live with that.

When an athlete is arrested after shots are fired near the White House, it is time to surrender.

When a sports figure drives around wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying semiautomatic handguns and assault rifles, it is time to retreat or give up.

And duck so you don’t get hit by stray bullets.

When an athlete with a history of substance abuse drives drunk and tries to outrun police at more than 100 mph, it is time to negotiate terms of surrender.

And stay off the roads near NFL training camps.

Lonny Baxter helped lead the Maryland Terrapins to the national championship in basketball in 2002. He played last season for the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA and just signed a deal to play in Italy. He was arrested by Secret Service agents early yesterday morning after shots were fired from a vehicle about two blocks from the White House.

A spokesman said they found spent shell casings in the vehicle Baxter was driving near the intersection of 17th and I streets NW. Baxter and a passenger were charged with carrying a pistol without a license and other firearms charges.

No reason for the shots was given. But if you still want to fight the good fight, you can believe that Baxter was just firing “one if by land, two if by sea” warning shots because he saw the enemy approaching the White House.

This happened just hours after Minnesota Vikings receiver Koren Robinson was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of drunken driving and fleeing from police, driving at speeds of more than 100 mph and refusing to stop.

And these two incidents happened within a week of the arrest of former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett. Clarett was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time of his arrest, and police found four loaded guns in his SUV. He was scheduled to stand trial this week on an armed robbery charge stemming from a separate incident.

I suspect that, like some coaches, managers, administrators and owners, many fans simply will don their rose-colored glasses and hope their stars aren’t kept off the field.

There is only so much emotional investment a fan — even a fanatical one — can make in sports. Any fan with a moral compass must spend nearly all of that investment in outrage over cheering for convicts.

There is little room left for the joy that is supposed to accompany sports. If you want to hang on to that pleasure, you’ll have to leave that moral compass in the top drawer at home.

It’s clear that those who hold positions of responsibility have done so.

Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is, by all accounts, a decent man, but he clearly has raised the white flag. Five of his players have been arrested in the past three months. Receiver Chris Henry has been arrested four times since December. He is to go on trial later this month for his most recent arrest on gun charges in Orlando, Fla.

Lewis wasn’t burned by poor character choices. It was as if he sought out problem players who have the proverbial “upside.” The Bengals drafted two players who were arrested before they even signed with the club. Defensive end Frostee Rucker was arrested for spousal battery. Linebacker A.J. Nicholson was arrested on charges of burglary and grand theft.

The Philadelphia Phillies let Brett Myers pitch the day after he was arrested for beating up his wife in Boston. Police reports said Kim Myers’ face was swollen. Brett Myers was charged with assault and battery.

If you care, the Philadelphia Inquirer obtained transcripts of the 911 calls made by witnesses to the June incident:

“I got a guy smacking a girl around right in front of the Hynes Convention Center. He’s right in front of the fire station that’s in front of the Hynes Convention Center. She’s crying. She’s got no shoes on. He’s a pretty big guy in a white shirt. And he’s hitting her hard. I saw it. A couple of other people saw it.”

No baseball team should let anyone like Myers pick up a ball again. No football team should give Robinson a third or fourth chance. Those athletes should find another profession, one that does force on fans the moral dilemma of whether to cheer on players awaiting their latest court date.

That, however, is never going to happen.

Teams use the guise of compassion, of giving second chances as a means to avoid taking a stand. They can do so because the public can’t possibly muster enough outrage to have an impact on the business of sports.

There are those who say that sports is no different from any other walk of life. There are good and bad doctors, good and bad lawyers, not-so-bad and bad sportswriters.

Those worlds, they say, are no different from the one in which athletes live.

This is the argument of people with dollar-store moral compasses.

I doubt hospital administrators or newspaper editors go to bed at night wondering if one day they will wake up to find one of their employees charged with murder.

I’ll bet, though, it is a nightmare coaches and others in positions of supposed responsibility in sports have on a regular basis.

MEN BEHAVING BADLY: A LOOK AT ATHLETES RECENTLY ARRESTED:

1 MAURICE CLARETT

Former Ohio State star arrested after police find AK-47 and other weapons in car.

2 KOREN ROBINSON

Vikings WR charged with DWIafter radar caught his car at 100 mph in a 55 mph zone.

3 A.J. NICHOLSON

Bengals LB arrested on charges of burglary and theft from an ex-teammate.

4 FROSTEE RUCKER

Bengals DE charged with two counts of spousal battery and vandalism of his girlfriend.

5 BRETT MYERS

Phillies pitcher arrested and charged with assaulting his wife on a street in Boston.

6 CHRIS HENRY

Bengals WR arrested four times since December, most recently on gun charges.

7 LONNY BAXTER

Former Maryland star arrested yesterday near WhiteHouse on gun charges.


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