The Suspension, the Critics, & 'Jungle Fever'

The news of the day is obviously Pacman Jones and the NFL's decision to suspend him indefinitely for his latest act of misbehavior. (Or, if you want it happy-happy-joy-joy, the news of the day can be Dallas' acqusition of Lions receiver Roy Williams.)

But I want to wrestle with the critics of Pacman Jones, too. I want to urge Pacman to maybe take up movie-watching as a hobby. And maybe some his his critics should try a specific film: Go rent yourself Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever.'' And in an unlikely twist, the critic who oughta be first in line down at the Blockbuster is Stephen A. Smith.

SAS, speaking on ESPN (as chronicled by our friend Ray Buck of the Ft.-Worth Star-Telegram), bloviates that he's "really ticked off right now'' and "really embarrassed'' because he happens to share a skin color with the Cowboys' misanthrope Pacman.

Jones, the recently reinstated cornerback who engaged in a brawl with his own bodyguard last week and therefore is being punished by the NFL in the form of a suspension-without-pay that will last at least a month, motivated SAS to explain why he is "sick and tired. …''

Jones is "completely idiotic in this situation,'' Smith said. "I'm really ticked off right now. Because one of the things that I think a lot of people can't say, but obviously I can say being an African-American, I don't see too many white players getting into these kinds of situations.''

Continued the commentator: "It's entirely embarrassing. As an African-American, I'm really getting sick and tired of having to sit up here and give some kind of explanation as to why these guys find themselves in this situation.''

I'm not African-American. Is it OK if I speak now?

Pacman's idiocy is beyond debate. While attending a high-class uptown party and then allegedly engaging in a fistfight with one's own bodyguard may not be a crime, it is obviously a suspension-worthy offense. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, in reacting to the ruling, clearly agrees. "We respect and support the decision of the commissioner,'' Jerry Jones said. "I regret that this issue has brought negative attention to the Cowboys and the NFL. We move forward with a very clear knowledge as to what the process will be for a possible re-instatement. Adam is well aware of where he stands and what he has to do.''

Meaning, Pacman knows. Pacman knew. And he did something in violation anyway. Involving himself in anything like this so while on Zero-Tolerance Watch is idiotic.

"Sick and tired''? Sure. The behavior of privileged pro athletes, from dopey to dangerous, tests the patience of those of us who love sports. It always has. Imagine what Babe Ruth could've been! Hey, has any jock ever been more of a playa than Zeus?

But somebody might wish to explain to SAS (and to others who opt to make the misbehavior of jocks a racial issue) that it is possible the reason there are more incidents among black athletes than there are among white athletes is because. …

There are more black athletes than there are white athletes?

I'm not dismissing culture or background or education (or the lack thereof) in explaining the well-chronicled troubles or all the rest. But isn't it worth pointing out that simply based on sheer numbers – 80 percent of the NBA is black and 70 percent of the NFL is black – African-Americans are more likely to be the ones arrested? And the ones scoring touchdowns? And the ones committing offside penalties? And the ones doing. … everything?

More from Stephen A. Smith: "My last comment: White players are not finding themselves in these situations. We've got to start taking a look at ourselves.''

The first part of SAS's remarks there deserve much more research. Do "white players'' really not get themselves in "situations''? Whites don't brawl? Say dumb things? Smoke pot? Use steroids? Engage in sexual harassment? Get arrested for domestic violence? Fail to pay child support? Cheat? Drink and drive?

They don't?

The second part of SAS's remark there is indisputable. Should the black community "take a look at itself'' and re-evaluate things about its culture, its background and its education?

Sure. As should the white community.

And Stephen A. Smith needn't feel obligated to "sit up here'' and excuse any of it.

Pacman has made some awful choices. As NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in his statement/letter-to-Pacman accompanying the ruling, the incident is a continuation of "a disturbing pattern of behavior and clearly inconsistent with the conditions I set for your continued participation in the NFL.''

But is that "pattern of disturbing behavior'' a negative reflection on all black people? To paraphrase SAS, I'll leave it to somebody who is African-American to say that.

But I'll reference "Jungle Fever,'' when the candy-shop proprietor Carbone is arguing with his Italian-American buddies, all of whom are pissed because David Dinkins has been elected mayor of New York City.

The guys grouse: "They took over sports.''

… "Baseball, basketball, football, boxing.'' … "What do we got left?'' … "Hockey?'' … "Golf.'' … "Golf! Come on, man.''

Then they turn to politics: "They $#@! elected Dinkins. Christ, when does it stop?'' … "Look at Marion Barry, smokin' crack with his girlfriend. … I mean, the mayor of D.C., the nation's capitol!''

Carbone attempts to be a voice of reason: "What does that have to do with David Dinkins? Two different people.''

The fellas answer: "He's black!''

No, Carbone says. "There's Marion Barry and there's David Dinkins. … two different people.''

Replies the chorus of buddies: "They're both black!''

Hopefully, most of aren't in that chorus. We recognize that Pacman Jones is identified by something more than just his race, and that he shouldn't be victimized by blanket criticism or protected by blanket defense.

In other words, Stephen A. Smith, you needn't defend your brothers because they are black, and you needn't feel embarrassed because they are black, either.

What Pacman Jones needs is a relaxing evening at home. Watching a movie, maybe. And a lot of his race-minded critics also need a Blockbuster Night.

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