Is ‘character’ the right word?


I’ve always felt “character” should be reserved for higher standards than whether or 
not one
engages in criminal activities.

Is ‘character’ the right word? I’ve avoided blogging about the Tennessee Titans for a long time. Several reasons:

  • I’d rather spend spare time obsessing over what to plant in my 16 square-foot vegetable garden (a new experiment this year) than obsessing over who the Titans should draft — and garden-planning-season roughly overlaps with the NFL pre-draft season.
  • I’m in denial over how Steve McNair is being treated. (Ditto to what Mark Oldham says.) I keep trying to remind myself that these disputes between rich guys and really rich guys should not deserve a level of my personal concern I was hoping to reserve for, say, hurricane victims or family members and friends who are going through some personal tragedy. Of course, for me, Steve McNair
    is the Titans. I still enjoy returning to a spot in my life where hero-worship was still allowed, and fun. I knew this day would come: When Bud Adams would display why the Houston fans were so over-joyed when he left town. I knew this day would come: When the NFL salary cap system would force a choice between paying respect to a legend and placing a bet on the future of the franchise. I hated the way Eddie George exited — and McNair’s treatment is going to end up being worse. But that’s the way with the NFL. I have to keep reminding myself to just get over it when it comes to professional sports. I guess I should just grow up. But being a football fan was one of my ways to avoid that. Oh, well.

  • Pacman Jones. Admittedly, in a satirical way, I spent much of last season pretending to be a fan of Pacman. It was my comment on the argument that shoring up a porous secondary is more important than a player’s arrest record. Again, the NFL is a business and winning is the only ROI that matters. Or whatever. Fortunately, the Nashville’s NHL franchise, the Predators, is in the Stanley Cup playoffs, because if they weren’t, the sports pages here would be 100% (rather than 75%) like the following quote from a story about “character” in today’s Tennessean:

    “Since last April, Jones has been in the news plenty for negative reasons, including twice in the last 10 days. On Wednesday he was involved in a 1:50 a.m. altercation at a local gas station and witnessed gunshots. The week before Metro Police named him as an acquaintance of one of nine men arrested in a major drug trafficking ring. On at least two other occasions since last year, he was at the scene of incidents where police were called, though he wasn’t arrested in either of those cases.

    In March, a judge dropped charges of misdemeanor assault and felony vandalism charges against Jones over a nightclub altercation last July. In his controversial rookie season, he was also involved in numerous
    incidents with his uniform on, including verbal confrontations with fans, referees and an opposing coach, and a physical altercation with opposing players. He was removed from the team’s season finale after fighting with a Jacksonville Jaguar receiver, and exchanging words with a game official.”

    In other words, my hero, Steve McNair is being tossed out the door at the same time, thug-magnet Pacman Jones is entering into the most costly portion of his contract with the Titans. This is really testing my ability to hack it as an NFL fan.

    Before closing the floodgates on my Titans blogging for a few more months (except perhaps a draft-related post next weekend and the “hate to see McNair leave” post in a few weeks), I’d like to go on record with a recommendation:

    The word “character” should be banned as a euphemism in sports coverage.

    I’ve always felt “character,” when used to describe moral and ethical attributes of an individual, should be reserved for higher standards and practices than, merely, does one, or does one not, engage in criminal activities or continuously fraternize with individuals who do. However, in the world of sports coverage, apparently all one needs to possess “character” is to avoid having an arrest record. Having “character” is not the issue with Pacman Jones, Marcus Vick or the Duke Lacrosse team. In my book, avoiding indictment, arrest or conviction is not the standard of having character.

    So, instead of using the euphemistic term “his character,” I suggest sports writers and bloggers and TV talking heads go ahead and say, “(Draft Pick’s) tendency to be in situations where people are being arrested for shooting guns, rape
    and dealing drugs may be an issue for the team. However, he had a great combine and his lawyer says the charges won’t stick, so who knows?”

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    • lcreekmo

      Get out of town. This is really a high-class blog now. I love that new pull quote feature on the left.

      I also agree with your post, on almost all points. Though in the end, professional sports is a business. It’s we fans who have an emotional attachment to the players. Perhaps the owners are truly the most honest ones in the business. They are treating the players like business assets, which in fact they are, and they haven’t promised them to be sentimental about it when they blow a knee or get arthritis. Harsh? Well, players have the option to save up those generous salaries and invest wisely for the day they all know is coming.

      The problem, if you want to call it that, is that sports are a way for us all to relive our youth. And the passing of a hero reminds us all of the passing of our own youth. No one wants to be reminded of the coming day when we’ll be shown the door, literally or figuratively. I’m only 34 but I’ve already figured out that much of pop culture has left me behind, despite my decent understanding of technology and the Internet. I think this is accelerated by having children. When you’re constantly REMINDED that you are old and out of it, that surely accelerates the process.
      Best to McNair, one of my heroes-on-the-field since his college days.

    • bhudgins

      While we are at it, let’s ban “character” from political discussions. Barring episodes like getting caught in a fountain with a stripper or flagrantly taking bribes, character often depends on whether it’s your sumbitch we’re discussing or mine. The sumbitch who wins and gets stuff done gets character laurels from those who support her or him, while others speculate about his ancestry and neuron count and try to replace him or her asap.