On Ray Rice

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I feel sorry for Ray Rice.

I know this isn’t permitted right now. I’m supposed to slam Ray Rice across the board. I’m supposed to say, “The only person to feel sorry for is his wife.” I’m supposed to talk about my daughter, and how I’d feel if a man hit her. I’m supposed to take some sort of moral stance, where I condemn him as a horrible human being who deserves to be locked away for life.

I understand, and I don’t necessarily disagree.

Still … I can’t help it. I feel sorry for Ray Rice.

Yesterday, his loved ones were surely telling him everything will be OK; that he’ll return to the NFL; that people have short memories; that he’s young, and he has a bright future.

This morning, he’s realizing very little of that is true.

He might return to the NFL. But, as LaVar Arrington told me yesterday, he probably won’t.

People have short memories—but they also have computers. With access to YouTube. There’s no escaping that.

He’s young, but suddenly very old.

His future is not bright. At all.

Athletes who say and do bad things recover. John Rocker is on Survivor. Darryl Strawberry runs a ministry. Michael Vick plays for the Jets. Aaron Hernandez … well, yeah. Never mind. The point is, one can rebound. But it’s not easy.

We, as a people, are unforgiving of ex-athletes. If you’re active, and can help our team, we love you. We talk about second chances and the American Dream and a guy’s 4.3 speed. But if we choose to discard you, you are trash. You might work as a casino greeter. Or giving talks about domestic abuse prevention. But we will tattoo you and brand you and damn you.

Ray Rice deserves to be tattooed and branded and damned. He does. But if this job has taught me one thing, it’s that no one is black or white. Not Rocker (who has done great work with veterans). Not Vick (an amazing rebound). Not Strawberry. Not Jeff Pearlman—who drove drunk in college; who had unprotected sex in college; who cheated on a test as a freshman. We all do bad things. On occasion, v-e-r-y bad things.

I hope Ray Rice realizes how awful it is to punch a woman. I hope he comes to understand the ills of domestic abuse. I hope he never hits another person. I hope he gets help.

Then, I hope he regains his footing and establishes something special.

Because, at this moment, all his hopes and dreams are—rightly—dead.

That’s something to feel sorry about.

4 thoughts on “On Ray Rice”

  1. If you have it within you to hit a woman, for whatever reason, it is not a mistake when you then do so — viciously, hard enough that they could have easily been killed. It is a pathology. I’m sorry he carries it, but I cannot wish him a successful second chapter. If a person carries a loaded Glock 9mm all day long, for years, and one day, in a fit of road rage, shoots the driver who cut him off, it is not a mistake. It is a pathology. Let’s examine the factors that led to his illness. Let’s learn from his descent. But let’s not give him a second chance in any athletic arena. And let’s find a way to help his wife, who is clearly scared to death, and psychologically shackled, as are all domestic abuse victims. But I for one do not hope that he regains his footing until, with our help, he has thoroughly exorcised his demons.

  2. so here’s a dumb question: if the new nfl policy on domestic violence says 6-game suspension for first offense, lifetime ban for 2nd offense…. why is Rice suspended “indefinitely”?
    shouldn’t he get the 6 games?

    1. Of course, one reason is that he made Goodell look bad, and THAT is an unforgivable sin to Goodell, especially when he had been conducting an aggressive “I acted appropriately and if you can’t understand that, you’re a dolt” campaign.

      The so-called ‘new NFL policy,” as many have pointed out, is a charade. In fact, the Commissioner has pretty much unfettered discretion to mete out more, or less, lenient punishment. Calling it a “policy” is public relations.

      Plus, if we learned one thing from Watergate, it’s that what’s worse than the crime is the cover-up. This is not to cheapen or dismiss the heinous nature of what RR did, or to condone violence against women (or against men, for that matter). But had he come clean and been forthcoming from the git-go, he’d likely be facing a somewhat less draconian sanction.

      Plus plus, he did his dirty deed where there were cameras. What’s the famous Internet meme in recent years? “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

      I have no complaint with his finally getting somewhat more appropriate punishment from the only forum that can actually punish him (since I assume the “sentence” to a diversion program is final). But it galls me that other players who hit women without such evidence get away more lightly, and it galls me equally that that his mealy mouthed, sanctimonious enablers on the Ravens and in the Commissioner’s Office, likely will suffer no more than transitory embarrassment. They didn’t hit anyone, but they really dropped a few turds in the punch bowl.

  3. You lost me on this one, Jeff. There’s making a mistake, and then there’s being outed as the kind of man who habitually hits the woman in your life (there’s no other way to interpret Rice’s behavior following the fist to the face) and then drags her body around like a sack of flour. If your reaction is to feel sorry for Ray Rice, you’re not a writer I need to read anymore. You have the right to feel the way you do, and write about it. I just don’t have to read it. Or buy any more of your books. How about spending your sympathy on the women who get battered and even killed every day of the week, and who get away with it in large part because men like you make excuses for them or set them up as deserving of any kind of sympathy.

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