Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice should have been behind bars since February 15, 2014.
Janay Palmer (as she used to be known then) should have been getting professional care aimed at women who think physical abuse by their sweethearts is a sign of loving, caring and, ultimately, compassion. She should have been getting that help since the moment she agreed that she would marry Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice.
The scandal has been filling newspaper front pages and running as top items on radio and television news the last few – well, has it been days, weeks, or months? From the outside looking in, one would have thought there are no other major issues in this wretched world that could have as much impact on our lives.
A professional U.S. football player punches his girlfriend, as she then was, into unconsciousness. He gets suspended two games by his league. When outcry about the lenient punishment hits crescendo, the league changes its policy and gives him a six-game suspension. Then, a bit of raw footage appears on YouTube, going viral within seconds. It shows in sordid detail what went on inside the Atlantic City’s Revel Casino elevator on that February night. The league (at long last) sees fit to suspend said player indefinitely.
Apologies all around: the NFL only saw the full incriminating footage now. Its requests to proper law enforcement authorities to see it earlier all came to naught. Thus league poohbah Roger Goodell. The Baltimore Ravens, Rice’s alma mater team, cut him forthwith upon accessing YouTube. And an owner tells his club’s eager fans he’s sorry he’d let them down.
Perfect rubbish, of course. All of it.
Neither the NFL, nor its member clubs, are a finishing school to teach its employees proper manners. Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice committed a crime. That’s what we have law enforcement authorities for: to make sure that no crime goes unpunished.
But that’s not the end of it.
Janay Rice (as she is now) lashes out at the media and sundry observers, saying they brought shame upon her household by poking their noses into matters that really were none of their business.
And Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice’s teammates say the guy is a friend (a brother, indeed) and the Rices have decided to turn the page, they are all for it, and the rest is nobody’s business.
This is a pathological state of affairs.
Here’s the couch
Most professional athletes have come from backgrounds that wouldn’t know respect if you handed it to them on a silver platter. Their educational achievements are lacking beyond belief. That is why, by the way, if a hockey player such as Joe Juneau successfully graduates with an aeronautical engineering degree, it becomes a major headline.
After all, a Canadian basketball star graduates from his high school, spends a year (what an achievement!) in college, is drafted by his sport’s top league, the NBA, and off he goes to earn his share of the loot.
What does this kind of development tell him? Simple: grab the money and run. Who cares about education so long as you can afford not to care about it?
Professional athletes spend their younger years with one obsession only: to become such good athletes that top professional leagues would be clamouring for their services. This kind of effort requires a remarkable level of concentration spent on oneself. It leads directly to egocentrism on a level not usual among the ordinary Marys and Joes.
The reward is sweet. Such athletes become moneybags. They can afford whatever they want to afford. An example: Rice gave his then-fiancée a huge ring and a beautiful car upon her graduation.
A cynic would stop at this moment to murmur: no wonder she decided to stay with the guy. What’s a punch between the eyes compared to a ring and a car?
Cynical? Yes. True? Who knows?
Except: money can’t buy you everything. It can’t buy you the awareness of such simple facts of life like if you want to be respected, you have to give respect, first.
Whereupon we read, hear and see news stories galore about top athletes (and their entourages) wreaking havoc upon night establishments. We read, hear and see news stories galore about such athletes (and their entourages) solving disagreements with other athletes (and their entourages) using firearms of all kinds of calibres. We read, hear and see stories of athletes bringing their firearms (loaded with live ammunition, too) into their teams’ dressing rooms.
Not that they always get away with it. But most of the time, they do. Most often, what they get is a few raised eyebrows and an occasional tsk-tsk. That’s all.
Since they know nothing else but playing their positions in football, basketball, baseball and, to a smaller extent, hockey, they develop a rather warped vision of themselves in the world.
The media, and – by extension – fans do a nice job putting such athletes on undeserved pedestals. Yes, from time to time, they do their best to bring them back down to earth. From time to time is the operative expression here.
Yet, if anyone earns huge sums of money by being perfectly unproductive, it’s the professional athletes. What’s their contribution to society? Excitement? Has humankind stooped so low as to need professional athletes to excite us? Gladiators, anybody?
Are times a’changin?
A couple of decades ago, an American basketball star, Magic Johnson, told a packed news conference he was retiring because he had the HIV. For those not in the know: this is an abbreviation for the human immunodeficiency virus, an agent that causes the killer known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, a.k.a. AIDS.
The media went ga-ga: what a hero! Magic Johnson would be the spokesman for the organizations that research (and hope to develop) an anti-virus, and he’s facing his ordeal like a man, and he’s leaving the sport that he’s loved all his life, and so on, and so forth, ad nauseam.
Not many noticed that his then-bride-to-be was expecting the couple’s first child, and that Magic Johnson has basically confirmed he had acquired the virus during her pregnancy. Meaning: he was playing the field on the side while his future wife was carrying their child.
That’s not all.
Magic Johnson mentioned (not that he would be bragging about it, he did so in all modesty) that he had served about a thousand women. Martina Navratilova, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, remarked then that if a woman suggested that she had served about a thousand men, people would call her a floozy, a harlot, a tart – or worse.
That comparison did not make any headlines. Magic Johnson still remained a hero.
Asked about the possible source of his fatal infection, Magic Johnson said that he suspected a “dirty blonde” (his own choice of words).
Not only was this suspicion very quickly found to be incorrect, but nobody dared suggest a different scenario: say, what if a white guy was in that same kind of a situation, and he’d say a “dirty black woman” was the source of his grief?
Which version is racist? A rhetorical question, if there ever was one.
In any case: have the media’s and (by extension) fans’ attitudes changed since then?
Yes and no.
We still put these frightfully unproductive members of our society on pedestals, turning them into celebrities over night. In fairness, we are certainly quicker tearing them down than we used to be. But we almost always have another frightfully unproductive member of our society hiding in the wings, ready to be discovered and glorified. And, if these newcomers happen to fail our expectations, we tear them down again. Not to worry, however: there are so many future frightfully unproductive members of our society waiting for their share of the spotlight, the supply seems to be endless.
Everybody and their dog gets their 15 minutes of fame. Just as Andy Warhol predicted.
Back to now
What’s going to happen with the most recent scandal?
Not much. As soon as there’s another transgression, this one would be forgotten.
And do not be shocked or overwhelmed when you hear that Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice has been reinstated. All NFL teams need good running backs, after all. Experts say Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice ranks among the best of them.
He would not be re-joining the Baltimore Ravens, one would expect. Or, rather, one would hope. Even though, one must admit, crazier things have happened and nobody cared. Except for the media and fans who would rejoice that their hero (or anti-hero? your choice), Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice is back, and so are the club’s hopes for the Super Bowl.
He’s paid his dues to society, the battle cry will go, leave the guy alone.
And how about Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice’s faithful wife? The girl who stands by her man no matter what? The girl who considers a punch that renders her unconscious equal almost to a badge of honour?
If she does not get treatment soon, and if she does not realize that her life is more precious than a dozen of huge rings and beautiful cars, and if she doesn’t see to it that her husband is forced to mend his ways (force is the only thing he seems to respect), she may wake up one morning – dead.
What a future!
Tagged: AIDS, Andy Warhol, Atalanta City, Baltimore Ravens, HIV, Janay Palmer, Janay Rice, Joe Juneau, Magic Johnson, NBA, NFL, NHL, Raymell Mourice “Ray” Rice, Revel Casino, Roger Goodell, Super Bowl