From the desk of author Michael Solomon

Michael Solomon was a 15-year veteran of the New York City Police Department and served  in its drug enforcement division, receiving well over a dozen awards for his excellent service
Date: August 11, 2007   Vol. 2 2- Issue 12

Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Those words in the lyrics of the song Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkle, was a call to bring back what was wholesome and good about America. Joe was a hero in America; to old and young alike.

It is amazing how today's real heroes in sports, just quietly go about their business doing what they do best without their names showing up in the tabloids or on the crime pages of today's newspapers. You will not see names like Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, Phil Nickleson or Maria Sharapovia just to name a few. However, what you will hear is how they give back to their communities.

You have already seen the names of Kobe Bryant, Chris Benoit, Michael Irwin, O.J. Simpson, Pachman Jones, Tim Donaghy and many more on the headlines of almost every media outlet in America and the rest of the free world. It seems like the concept of a wholesome sports role model is far and few between.

What most people do not know is that DiMaggio signed on as a rookie for a salary of $8,000 in his first season. Today's players earn that and more in one- inning, one basketball period, one hockey period or one football quarter.

The moment sports figures ink their multi-million dollar contracts they put themselves and their actions, on and off the playing field under the most intense public scrutiny. In addition, the media stands by like hungry wolves just waiting for the next athlete to fall from grace. Knowing that they will receive tremendous amounts of scrutiny for their bad behavior, you would believe it would behoove them to be more careful in their actions on and off the field. Nevertheless, I guess they feel they are untouchable.

The latest athlete to fall off his pedestal is Michael Vick, a quarterback for the Atlanta, Falcons. He got caught up in a dog fighting consortium where it is alleged that he was responsible for not only breeding American Bull Terriers (Pit Bulls) for fighting and promoting dog fighting, but killing the losers of the fights with torturous and inhumane acts; such as drowning, electrocution, shooting or just beating them to death.

Michael Vick earned over $200,000 per quarter. (Do the math-$130 Million over ten-seasons, fifteen- games per season.) Not a bad job for throwing around a football. That does not take into consideration his product endorsements. Therefore, why would an athlete earning that kind of money get caught up in a dog fighting and gambling scheme. Is it that he was just bored in the off- season?

I have heard people making statements that condone this behavior comparing it to the bullfights in Spain. Some have even said, "Hey, we slaughter cattle don't we." I did not know that slaughtering pit bulls was adding to the food chain.

What is worse even yet is that people try to turn a blind eye to the fact that these so-called great American heroes have been arrested for drugs, assault, reckless and drunk driving and even murder. As long as they can hit another home run, score another hat trick or throw another touchdown pass who cares if they beat their wives or children. "The girl was probably asking to be raped and the person murdered in a bar room brawl probably deserved to die," are some of the comments you hear.

Take the case of Lonnie Baxter, who was arrested for firing a gun aimlessly from a moving car only a few blocks from the White House; who knows what damage he could have done. Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holifield's ear in the ring. That was after he got out of prison for raping a woman. In addition, they gave him back his boxing license! Super Bowl champion linebacker Ray Lewis was being tried for murder until he plea- bargained to a lesser charge. We used to think that John McEnroe screaming at tennis referees was outrageous.

Some of today's athletes, it seems continually tarnish the leagues that have made them rich and famous. However, as the song goes, "what goes up must come down, spinning wheels all around." Falling from grace isn't so bad; it's the sudden stop at the bottom that gets you hurt.

With the advent of 24-hour sports broadcasting and Internet reporting, the exploits of the most popular sports figures are always headline news. The biggest problem is that our children are able to see their behavior and put them up as role models. You only have to look at the walls in your children's room to see pictures and posters of athletes who our children idolize. You only have to watch the commercials on television to see an athlete pushing a product or conducting an interview.

Michael Vick is quoted as saying, "It don't matter what I did, or what I do, people are always gonna love me anyway." Does he feel he is really above the law, because he is rich and famous or because he is black?

I don't want you to think that my last comment makes me a racist. I am not. You only have to read my book to know what I really believe. However, when the NAACP comes out in a news conference and states that the only reason Michael Vick is being singled out is that he is black, it is counterproductive to what they claim they stand for. If they want to be a force for social justice then they must speak up for black and white together.

I have not heard them say one word about Tim Donaghy being innocent until proven guilty. Is the fact that they have not blasted the media for claiming that Barry Bonds is using steroids because the record he is attempting to surpass belongs to a Hank Aaron a black baseball player and a great American hero.

It will be a sad day in American sports if Michael Vick is convicted and continues to play football after serving his sentence.

If you want to stand for social justice in this world, then you have to live by the words of the late Reverend, Dr. Martin Luther King who said, "I dream of the day when a man is judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character."

And, that is my opinion.

Michael Solomon

Author of 'Where Did My America Go?"


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