Monday, December 22, 2008

Too Sexy For My Shorts

In one sense, this story last week about Julius Erving’s hitherto unwanted daughter was not surprising. As a semi-savvy fan I know that lots of NBA guys sleep around and leave pregnancies behind. What’s amazing, though, is that Erving has received almost zero negative publicity for this. Until this gushing article, I was not aware of this scenario, and I read a lot about basketball. It certainly hasn’t harmed his post-playing career as an “ambassador” of the league. I recall about five seasons ago, he appeared as an aged guru in a series of humorous NBA-produced ads involving various players expressing their burning love for the Larry O’Brien trophy. And every February he seems to show up as a slam dunk contest judge. I guess the salt-and-pepper hair allows him to appear as a hunky, virile sage (it works for George Clooney) but what about his low-quality behavior in his personal life?

Why does the media give players a pass on their sexual escapades when other figures like actors and politicians are required to trod the cleanest path? A variety of political figures (Clinton, Spitzer, John Edwards, Jim McGreevey, Gary Hart) have been brought low by infidelity and other sex scandals. (As a side note, how come only Democrats are seriously tarnished by this? Newt Gingrich has a sorry record with his women, but he’s still seen as a possible president. Giuliani, too. And McCain. David Vitter hired a prostitute, but he’s still in the Senate, while Eliot Spitzer was forced to resign for the same transgression.

Yet when Magic Johnson sleeps around with dozens or hundreds of women, no problem. He’s just a victim! Wilt had 10,000 partners? Hurrah for him, a true baller! Karl Malone and Larry Bird have children they won’t acknowledge? That’s okay, they’re still Hall of Fame candidates. And a case cannot be made that off-court behavior has no bearing on Hall of Fame candidacy. Why, then, is Dennis Rodman (five rings, two DPOY awards, seven rebounding titles) not in the Hall? Oh no, he colored his hair yellow and pierced his nose. We can’t have that!

Perhaps the implicit attitude is that boys will be boys. These situations have received occasional discussion in popular media, but few fans now associate Hakeem Olajuwon with "prolific daddy". It is more interesting that the really big stars largely are not tarnished by their wanderings, while lesser or less savvy lights like Shawn Kemp are pilloried. Did you know Dwight Howard sired a son last year with a woman whom he's now not seeing?

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