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.