When we think of the numbers that athlete's wear on their backs, there should only be one or two digits. Not one that reads "Inmate 3982526."
Unfortunately, that isn't the world we live in anymore. And maybe it never has been.
When the news broke early Valentine's Day that Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius had been charged with the murder of his supermodel girlfriend, people were surprised. But nowadays, I'm not sure anyone was shocked.
|Photo from: people.com|
And I'm not just talking about any crime, either. If you include the various drunk driving or marijuana possession charges, or even domestic abuse, I could fill this column for the next year with athletes who have criminal records.
I'm talking about the major felonious crimes committed by big-name athletes. That number just seems to climb every year, too.
Pistorius was an inspiration to millions. He was the first double-leg amputee to participate in the able-bodied Olympics. He competed in the Paralympics, too, but compared to the aforementioned feat, that was seen as a trivial accomplishment.
He has a court date today in his native South Africa, where the shooting took place.
He isn't the first athlete to commit a heinous act, nor will he be the last. I'm never surprised by these things any more. Call me a cynic, but when you see some of the things of which I've seen athletes accused, you can't help but turn out that way.
Perhaps the most famous (or infamous) of these athletes blamed for such an atrocity is O.J. Simpson. He was charged with killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman way back in 1994. Although Simpson was acquitted, you would be hard-pressed to find any rational person who believes he's innocent.
Then there's Rae Carruth, the former Carolina Panther, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder when he enlisted an acquaintance to shoot his girlfriend back in 1999. She was carrying his child at the time, and he was upset when she refused to have an abortion. She later died, but the baby was saved, being born with Cerebral Palsy. Carruth later became a fugitive for a period of days before being found hiding in the trunk of a car. He was somehow found not guilty of first degree murder, avoiding the death penalty, but he is serving a 24-year sentence.
Many people remember the double-murder/suicide by professional wrestler Chris Benoit back in 2007. Over a three-day period, Benoit killed his wife and 7-year-old son before eventually hanging himself. His fit of rage and destruction has been blamed on steroids and/or severe brain trauma, depending on which report you believe. I doubt the cause matters to his victims.
Add to those the cases of Mike Tyson, convicted of raping a beauty-pageant contestant; Ray Lewis, who plea bargained his way out of an aggravated assault and murder charge; Mark "Gator" Rogowski (who at one time was as big of a name in skateboarding as Tony Hawk), and his conviction for rape and murder, and the list goes on and on.
Compared to all those guys, the arrests of Michael Vick for dog fighting and Tonya Harding for the assault on Nancy Kerrigan (she was only charged as an accomplice, but still), while hideous, kind of pale in comparison.
It's sad that it's becoming easier to compare athletes by their rap sheets rather than their stat sheets. But again, this is the world we live in.