by David Sisler

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

You recognize those words from the Declaration of Independence, broadcast to the nation and the world by unanimous consent of the Congress of the United States on July 4, 1776.

What the founders of our nation viewed as self-evident – that all men are created equal – is not so self-evident today, especially in a culture where some are more equal than others. I write today of superstar athletes, specifically of those charged with, and convicted of felonies.

Rafael Furcal, short stop of the Atlanta Braves was arrested recently and charged, for the second time, for drunk driving. He was still on probation following his earlier arrest.

Furcal was pulled over at 4 a.m. by an Atlanta cop, who clocked his Mercedes going 90 mph. He was cited for reckless driving and DUI after his blood alcohol level registered at 0.127 percent. Georgia’s limit is 0.08.

According to the officer, Furcal uttered the infamous plea: “I play for the Braves. Can you give me a chance? I play for the Braves, please. I've got one [DUI] already.”

Well, the officer did not give Furcal a break, but the judge who heard his case did. Furcal’s attorneys wrangled a deal that will keep the ballplayer out of the slammer until 5 p.m. on the day after his team exits the post season.

In a sickening case of what Mike Fish, writing for Sports Illustrated, calls, “jock justice,” Furcal was the hero in game two of the National League Division Series, hitting a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to allow the Braves to tie the series at 1-1, at that point, in their contest against the Houston Astros.

Furcal should have been circling in a small jail cell on October 7, not circling the bases, his right index finger extended in a “Number One” celebratory gesture.

Suppose it had been an Atlanta school teacher who had been pulled over. “Hey, I have classes to teach. Let me stay out until school ends next June and then I will surrender myself.” The judge would have laughed the felon all the way to the slammer. But not for a star baseball player.

Oh, it would have hurt his team, some would whine. He should have thought about that before he swilled down the booze – tipping his blood alcohol level to almost double that of the state’s legal minimum – and strapped himself into a potential death machine.

That he was caught for the second time is noteworthy, but as anyone knows who studies drunk driving statistics (and many of those “statistics” are bodies in the morgue) being caught twice does not mean that the culprit was behind the wheel driving impaired for only the second time. It was probably his twenty-second time, or thirty-second.

When the Braves finish the post season, if there were any justice, Furcal would be watching his team while wearing an orange jump suit, not the red, white, and blue colors of the Atlanta National League Baseball Team.

Even turning himself in after the last game the Braves play in October, Furcal will receive only a slap on the wrist – which he claimed was too harsh – 21 days in jail and 28 days in an in-house treatment center.

Baseball is not alone in receiving jock justice.

Jamal Lewis, running back for the Baltimore Ravens pleaded guilty – on the same day Furcal was arrested – to using a cell phone to set up a drug deal. He will be incarcerated for four months, starting on January 26, after the regular season ends.

To its credit, the National Football League suspended Lewis for the next two games.

Suppose it had been a Baltimore retailer who had been arrested. “I have weeks of vacation time coming in January. Let me keep working until then.” But that only works for star athletes.

Comedian Robin Williams once joked that cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you make too much money.

There is something sad about these millionaire ball players who think they are above the law, abusing themselves, and risking the safety of the rest of us. No wonder they continue to act that way – the judicial system is stacked in their favor.

Milton Bradley, the right-fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, threw a beer bottle at a fan in retaliation for a beer bottle being thrown at him. And that was only days after Bradley promised to start acting like an adult. Crying into his towel, he told the Dodgers, and the rest of us, how sorry he was, and the Dodgers, needing Bradley in their lineup against the St. Louis Cardinals, said, “Okay. You can play.”

The Dodgers, ignoring Bradley’s actions, followed the Golden Rule. He who has the gold makes the rules, and gets better treatment than those who are goldless.

Contrast the wimpy leadership of the Dodgers, a Georgia judge, and a Maryland judge, with the courage shown by the management of the Anaheim Angels.

Jose Guillen, the Angels left fielder, threw a temper tantrum when manager Mike Scioscia pulled him for a pinch runner. As punishment, Guillen was left off Anaheim’s roster for the division series after being suspended for the final eight games of the regular season and penalized two days’ pay.

Guillen hit .294 with career highs of 27 homers and 104 RBI this season. His .327 batting average with runners in scoring position was the eighth highest in the AL. Arguably his bat could have been used by the Angels as they lost to the Boston Red Sox in their division series, but for the Angels, such intangibles as honor, discipline, respect, and self-control were worth more than winning ball games, even more than potentially winning the World Series.

Maybe Guillen’s teammates will want to rethink their generosity. When Guillen was suspended, they awarded him a full-share of their playoff winnings.

A few superstars have been endowed, by their Creator, with superior athletic talent. We marvel at their skills and their salaries (perhaps with not a little jealousy). But with superior ability and superior privilege should come superior responsibility.

Sadly, the cases of Rafael Furcal, Jamal Lewis and Milton Bradley are the rule, rather than the exception to the rule. Until more teams, and judicial officials, show the courage of Mike Scioscia and the Anaheim Angels, jock justice will prevail. Star athletes will remain more equal than the rest of us. Outrageous!


Copyright 2004 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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