Sports

Peterson and society need measure and understanding

adrian peterson 2010One of the defining songs of my generation was “Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems” by Notorious B.I.G.

Adrian Peterson has a lot of money, and the hot media spotlight is his problem. While the Texas judicial system has determined a reasonable set of punishments for Peterson’s guilty plea to reckless assault against his 4-year-old son, the NFL institution has determined that Peterson should be penalized near to the fullest extent of their capacity – in the form of an indefinite unpaid suspension.

Looking more broadly than Peterson’s situation, the problem, or opportunity, is that cultural understanding is in the spotlight. The conversations over racial and cultural understanding in Ferguson, Mo. are another example of culture in America coming to the light for examination, and hopefully improvement.

Adrian Peterson is a good ol’ country guy. Randy Moss was a good ol’ country guy in the hot spotlight earned by great talent and enviable sums of money. A recent ESPN documentary showed an intimate human profile of Moss, confirming his roots and mindset. Moss is country and stubborn, and so seems Peterson, though Moss is the more mischievous of the two. Stubborn country folk and reality television news culture make for busy newsrooms. These same newsrooms have found low-hanging fruit through highlighting the bumps, scandal, and knucklehead activities of NFL player’s public and personal lives.

Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice unfortunately provided the ideal kindling log to the media, which was happy to include another high profile name such as Peterson’s, in order to take full advantage of the moment. Pictures, audio and video have provided impact to the several violent storylines throughout the sport.

Peterson’s parental mistake does not belong in the same violent category as the incidents of Rice and others’ crimes of assault.

Intent and motive are key words in the American judicial system, and punishments are influenced by their assessments. Approaches to justice, rehabilitation and healing are measured by intentions and motivations.

Certainly much of society does not agree with the form of punishment Peterson levied upon his child, but the central fact is that there was form and thought to how he approached the
activity. He didn’t drunkenly fly off the handle and punch somebody in the face. Peterson administered a form of disciplinary punishment familiar to most cultures in human history. Peterson’s guilt stems from excessive force, which qualifies as reckless and criminal behavior on the misdemeanor level of offense.

At this point Peterson does have a full history of recklessness (as do many of us, so I certainly still believe in the fella). His journey through youth was full of recklessness all around him. That is no excuse for his actions, but death and imprisonment – present in Peterson’s upbringing – will make a parent deliver dire and dynamic discipline to the children they love most because the greater consequences in life are intimately understood. Everybody doesn’t go through the same cultural and societal experiences, and thus they don’t understand until they’re patiently and constructively made aware.

Culturally, Adrian Peterson is what my childhood friends would refer to as a “Bam-Bam” – yes as in the strong child of Barney Rubble in “The Flintstones” cartoon. Peterson is known for crushing handshakes. He’s known as one of the most violent style running backs in NFL history. When you put that together with poor “whippin’ etiquette” you get unintended damage to his child’s butt and scrotum.

The muscle that has caused Peterson to earn further punishment from the NFL was his tongue. It’s about the legal and lawyer game in America and it is wise counsel when a citizen is instructed, “You have the right to remain silent.” The NFL went too far in its punishments, but Peterson gave them the ammunition to do so.

Though Peterson is not evil in his aggressive energy and stubborn beliefs, a turn towards greater restraint is his ticket to overall redemption, and society’s ticket to greater cultural understanding.

November 26, 2014
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