From: Daniel, John L
Sent: Monday, August 22, 2011 1:56 PM
I wrote the column that follows for The Advocate on August 23, 1993. The headline read, "A primer for athletic behavior."
Honestly, I can't remember what prompted it back then, but after LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson foolishly made the news hist college football preseason it seemed incumbent upon me to type it up again. Remember, this column was from the pre-internet, pre-everyone-knows-everything-all-the-time era.
Oddly enough, just recently I showed the original copy to BBI's Derek Ponamsky, who especially liked the part, "When you're in a bar, it's not unimaginable that someone will make fun of you for your athletic endeavors or make a move on your date. Do not hit these people. Ignore them. Leave if you must. Do not throw your drink at them or hit them with a beer bottle."
And so it goes.
A primer for athletic behavior
Don't hit people, steal, shoot things, drive drunk …
As you athletes begin your classes at our local universities and continue practicing your respective sports, you should pay attention to what hopefully will be a primer on how to keep your name out of the news for the wrong reasons.
Why, you might ask. Simple. Every year local college athletes are arrested for a variety of reasons.
Just kids doing kid things? Sometimes. But reasons to be arrested nonetheless.
People who know better willingly committing criminal acts? Sure.
Most everyone here, members of the media included, want you to do well. We want you to get good grades and we want you to play well. We want you to win, because it's good not only for you but for everyone involved, and that includes more than just your schools. It includes this entire community.
And therein lies something many college athletes never consider. As college athletes, you are members of our community. Your university is not an entity within itself; rather it's an integral part of this city. Students come and go, but the people who work on campus and depend on the school for their livelihoods in some form or fashion remain.
So do the fans. Athletes come and go but the same fans buy tickets and support the team year after year after year, long before you got here and will do so long after you're gone.
Which brings up something else that you haven't considered: You are held to a higher standard than the rest of your classmates. Because you're an athlete what you do wrong off the field than what you do right on it. You may not think that's fair, but that's how it is.
If you lose, you may be criticized.
If you break the law, you will be castigated.
This is what happens when you get arrested: Your name appears on police reports. Those reports are fairly detailed and all that you are accused of appears there.
We understand that anyone arrested is innocent until proven guilty. That, however, is where the higher standard comes in. If an everyday student is arrested, it's often not newsworthy.
But when an athlete is booked, his or her alleged crime is newsworthy. In a university town, it's big news. Sadly, but true, people will remember the arrest much more than – if that's the case – the acquittal or the throwing out of the charges.
So what's an athlete to do? Or in this case, not do?
You are at an age when people test the limits. However, you have given up some of that right. They don't put out media guides on the other students. Fans don't pay to watch the other students play games.
-- College kids drink. It's naïve to think otherwise. If you drink, don't drink too much. If you're going to drive, don't drink at all.
-- When you're in a bar, it's not unimaginable that someone will make fun of you for your athletic endeavors or make a move on your date. Do not hit these people. Ignore them. Leave if you must. Do not throw your drink at them or hit them with a beer bottle.
-- If you are a man, don't hit a woman. Under any circumstances. No matter who she is, no matter what she says, no matter what she does.
-- Do not drive too fast. A few years ago a local athlete was ticketed for driving faster than 120 on a state road. His coach blew it off and said the player told him he was just cleaning some bad gas out of his engine. Those kinds of things give us gas.
-- Don't steal things. Shoplifting will get you all sorts of bad publicity. So will stealing things like parking meters and street signs.
-- You may own a gun. Why you would is beyond us, because even if hunting season is right around the corner you should be practicing and/or studying. Leave your gun back home so you don't shoot it out the window. That includes dorm and apartment windows and the windows of your moving car.
All of the above, and plenty of acts not listed, will get your name in the paper and the odds are the story will move on the national wires. We don't like to write those stories. We want to do happy features on you. We want to report about how you've overcome odds to become top-notch athletes. Or about the games you've won with your heroics.
We don't want to write stories about how you've embarrassed your team, your family, your university, yourself or our city.
You hear a lot of talk these days about athletes being role models. You don't want to be a role model? Fine. But don't be a reverse role model.
If you don't want to go to class, that's up to you. If you don't want to study, that's your call. Don't, however, break the law. If you do, you will get plenty of publicity for all the wrong reasons.
Sportswriter Lee Feinswog has covered LSU athletics since moving to Baton Rouge in 1984. He is the host of the TV shows Sports Monday and Sports 225, which features a weekly interview with BBI's Derek Ponamsky. Feinswog has written three books, including Tales From The LSU Sidelines and What It Means To Be A Tiger. Contact him through his website, sports225.com.
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