Tuesday, February 1, 2011

True Redemption Is Not About Winning Games

       We’ve been led to believe by the media hounds that when marquee sports figures mess up big time and they come back and their teams win -- it’s redemption.
      No. No. No.
       Winning games doesn’t tell you anything about a player’s personal life or his willingness and ability to do the right thing. Quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick made the most of their on-the-field opportunities in the aftermath of much-publicized off-the-field issues. From all indications, wide receiver Plaxico Burress will be the next in line.
        Burress, whose two-year prison sentence ends in June, will be available for duty in 2011. As for when the next season actually kicks off, it’s hard to say. That will depend on when the NFL labor talks are settled. The Plax-man sabotaged himself out of a lucrative job nearly two years ago. He accidentally shot himself in a New York City night club and got busted for weapons possession and reckless endangerment.
       Even though he’ll turn 34 later this year, Burress will draw more than passing interest from several teams. Giants quarterback Eli Manning would welcome him back, and for good reason. Manning and Plax-man hooked on the winning touchdown pass in the Giants thrilling comeback win over the near-perfect Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. The Baltimore Ravens are also on record as being intensely interested. You can be sure that other teams will be in touch.
        It’s good that Burress will get a second chance. No doubt, he’ll have to assure prospective employers that he’s regrouped and gotten his life together. But regardless of whether he makes another game-winning catch or not, redemption is not part of that equation.
       For Big Ben, Vick, and Plax, the real test takes place during the off-season months. But it won’t end there. Nobody plays forever. There aren’t too many active pro players past their mid-30s. Retirement time comes for everyone, it’s inevitable. What happens after it’s time to hang up the helmet and shoulder pads for good?
        True redemption should reveal some newness about the redeemed. It’s about replacing negative habits with positive habits. It’s about implementing change that makes a difference. Just know that change isn’t always instant. It’s a day-by-day commitment. It’s a determination to do the right thing regardless of whether you’re behind closed doors or standing in the bright glare of the public spotlight.

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