Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Football, Rice, and Videotape

The entire way this whole Ray Rice incident was handled really pisses me off.  Let me first go on record by saying that I loathe and detest the Baltimore Ravens and I don't have a lot of love for any NFL player that gets himself in trouble over stupid stuff.  Knocking out your drunk girlfriend with a left hook falls in the category of 'stupid stuff'. Mom always told me "never hit a girl" and, so far after 45 years of life, I've managed to follow that advice.  I'm not saying there weren't some very close calls - and I'm not claiming there can't be exceptions to the rule. But one thing is for sure, you should never left-hook your girlfriend or wife -no matter what- because this is the person you're supposed to love. This isn't same random raving female lunatic who comes out of nowhere trying to kill you, this is the person you love... your potential soulmate, your other half. Love is war sometimes; I get that.  But, for God's sake, just walk away from her and punch the nearest wall if the argument is getting THAT heated and she's got you THAT wound up.

So, yeah, dumbass move Ray Rice... clocking your girlfriend like that.  And, unfortunately for you, big brother was watching and got the entire incident on video so you, your now-wife, and the rest of the world can relive that dumbass move over and over and over again. I don't think anyone will disagree with me when I say he was in the wrong and what he did was a major no-no.  Great. We've established that.

The other fact that most people will not argue about is that the NFL's punishment for Ray Rice did not even come close to fitting the crime. You cold-clock your girlfriend and knock her unconscious, end up getting charged with assault, and the best the NFL can do is suspend you for two games?! Yeah, I can understand why a lot of people were outraged.  It became a running joke.  Every time another NFL player was punished, it was compared to Ray Rice's punishment. But to Ray's credit, he came out and sounded genuinely contrite about the entire incident. Was he really sorry or just sorry he got caught? I don't know.  Is he just a nice guy who lost his head?  I don't know that either. Only time will tell. But what followed among Ravens folks was a general "forgive and forget" attitude in Baltimore.  And after taking a lot of heat over the less-than-adequate punishment handed down to Ray Rice, the NFL changed their policy so that if and when something like this happens again, the punishment would be much worse - a six-game suspension for first-time offenders, and a potential lifetime ban for repeat offenders.  Everybody makes mistakes -some of them grievous. Ray Rice got off light, the NFL had egg on its face, but at the end of the day it looked to me like some positives had still come out of the whole mess. Ray and his girl got married (maybe she's just a terminal victim but I'd like to think maybe they worked things out in their relationship so no more boxing matches take place), the NFL is now prepared to treat future domestic violence cases as the serious crimes they are, and we witnessed that people can be forgiven and move on with being better people in their lives despite dumbass moves.  Ah, a happy ending.

And then TMZ (one of the shittiest organizations on the face of the earth) releases the entire video of that awful night with Ray and his girl... including the actual brutal punch that knocked her out cold in the elevator.  Suddenly, all the progress that had been made over the past months was wiped from everyone's memory. Now that folks could actually SEE the punch -the abuse- well, suddenly, that changed everything.  Suddenly Ray Rice was back in the dog house, fallen from grace and forgiveness and now just a piece-of-shit woman beater.

Why? Just take the video out of this equation for a second.  We all already knew that he punched his girl hard enough to knock her out. We all already knew that he was charged with assault.  We saw how the NFL handed down a less-than-adequate punishment and then saw Ray Rice publicly apologize. We witnessed major NFL policy changes as a result of this whole incident, and then we (or at least I) saw the Ravens organization as a whole stand up for Ray Rice and basically say "Yeah, he made a really horrible mistake.  He committed a terrible crime. But you know what, we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt. We're going to forgive him because we believe he's a good person and that this was just a dumbass move that he will learn from and never ever do again.” Ray was warmly greeted by fans during the preseason. Players and coaches had nothing but good things to say about him.

No one should really need to actually see the video to realize that what Ray Rice did was brutal. We already knew that he knocked her out cold -what, does everyone think he did that with a little slap or a tap on the cheek?!  No one was able to put two and two together in their head and say to themself "man, he must've clocked her good!" -c'mon, really!?!  We all know the facts of what happened.  The problem is we're a bunch of suckers when it comes to sensational videos.  Never mind the facts, just show us some controversial, sensational video and we'll all just lose any modicum of common sense we may have had and totally lose our minds.  Way to go TMZ!  If you read any of my previous posts in this blog, you already know I HATE the media and all they do to stir the pot.  TMZ is no different.

In my humble opinion, Ray Rice should've been suspended for the entire season from the get-go. I wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if the NFL would’ve banned him for life. But he wasn't because the NFL seriously dropped the ball on handing down sufficient punishment. He already received his punishment from our criminal justice system, so that's pretty much a moot point. To their credit, the NFL changed their policy for the better.  That was a good thing.  And then everyone else seemed to move on (not saying there weren't a whole lotta people still pissed off).  Ray apologized; the Ravens organization and fans seemed to say "OK Ray, we'll give you another chance" and that right there should have been the end of this entire terrible episode. 

But it wasn't.  We all took a huge step BACKWARDS when TMZ released the video.  Everyone in the Ravens camp did a complete 180-degree about-face and turned on Ray like he had done ANOTHER bad thing. All because a video showed in graphic detail what we all already knew -and had decided to leave in the past.  What does that really say about us as human beings?  If we had had this reaction from the beginning, I'd have no problem with it. But we all sort of flip-flopped and in the course of 10 hours, Ray went from the poster child for redemption to the devil incarnate. Sorry folks, that's messed up.  Ray Rice remains the same guy he always was (for better or worse) whether you see that video or not. The only thing that changed after seeing that video is the forgiveness that a LOT of people willingly gave to Ray Rice.  To me that's just as shitty of a move as Ray clocking his girlfriend in the elevator.