Monday, September 15, 2008

Little Big Man

Huh. A lot of bad craziness going on in the NFL lately.

Tom Brady's knee. Ocho Cinco. Vince Young was so depressed after a bad game, his coach sent the police to the troubled quarterback's home to be sure he was all right. T.O. won't shut up. A Jacksonville Jaguar player was shot in his car. Matt Millen still has a job. When Tatum Bell was cut by the Detroit Lions, he stole teammate Rudi Johnson's luggage. Ocho Cinco?

But in the middle of this lunacy, there is some good news to be found. USA Today's Tom Pedulla writes about running back Warrick Dunn's return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"What a great team guy he is." coach Jon Gruden says, "so we're really happy to have him back in Tampa."

The community feels the same way. When it comes to giving back to the city he plays in, the league can point to Dunn as a model of excellence. In fact, it already has. He was honored as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year in 2004 for his combination of community service and on-field excellence.

The Warrick Dunn Foundation has been based in Tampa since its establishment in 2002. It provides opportunities for single parents and their children who have demonstrated a commitment to achieving financial independence and stability. His Homes for the Holidays program allows single mothers to become first-time homeowners by giving them down payments on new, completely furnished houses.

The program is a tribute to Dunn's mother, Betty Smothers, a single parent with six children. She worked as a police officer in Baton Rouge and was killed while working a second job as a security guard in her effort to save money for a house.

"Not everyone can donate homes to people," Dunn says, "but you can be a good person and help people better themselves in your own way."

Warrick Dunn is a class act. For a little guy, he stands heads and shoulders above the usual herd of savage nacissists in the NFL. It goes to show how overrated sports are.

No, I'm not talking about their talent. That ain't no joke. Hey, hitting a nasty, 98-mile-a-hour fastball aimed at your head takes bigger cojones than I got. If Ray Lewis wants the football, I'm gonna give it to him. And don't even think of asking me to box with a guy who could punch a hole in my chest. Is you crazy?

However, what is overrated is the psuedo-mythical status athletes enjoy in our culture. I think it's bullshit, but most people eagerly go back for seconds, happily licking the tasty brown goo from their fngers. Yummy.

To be fair, if a crazed fan decides to drop a grand for an autograph or a silly couple wants to get married in football jerseys, that's their business. Whatever gets your nipples stiff, it doesn't bother me. But when idiots decide that a new multi-million dollar arena downtown is more important than keeping the libraries open, that's insane. Unfortunately, it happens a lot, and too many athletes take advantage of it.

I have a question for you Mr. Clemens. Yes, senator? Can I have your autograph?

Warren Dunn is smarter than that. Moving on from a tragedy that easily could have left him angry and bitter, Dunn chose to instead build an enduring legacy that his late mother would have been proud of. Compassion is never overrated. And it makes more sense than a guy named Ocho Cinco.