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Athlete's fall accompanied with some dignity

Usually when jocks commit crimes, they emulate run-of-the mill thugs, but some are finding a little more class

July 04, 2012

So this University of Virginia alumnus is watching his football team disembark from the chartered plane prior to its game against Alabama.

As they file past the newsstand in the terminal, one lineman stops and buys a copy of the Washington Post. Another buys the New York Times, and a third buys the Wall Street Journal.

Finally a fourth lineman comes along and purchases a comic book, at which point the alum breathes a sigh of relief and says: “Thank goodness, we have a chance.”

I could have turned to a number of areas for a stereotypical dumb-jock reference, but that one will serve. It’s a stereotype that today I hope to break.

I’m optimistic that I can, although it didn’t start out that way. The first two lines of a headline late last month read: “Orioles Hall of Famer Eddie Murray investigated for links to...”

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With athletes, you usually know the rest: Investigated for something dumb. Investigated for performance-enhancing drugs. Investigated for drunken driving. Investigated for thinking that the nation’s tax laws don’t apply to them. Investigated for driving a bus filled with marijuana into a school zone. Investigated for gambling on baseball. Investigated for walking through airport security with more guns than the HMS Dreadnought.

But not this time.

No, the rest of the headline said that Murray was being investigated for links to insider trading.

Insider trading? Securities? Portfolios? Wall Street?

Thank goodness, we have a chance.

The story reported that Murray has been caught up in the case that has already engulfed former Major League Baseball third baseman Doug DeCinces. It involved “inside information that Abbott Laboratories was about to announce a deal to acquire Advanced Medical Optics for $2.8 billion in 2009.”

Oh come on, didn’t we all know deep down that this deal was going to come off?

Others might be disappointed, but not me. And I don’t say this just because Murray is my favorite baseball player of all time. I say this because I think it is a shining example we can hold up for our athletically gifted youth.

We can now tell our young ballplayers: “Look, when your career ends prematurely due to a torn meniscus you don’t have to stoop to peddling your signature at trading card shows, failing to report the income and spending the rest of your life like Willie Nelson performing like a trained gibbon for the benefit of the U.S. Treasury.

“You don’t have to buy a chain of car washes that you manage so poorly that they end up in bankruptcy, taking you down with it to spend the rest of your days smoking cigarettes and waxing Buicks in the used-car prep division of a company you once owned.

“No son, the world is your oyster. You can go full white collar. I’m talking Ponzi schemes, credit default swaps, hedge funds, black-swan events. Corner office, baby, just like our nation’s most respected CEOs. No checkered jacket and a derby hat signing T-shirts down at Al’s Trading Card and Coin Emporium for you.”

Ah, if only we could have reached a young Bjorn Borg or Leon Spinks in time.

A lot of us would have sold our souls to have been blessed with the athletic gifts that our star heroes possess. And while some might take a perverse satisfaction from those who come crashing down, I think the higher road is to hope that — if crash they must — it at least be accompanied by some dignity.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at timr@herald-mail.com.

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