I’ll begin with full disclosure. Not long after buying our house, myself, my wife and her daughter were grocery shopping and the trip wasn’t going very well. K was around six at the time and was acting terribly, screaming at her mother for reasons that I honestly can’t recall.
Trying to get her attention, I “flicked” her ear, one of those thumb and index finger snaps that smarts for a second but isn’t intended to really hurt. She howled. She howled like I had just cut the entire lobe off. To this day I don’t know if it was pain or surprise, but my first attempt at establishing myself as a disciplinary figure was a complete failure.
Her sister was much younger when she got her surprise. Old enough to know that she wasn’t supposed to bite, but young enough to not fully understand why. She toddled over to me, clamped down on my forearm with more force than I’d have thought possible and seemed determined to remove a large portion.
She may have but for a reflexive smack across her bottom that surprised me as much as it did her. She didn’t cry but her eyes and mouth both went wide. A stern talk about not hurting others followed, the first but not last bit of hypocritical parenting that I’ve done.
I make these confessions because I’ve spent the last few days listening to people call into local sports talk radio and try and defend spanking as a legitimate disciplinary tool, to defend the actions of free agent running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson, if you aren’t aware, was suspended most of the 2014 season after accepting a plea deal with the state of Texas mandating counseling and dropping from a felony to a misdemeanor charges of child abuse.
The charges against Peterson originated because he beat his four year old son with a tree branch, causing cuts and bruises to his thighs, back, and testicles. The child told authorities that he had been previously punched in the face and that the leaves from the switch were shoved in his mouth to prevent any further crying out. This took place in Peterson’s “whooping room”, a dedicated area of the house just for punishment.
There have also been allegations of Peterson leaving a scar over another son’s eye for cursing. His response was that he “never imagined being in a position where the world is judging my parenting skills or calling me a child abuser because of the discipline I administered to my son.” He has yet to express any remorse of admission of wrongdoing. These are pictures of a four year old boy taken four days later.
I bring up a case from three years ago because Peterson is now unemployed after the Minnesota Vikings declined to pick up an $18 million option for the upcoming season, an absurd number for a 32 year old running back with a history of knee problems.
I bring up the case because over the past several days Peterson has been visiting with The New England Patriots, the reigning Super Bowl Champions. For various reasons the Patriots aren’t my team, but Boston is my city, home to my Red Sox, Celtics, and Bruins. I recently wrote a piece defending it’s fans after they were generalized by several ESPN hosts as racist but I’m having a much harder time justifying their defense of the team even taking a look at this guy. I understand wanting to win, wanting to have the best players on your team; any fan would. I don’t understand selling your soul, rooting for an over the hill piece of garbage that should never see the field again.
I understand not wanting to judge another person’s parenting. We’ve all had days that we wouldn’t want paraded before the court of public opinion.
What we don’t all have, what no rational human being would have, is a “whooping room”, a collection of switches, or small children with dozens of lacerations across their legs and back. We don’t have a reason to welcome the sort of guy that does onto our favorite team.
As of this writing the Patriots haven’t signed Peterson, nor is there any real indication that they will. I think that working him out was a bad look for a team that has a reputation, justified or not, of doing anything possible to win, but also understand that their job is to do precisely that.
That doesn’t mean that fans need to blindly accept everything done in that pursuit however. Sports talk radio callers should never be considered a proper representation of a fan base but I’m still disgusted and saddened by what I’ve been hearing. I’m hoping that most in this area would echo the opinion of my wife, a true Patriots fan, administrator of multiple New England Sports Facebook pages, and voice of the people:
“Adrian Peterson? Fuck that guy.”