By Jason Keidel
It seems we’ve jumped into the pool of relativism since we got wind of Josh Gordon’s season-long suspension for marijuana use.
You have the indignant faction that can’t believe someone who smokes weed gets a year while Ray Rice skates with a two-game suspension.
You have the other side that finds great comfort and prudence in pointing out that substance abuse is collectively bargained, whereas domestic violence is still in the embryonic form of legislation.
Find me in the former. Some of us don’t give a damn that one infraction is splashed across some corporate chart and the other isn’t.
And why isn’t violence against women somewhere in the bowels of NFL policy? Surely men have been abusing women at least as long as they’ve been rolling joints.
And think of the message this sends. Smoke weed and be banished like a violent felon. Knock your future wife unconscious and it’s a “family matter.” The Ravens circled the wagons as if Rice were the battered one. But who spoke on behalf of his wife?
Sure, the league just moon-walked from its draconian sense of justice, implementing harsher penalties for abuse against women. But this is the legal equivalent of the morning after pill.
The NFL did this because it had to, not because it wanted to. Besides, if Roger Goodell really got religion he would admit his mistake over Rice and try to extend the suspension, even if the effort were simply symbolic. It’s not like he’s ever expressed any fear of the players union, which he’s kept buried in his hip pocket since becoming commissioner.
Josh Brent killed his best friend while driving drunk and he gets another shot to play pro football. But hide the kids when Josh Gordon is in town, because he’s clearly a menace to society.
Go to any sporting event and you’ll see the walls of your favorite arena lathered with alcohol ads. Heck, drive to a bar or ballgame, get well lubed on the team’s beer of choice, then drive home. But don’t smoke a bong or even a cigarette when you get home, because that’s bad for you.
We’re not obtuse here. Josh Gordon did this to himself. He essentially chose to choke on herb instead of catching touchdowns for the Browns.
Gordon’s pathological need to bake cost him his season, reputation, and possibly his career. His penchant for flouting the rules is almost a carbon copy of Ricky Williams’ disdain for logic in the face of fame and fortune.
But it’s also obvious that Gordon has a problem. Yes, addiction is a sickness. But we don’t want to hear that because the sporting algorithm has already been set. Your status as a pro bowl entity should carry you gleefully through life. The money and women should be an ample anesthetic. Thus we constantly confuse illness with weakness.
But hasn’t history taught us that cash and cachet are almost never enough? How many Doc Goodens, Darryl Strawberrys, Steve Howes, Mike Tysons, and Ryan Leafs do we need for the bell to finally ring on our perceptions?
Forget the music and movie stars, where the list is longer than the Magna Carta. Sports, like the arts, is entertainment. And those who climb the rungs of success suffocate in the thin air of stardom.
That doesn’t mean you have to feel sorry for Josh Gordon. Only he can heal himself. The first step in any twelve step treatise refers to a desire to stop – the drinking, drugging, gambling, shopping, or overeating.
Until Josh Gordon gets his priorities right he will never be right. That’s on him. But what does it say about the NFL, and about those of us who worship it, when we give a virtual free pass to a man who punched his woman unconscious?
Not only are we unable to discern the difference between sickness and helpless, but also good, right and wrong.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden.
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