The Daily Illini

Column: Athletes gone wild

By Jon Gluskin

We all make mistakes. Fine.

But there has to be a difference between a mistake and pure stupidity. Sometimes you just have to ask yourself, “What were they thinking?”

Too often in sports today, we are confronted with this question. This week’s incident is even more baffling than most.

I was watching ESPN’S “Pardon the Interruption” on Wednesday when I saw one of the topics in the right-hand corner was named “Sex Scandal.” Obviously I was intrigued.

So a few minutes pass and the topic is brought to the top and instantly the Minnesota Vikings logo appears. Listening to the story I was stupefied.

The Vikings are being investigated for a party last Thursday night on two cruise ships in which there was said to be drunkenness, nudity and even sexual activity. Up to 17 players are being accused of being on the ships.

As of right now, this is a rumor. No charges have been filed yet.

When there’s a rumor like this, it’s normally true. The fact is the boats did come back to shore more than two hours ahead of schedule due to complaints from the crew members.

Whether or not these events happened isn’t even the big issue in my opinion.

The issue is that athletes put themselves in situations where they are so incredibly vulnerable to getting into big trouble.

Is there a rule that when you become a professional athlete, your common sense gets checked at the door?

It seems like it.

First off, the Vikings have been this season’s biggest bust. They were preseason favorites to make a run to the Super Bowl and now they’re 1-3, their head coach Mike Tice’s games left seem to be limited, and they seem to be in utter disarray.

I guess they wanted to make the most of their bye week, and not dwell on how miserable they’ve played this season.

That being said, the more important issue is that athletes are put on a pedestal in today’s society. Athletes are our heroes. Athletes are our role models, especially for children.

Athletes are role models, even if Charles Barkley doesn’t think so. When a person chooses sports as his or her profession, they are giving up the rights to a normal life. That’s the way it is.

They are giving up going out to dinner without being hounded for autographs and pictures. They are giving up going to bars and being just like everyone else.

They might not think it’s fair they can’t live their private lives without the public interfering.

Would anybody care if you or I or the next guy was accused of being on that cruise? Of course not.

But then again, we aren’t paid millions of dollars to do our work. People don’t pay to wear our names on the back of their shirts.

Athletes have an inherent responsibility to conduct themselves in a dignified manner both on and off the field. Kids try to emulate these people.

What are children going to think while they are watching “SportsCenter” and the Vikings segment comes up on the show?

How are the parents going to respond when the child asks, “What are sex toys?” Oh, by the way, the report does involve visible sex toys being used too.

The list of players who were reportedly involved in the “party” has not been released. But cornerback Fred Smoot was said to have paid for one of the cruises. Running back Mewelde Moore said none of the rumored activities took place.

I’m sure in the next couple of weeks we’ll find out more details on what took place. It will be interesting to see what comes from this. Fines, suspensions and criminal charges are all possibilities.

Athletes need to realize that what they do in private will never just stay private. They need to accept this.

It’s called common sense.

Jon Gluskin is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected]

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