It’s all about Peterson, not about the kids

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THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Adrian Peterson’s off-season home is in a suburb of Houston that looks like anything but Houston.  Soaring pines and winding streets with names that sound almost the same:  Pinegrove, Many Pines, Millbend, Grogan’s Mill.  It’s all so serene.

This would seem a good place for him to stay a while, far from the limelight of professional sports.  Here he could work on the anger management issues that must have been a factor in the extreme punishment he administered to his 4-year-old son.

As is well known by now, he stripped leaves off a small branch to create a “switch” that was then applied with enough force and frequency to leave numerous welts and bring felony charges for negligent injury to a child.  The crime is punishable by a two-year prison term.

Peterson pleaded no contest to a much lesser charge – misdemeanor reckless assault.

Sounds like he was in a bar and someone insulted his woman so he threw a punch.  “Reckless assault.”  Nothing in that charge about slapping your 4-year-old kid so hard you leave bruises on his face and elsewhere.

Yeah, it’s barely a stretch to say he beat the rap.  His attorney, Rusty Hardin, is another Clarence Darrow.  This is not his first masterful sleight of hand.  Hardin slipped a hormone-laden Roger Clemens past Congress, escaping charges altogether despite mountainous evidence of, at the very least, perjury.

Well, congratulations.  Mr. Hardin.  Dick DeGuerin and all of Houston’s other celebrated attorney/magicians tip their Stetsons to you.

But let’s think about, for a few seconds, someone other than your client.  I know that’s not your job.  But think of yourself as a father.  Or a son.

What happens the next time Peterson’s kid misbehaves and Daddy flies into a rage?  Did anyone detect one note of remorse in Peterson before, during or after his appearances at the Montgomery County Court House?

He just “got carried away,’  He “over-reacted.”  As if this is an easily corrected mistake.  An aberration.  No need for counseling, for mental therapy, for some training in the art and/or science of parenting.

There’s nothing in the plea agreement to require that Peterson actually DO SOMETHING to address his problem.  

He does his 80 weeks of public service and pays his $4,000 fine – let’s see, about a quarter-hour’s work, if he’s in any sense working,

Not exactly covering themselves in glory here is the NFL Players Association, which filed a grievance to get Peterson reinstated right away as a running back of the Minnesota Vikings.  Now that the legal matters are out of the way, he should be allowed to resume earning a living.

Presumably the 80 hours of community service can be transferred just about anywhere.  It’s not like when you get charged with DUI and have to stay in the same county, not to mention state.  We wouldn’t want to inconvenience a star.

Actually, Peterson is being paid his salary of $700,000 per week for all the time he’s spending on the Commissioner’s Exempt List – exempt from playing and thereby prevented from displaying the increasingly tainted NFL brand.  The one-time face of the NFL is now poster boy for child abuse,

But of course his attorneys and agents and union bosses are interested only in his — and their – brand.

Millions in endorsement money depend on Peterson playing and being one of the sport’s biggest celebrities, as he has been for a decade.   Nike has canceled a contract with him, and a hotel chain dropped its advertising with the Vikings when the team did not suspend the player as soon as he was indicted.

As far as the Vikings are concerned, they would like for Peterson to stay in The Woodlands, as far into the woods as possible. 

He hasn’t played since the first week of the season, and at 29 he’s old for a running back.  Some of the greatest – Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, Gale Sayers – were retired or just a year away – at that age.  Peterson has had numerous leg injuries, dating back to his college days at Oklahoma.

The Vikings, 4-5, aren’t happy with many of their players, but running back is one of their few stout positions.  With Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata replacing Peterson,   Minnesota ranks 10th of 32 in rushing.

The Vikings’ coaching staff was hoping Peterson was working out diligently in a neighborhood that’s an urban/rural hybrid and has a pleasant – if colorless – autumn.  It’s well supplied in bucolic trails and bicycled paths.

But there haven’t been many sightings of Peterson hiking the trails.  And before giving his court-mandated urine sample he admitted he’d been smoking marijuana – not what coach Mike Zimmer wanted to hear. 

The NFL told the union it will consider reinstating Peterson after a hearing in which he explains how he’s suddenly a trustworthy father who will not be adding further to the league’s impressive history of domestic violence.

Charles Barkley, the noted sociologist, said if charges were brought against everyone who corporally punished their kids the way Peterson did, “every black parent in the south is going to be in jail.”

You notice the people who are always left out of the conversation are the experts in the field.  Here it’s the psychologists who study violent behavior and the effects it has on children.  A friend of mine who’s a criminal-defense attorney, says, “Juries and elected judges do not believe in psychology.”

No doubt Barkley is exaggerating with his stereotyping of his own race, but perhaps he should wonder how successful this type of parenting turns out to be.  If the Peterson-Barkley style of tough love is so effective, why do one fourth of young black man spend time in prison?  Are these parents teaching discipline, or are they teaching violence as a solution?

This is a time when the National Football League is under scrutiny unlike any it has ever faced.  Sunday’s New York Times argued that while it’s enjoying record revenues and television ratings, its underpinnings are shaky.

Although the league paid a relatively modest penalty in its first class-action suit for concussion damages, more lawsuits – and far more costly ones — will come.  The salient point is that during the legal process the NFL filed documents estimating that 28 percent of its retired players will develop “cognitive deficiencies” as a result of playing football,

Already we’re seeing signs of parents resisting the lure of football for their sons, Pop Warner participation declining 5 percent a year since 2010.  The Times article, by Michael Sokolov, proposes that football’s future could follow that of the tobacco industry: years of denial of health risk, then expensive lawsuits and more expensive lawsuits, Americans deciding to change their habits.

We can point to the once madly popular sports of horse racing and boxing, and how they faded from the American scene as the public saw too much of their darker side. 

Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston, all you role models with your scandalous domestic behaviors, you would do well to get help when needed and let us know how you’re progressing.

The mistakes that one generation makes get repeated.  For most of us, children are the most important legacy we will have, and everyone has a role here.

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