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Unstrung Heroes

Does character matter in today’s NFL?

I’ve raised my wonderful son Daniel on Redskins football. At an early age, upon hearing his burgundy and gold obsessed Dad screaming euphorically at the television set, he’d acknowledge my fandom in the simplest, purest of terms.

'Wedskins winnin’, he’d exclaim.

He intuitively knew that football, especially Washington Redskins football, was important in our house. Traditions mattered. Redskins history mattered. Winning mattered. And knowing, embracing, and celebrating the players who showed up in our colors on TV every Sunday mattered.

But I was careful never to let him mistake great athletes for great men.

I never bought into the laughable notion that our sports heroes were heroes anywhere other than on the playing field. Good thing too. These days Lucy, I’d have a lot of 'splainin to do.

A couple of weeks ago, we were treated to the most recent revelation involving a high-profile athlete, this time not just any athlete, but an NFL icon quarterback Brett Favre. Bringing new meaning to the phrase 'junk mail’, Favre stands accused of the aggressive sexual pursuit of a New York Jets sideline reporter, including sending some up close and candid shots of Captain Howdy for her review. In fairness, whether Favre is a major pervert or the victim of some truly clever but cruel act of impersonation, remains to be seen. But the fact that few doubt the veracity of Favre’s accuser here shows just how low expectations of our NFL 'heroes’ have fallen.

I’m no angel. I don’t go to church on Sunday. I know the value of a good well-placed expletive. Sometimes, like good ol’ Jimmy Carter, I may even have an impure thought or two. Yet aiming my cell camera south, capturing Old Glory, and hitting 'send’ to some hot young thing 20 years my junior has never once occurred to me.

Just what are these guys thinking, one might reasonably ask?

Yet the more pressing question is, does the behavior of our sports 'heroes’ even matter anymore? Does anyone out there (beyond Roger Goodell and I) even care? Today’s sports fans have witnessed so many headline-grabbing, salacious shocks they’re experiencing full-blown scandal fatigue. When future Hall of Famers lead personal lives that would make Caligula proud, it’s hard to sustain moral outrage over anything but the most outrageous of offenses. Let’s face it, you’ve got to butcher man’s best friend to get any real attention these days.

But fans should care...

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