Bengals’ coach: Draft the jail-birds or there’ll be nothing left

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Let’s see now. Which of the
noble doings in professional sports in recent days should we use to inspire the
young scholastic and collegiate athletes of the nation.

How about the eighth Cincinnati
Bengal to get in trouble with the law this year?

Or perhaps Terrell Owens spitting
in the face of Atlanta Falcons cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Or the travesty at Madison Square
Garden last Saturday night, which, if New York press reports are verified, could
cost New York Knicks’ president and coach Isaiah Thomas his job.

Any one of these inspirational
acts will do, but just as bad are the mealy-mouthed responses of the people who
are supposed to be running things in professional sports.

The Bengals first.

The team has become a national
joke, with eight players arrested since the end of last season. The most recent
transgressions involved receiver Reggie McNeal, a rookie on and off the field,
who got involved in a brawl outside a night club and was arrested for resisting
arrest, and cornerback Deltha O’Neal, nabbed for driving under the influence.

You might think someone would get
thrown out of the game for a season or two, but the coach of these guys, now
being called “the Mean Machine” after the jailbird team in the movie
“The Longest Yard,” has a different view. Marvin Lewis told Cincinnati
reporters, plaintively, that “I can’t hold their hands 24/7, and then
added, “I don’t care what they say nationally. I don’t think you guys
attack me because you know what I stand for.”

What does Marvin Lewis stand for?

Plenty. He was responsible for
personally hand-picking this crew of carnage. They are his choices, and he has
to live with them, and bear the brunt of their blunders.

A good example is wide receiver
Chris Henry, drafted last year. Since then, he has been arrested four times,
twice pleading guilty — in separate states — to carrying a concealed weapon
and possessing marijuana. The NFL, in response to this conduct, barred him for
playing in two games this year. What courage!

Or try this one for size: A. J.
Nicholson was thrown off Florida State’s team before the Orange Bowl last year
because of alleged sexual shenanigans in his hotel room. It is not easy to get
thrown off a Seminoles football team, but Nicholson made the grade. Knowing
this, and despite it, Marvin and the Bengals drafted him, and Nicholson
responded in gratitude last June by being nabbed on burglary and grand theft
charges.

Marvin, asked about all the
criminal high jinks, said “these things socially are not right,” but
at the same time he rejected the idea of the NFL barring from the draft anyone
who had tangled with the law. “You’d have very few guys left to
draft,” he said.

In Atlanta, Terrell Owens, he of
the Tarzan build and mind to match, was in headlines again, spitting in the face
of the Falcons’ DeAngelo Hall. Hall said, “I lost all respect for the
guy,” noting, seriously and apparently not realizing the humor, “That’s
like the number one thing in the NFL. You don’t spit in another grown man’s
face.”

Then there was the Knicks and
Nuggets disgrace in the Garden, in New York Saturday night, one that must have
left righteous David Stern quivering on his commissioner’s throne. It brought
instant replay remembrance of two years ago, when the Indiana Pacers and Detroit
Pistons had at it in the Palace at Michigan’s Auburn Hills.

That one sent Ron Artest into
inactivity for the rest of the year. This one is being written about here before
the NFL’s punitive action is known, but 10 players were tossed out of the last
minute of Saturday’s NBA game.

The New York press suggested on
Sunday that the whole episode may have been triggered by the Knicks’ coach and
president, Isaiah Thomas, ordering a hard foul in frustration for the Nuggets
playing their stars right to the end of a game already clearly won. Sucker
punches were thrown, one by the league’s leading scorer and current darling,
Carmelo Anthony, on Mardy Collins, the Knicks’ rookie who collared J.R. Smith
of Denver as he was driving for an easy score. Whether it was Collin’s own
idea or his coach’s, it was a flagrant foul that led to mayhem.

So much for this week’s edition
of Sportsmanship, USA.

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