ESPN story explores ‘insular world’ of A.P.

An ESPN the Magazine story explores those surrounding Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, focusing on the disciplining of his son, his lavish birthday party and his pursuit of the rushing record.

On Friday, the NFL Preview issue of ESPN: The Magazine will hit the newsstands and one of the primary stories will focus on Adrian Peterson. The story will cover many of the typical bases – from his goal of rushing for 2,500 yards this season and his plans to play until he is 37 or 38 in order to get the 8,166 rushing yards he needs to set the all-time record.

It will also include a family history up to and including his gaudy 30th birthday party that was a little over the top – a camel, stripper poles and an Arabian Nights theme qualify as over the top.

But the aspect of the story that is likely going to draw the most attention will be the portion that deals with his legal issues.
In a piece entitled “Suspended Reality” by Eli Saslow, it creates a portrayal of Peterson effectively living in the bubble of the child abuse scandal that erased his 2014 season and perhaps irreparably changed his public image. One can only imagine that for those who have already made up their minds on their views of Peterson as a father, the ESPN piece is likely only going to raise their indignant feelings toward him.

In explaining his day-to-day life, Saslow writes of Peterson: “He spends the bulk of his time with friends who believe he has done nothing wrong. He asks his relatives not to talk about the allegations of child abuse, not to use that word – “abuse” – in his presence, and they willingly play their part. While NFL insiders spent their offseason debating Peterson’s actions and any hope for redemption, he acted as if not much had changed. Inside his manufactured community, he remains the victim of a colossal misunderstanding – an icon with little to prove and nothing to redeem.”

The story goes on the claim that Peterson only trusts those who serve as enablers and his reality is one of his own creation. When speaking with a cousin of Peterson about the use of a switch on his son after the child shoved his brother, Carol Pegues took to the defense of the practice of child discipline that has been common in that portion of East Texas.

“If you spare the rod, you spoil the child,” Pegues says. “We're from the old school, and we all got it like that coming up.”

Pegues went on to say that what may seem reprehensible to a lot of people is how things happen in Palestine. It has for generations and it has become part of the cultural norm in their family and in their community.

“As a parent, we learned that you have to draw a hard line and be consistent,” Pegues said. “I cannot find one switch mark on my body today, but it is posted in my brain, right from wrong. It’s posted on Adrian's brain too. That’s how you learn. He just went out and did what he had to do.”

Another cousin, Joe Davis, provided more affirmation that the discipline Peterson gave his son didn’t warrant prosecution and a plea-bargained admission of guilt.

“They might make him apologize, but we are God-oriented people, and we know in our hearts that don’t mean he wasn’t right,” Davis said.

The dual thread of the story was the opulence of Peterson’s 30th birthday party set against the life that he and his inner circle have lived for decades before he became both rich and famous.

The story of his lavish party is the recurring thread through the story, but the bottom line is that those who surround Peterson the closest for the most part believe he was justified in doing what he did last year when disciplining his son for pushing his brother.

For those who believe in the adage of second chances and are willing to forget how Peterson’s brand of child discipline differed from theirs, his background may help explain the unexplainable. To those who have already made up their minds, no excuse will be accepted and no explanation will suffice.

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