Friday, September 18, 2009

Frontier Justice

This story caught my eye today, and really made me think. A judge legally taking sports away from a star athlete (and teenager) is quite an act, really -- one which seems unprecedented to me.

My first reaction was that it was over-the-line, not because the crime he committed wasn't bad enough -- it was -- but because sports is usually viewed as a positive in the lives of young men (especially ones who grow up in ghettoes). With his crime, the kid had already lost his chances for scholarships with countless colleges. Taking this away seemed to me to be counter-intuitive: Why take away the one thing which could allow this young man to truly improve his circumstances?

But then, upon re-examination, I relized the genius behind the decision. See, athletes are forgiven for all manners of transgressions, from tiny to immense -- all because they are athletes. So, while taking away this young man's greatest lifeline may deprove him of untold money, fame, and opportunity, this also takes away his get-out-of-jail-free card. It very well may be the one thing which forces this guy to actually become a better person.

Think about it: Michael Vick is back making millions after a jail sentence. His crimes may make millions hate him, but it won't stop him from making lots of money or recieving the love and adoration of millions more. Does he ever really have to become a better person, or just act like he has. This decision, however, will force the young man to learn to survive in society without the crutch of sports to aid him. Any future transgressions will not be forgiven so easily. Then again, if he falls into a life of crime or squalor, folks will say this judge robbed him of his chance at escape by taking away the one thing at which he could excel.

All things considered, I like this decision, but I would also allow for a review of the terms after a year or two -- if he's managed to get a job, or enroll in school, and has done well for himself, I would be open to allowing back into sports. Otherwise -- if he improves, but isn't allowed to play sports until he's 24 -- one could argue his potential career will be lost over one incident, with no regard given to how he's rehabilitated himself.

Either way, this makes for a fascinating test-case, a social experiment with a real life in the balance. I suppose the hypothesis behind it would be to discover whether the world may lose a great athlete to gain a good person. That's a pretty fair trade, if you ask me.

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