Sunday, March 29, 2009

Forget Firing Robert Powell, Make Him Suit Up for the Lions

One of the more surreal stories the National Football League has ever spawned is developing in Dallas, Texas.

Considering all the chaos issuing forth from the NFL on an annual basis, that's saying something. It's so bizarre on so many levels, it's pushing even the memory of Terrell Owens to the back of the football world's mind despite taking place in the city that just gave him the boot (don't think TO hasn't noticed).

I'm glad I'm not Robert Powell in the wake of this story. Because I suspect he'll get exactly what he deserves and it shan't be pretty.

It seems Ryan Moats wasn't the first NFL player to be held at the mercy of this infant on a power trip. Although Zack Thomas wasn't the one cuffed and arrested for making an illegal u-turn, his wife is a close proxy and, in several instances, the law views one spouse as an extension of the other so the stretch is not a huge one.

There are several ways to interpret this latest news:

(1) Powell has a personal vendetta against pro football players because the odds of two people with direct connections to the League being his random victims are too small.

(2) Powell is a racist bigot—Maritza Thomas is Latin American. The Dallas Morning News calls her "Hispanic," but I thought that's a no-no. Whatever, I'm not really politically correct anyway since I don't care what race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc. a person identifies as—it's all cool with me as long as you don't force it down my throat.

The point is Maritza Thomas ain't white and neither are Ryan Moats nor the occupants of his truck. Robert Powell is.

(3) Powell is simply a perfect example of one abhorrent cop splashing mud all over the good shields of his fellow officers—drunk with the ripples he can send through his little pond.

If you ask me, I say it's No. 3.

That both Maritza Thomas and Ryan Moats happen to be connected to the millionaire-celebrity lifestyle of the NFL has to be mere coincidence. It's a crazy one to be sure—one level of surreality—but life is full of crazy coincidences.

My freshmen year in college, I happened to be put in the same dorm as a kid I used to trade Star Wars action figures with back in preschool. I had absolutely no connection to him in the 10+ years since then because we went to different kindergartens and then my family moved to San Francisco.

Plus, I only ran across his name looking through the facebook (the real thing before it was a cyberspace phenomenon) for cute freshmen girls. Otherwise, I would've never known he was there because of the way Stanford segments some of its larger dorms.

And that's one example—I'm sure other people have far more impressive examples.

The racism angle is, frankly, plausible. And this is coming from someone who loathes the race card.

Given the context, it's at least reasonable to argue this is another crazy cracker, good ol' boy from Texas going around and exploiting minor transgressions to their fullest extent under the letter of the law. Just to screw with minorities and establish an illusory dominance over them.

I lived in Austin for a year.

The capital is almost without a doubt the most liberal city in the Lone Star state, or it was in 2001 (admittedly, that's a pretty long time so things may have changed). Even so, I'd here n****r dropped in casual conversation on what seemed like a daily basis. Not just by young kids and bitter senior citizens, and in no way that could be construed as harmless or innocent.

In addition, the State was executing people like crazy. Most of whom were people of color and most of the crimes were not of the incredibly grotesque nature for which liberal use of the death penalty should be reserved.

So it's plausible, but the same coincidence rationale applies and with ever more force.

The number of non-white people in Dallas is obviously and exponentially larger than the number of people directly connected to the NFL or some other approximation. Furthermore, I have no real idea what the racial atmosphere is like in Dallas or Texas today.

My first-hand experience is from another city and damn near a decade ago. I'll give Texas the benefit of the doubt and extend it to Robert Powell via the State's implicit endorsement of him.

More importantly, what makes the interpretation of the episodes a no-brainer for me is we've all seen these kinds of authority figures.

Whether it's a cop in your own city, a security guard at some mall, some yard duty at a high school, a junior officer in your company, whatever. They're people who crave power and abuse whatever little bit of it they have.

Especially against those he/she sees as the biggest threats. And a control freak like Powell would logically feel most threatened by those who aren't intimidated by his pseudo-power. It's clear that, under the circumstances, the Moats entourage wasn't intimidated.

And it's not a stretch that the wife of an NFL superstar might exude an entitled, overly-aggressive attitude. Bingo, out come the handcuffs.

Robert Powell may be jealous of anyone with money and glamour. He may be a card-carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan. Who knows? I certainly do not.

I just think the law of probability favors something we've all personally-experienced backed by logical inference rather than reasonable-though-less-likely alternatives that would cause much more of a firestorm.

Unfortunately, some people like to inject as much incendiary scandal into an episode as possible and exploit mere coincidence to do so. But it's just wrong to assign causal relationships between things on such meager data as a sample set of two.

So, as paradigms of journalistic integrity like ESPN await further "progress" with salivating anticipation, I'm taking everything with a grain of salt because the most likely story is the one that will move the least ink.

Which means it's probably the one that's gonna get the least attention.

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