In December, the star athlete was in New York for the festivities surrounding the presentation of a major sports award. The media were all over him, and he, thus, was on his best behavior – perhaps. He was, I take it, on that circuit that athletes apparently are put on by silent agents, wherein they get their pictures taken while bringing cheer to people with bleak futures – such as sportswriters.
“I mean,” he was quoted as saying, “I don’t like cancer at all. I lost both my grandparents and my girlfriend to cancer. So I’ve really tried to go to children’s hospitals and see, you know, children.” Yes, I know children. I’ve written about children. I’ve raised children. That would have been my reply to this 21-year-old child. I might have also agreed with him on the cancer thing. I don’t like it either.
In an earlier interview, the same athlete had been asked about the notion that he had not attended the funeral and burial of his girlfriend. “She made me promise, when it happened, that I would stay and play.” Forced promises. The stuff of Romance and romance. Especially where ball-playing is involved. Substitute jury duty and ... not so much!
Unless you’ve been on Mars or otherwise avoid sports reporting altogether, you’ve at least a passing familiarity with this story. Nonetheless, I choose not to identify the individual or the school involved. What good would it serve? The point may be that anyone really cares.
Suffice it to say that the storyline now runs something like this:
The ball player (BP) and his major university’s athletic director are on record as saying that BP “was drawn into a virtual romance” with a someone who used a fake name. He “was fooled into believing she died of leukemia in September,” at which time BP’s only contact with his gal had been via Internet and phone.”
That stands more than a little in contrast to an interview BP had with a big sports magazine back in September, when he “went into great detail” about his relationship with the woman, including mention of her “physical ailments. He also mentioned meeting her for the first time after a game in California.”
At least one media outlet reported that, apparently based on “information provided by [BP’s] family members,” BP and his girl “first met, in person, in 2009” and that the two also had gotten together in BP’s home state at least once over time.
BP’s soon-to-be alma mater is now stating for the record that BP “found out that [Girlfriend] was not a real person through a phone call he received Dec. 6,” following which he told his coaches ... three weeks later.
More could be written (by me). More has been written (by everyone else). Motive? Intent? Opportunity?
But come on! The guy’s a kid. Kids will be kids. Kids don’t always tell the truth. Folks who don’t tell the truth, who get caught, and who respond by contriving to perpetuate multiple falsehoods – well, we’ll see them in court, someday, I suspect.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.