Ray Rice jogged onto training camp practice field today and received a standing ovation.
He could have been greeted in myriad appropriate ways.
He could have been greeted with silence.
He could have been greeted with boos.
He could have been greeted with mild cheers.
He was greeted with a standing ovation.
I live in New Rochelle, N.Y.—Ray Rice’s hometown. For many here, he is both a hero and symbol of what one can accomplish. Tons of kids own No. 27 Baltimore Ravens jerseys. Hell, on my daughter’s shelf is an autographed Ravens helmet, courtesy of Rice. Folks here are rightly proud that one of their own reached such heights.
That being said, were Rice to return home today for a clinic or parade, I’m quite certain he’d be greeted with crickets. People can tolerate thieves, can tolerate drug abusers, can tolerate adultery and burglary. What most of us can’t tolerate, however, is abusing a woman the way Ray Rice apparently abused his fiance. It is unspeakably awful.
So why did Raven fans salute Ray Rice in such a way? Answer: The same reason Louisville fans are so thrilled to have Bobby Petrino back coaching football. The same reason Eagles fans were quick to embrace Michael Vick. The same reason one of my best friends swore by Lance Armstrong, even after he lied, then lied again, then lied again. The same reason Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire could destroy baseball’s record books, but still be viewed heroically.
Why? Because sports fans have no souls when it comes to sports. In their personal lives—souls. Were sports fan’s daughter dragged from an elevator like a piece of raw steak, he would be furious. Were sports fan’s son to cheat on a math exam, he would punish the child for many moons. But that sense of morality only extends so far.
We don’t demand accountability from our athletes.
We simply demand results.