WESTWOOD—Sometimes in sports things tend to get repeated. Teams win a string of championships, same player gets MVP every year and the roster for the All-Star games always seems to look very similar to the roster from 10 years ago. The only change comes from players no longer playing. There’s nothing wrong when sports become predictable, especially when success is smiling on your team, but when it becomes so predictable that athletes will continue to get into trouble with the law year in and year out, then there is something wrong with that.
I challenge anyone to look back in history and find a year when every athlete kept their nose clean and the only headlines they made were for scoring touchdowns or making jump shots. Athletes are put on some of the highest pedestals in society and the route they take to get up there is always a difficult one full of sacrifice, hard work and dedication. It’s a shame that it doesn’t take much for these athletes to fall and hit rock bottom.
Ricky Williams was a 220-pound punishing force that made defensive backs look slow as he ran past them and linebackers look like Jenga building blocks as he would violently butt them on their backside. Coming out of the University of Texas, it seemed like Ricky Williams was untouchable and for awhile he enjoyed the success and fame of being an NFL athlete until a simple substance called marijuana sparked a downward spiral in his life that he has just in the past few years been making excellent strides to turn everything around. Coming into the 2009 college football season, Oregon Duck running back LeGarrette Blount was labeled as a sure first round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, but in the first game of the season one punch almost completely destroyed his young football career.
Three great athletes Shaquille Richardson, Paul Richardson and Josh Shirley were given a great opportunity this past February on Signing Day when they signed their letter of intent to play football at UCLA. When they signed those letters they didn’t just sign up for a football career, they signed up for life, they signed up for a future, but just like Blount, in one instant that was all taken away. On June 23, these three incoming freshmen were arrested by University Police and charged with suspicion of felony theft. Less than a week later head coach Rick Neuheisel made the decision to dismiss them from the team and the school. Thankfully they will all have a chance to make amends if they meet the guidelines set for them and return in the winter, but the damage had already been done.
Change is something I’ve always been skeptical about. I like knowing everything will be how it was, and I don’t have to worry about learning something new. Keep in mind that something needs to change within the mindset of athletes all over the world. Athletes no longer have the benefit of the doubt; it is no longer a surprise when a crime is committed by a football player, basketball player or even track athlete, and that is something that definitely needs to change. Like I said I don’t like change, but I, for one, would like to continue to look up to athletes, not down on them.