“Pacman” Jones Stepping up to the Plate
With quarterback salaries mushrooming to the $40-50 million range, running backs getting dissed, and back-office deals attracting as much attention as the players, the offseason of the National Football League has been filled with drama.
Fortunately, speculation, rumor and hype got a rest last night when Detroit takes the field in Kansas City, followed by a full slate of games on Sunday.
But for me, this fall’s best football-related story—one worth repeating—unfolded in late July. That’s when former West Virginia University and NFL cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones drove from Cincinnati to Russell, Kentucky, for an autograph-and-photo session at a sports collectible shop.
That a former pro star would travel 2½ hours for an appearance in a town of less than 3,700 was admirable enough. But the fact that impressed me: Jones is raising a good friend’s two sons after their father’s death.
You have to understand that I didn’t have the highest opinion of “Pacman” Jones in the past. As the reporter who covered the store visit noted, the player’s past troubles included such things as public intoxication, marijuana possession, and assault charges.
Yet there’s more than those unflattering details. When Jones’s former WVU and Cincinnati Bengals’ teammate Chris Henry died in 2009 after falling out of a truck bed, Jones stepped in to take care of Chris Jr. and DeMarcus Henry.
The difference that made could be seen in the first paragraph of the story about his recent appearance. Even though only a high school sophomore, top-flight receiver Chris Henry Jr. has already made a commitment to play for Ohio State. (All of us Buckeye fans are cheering.)
Until reading this story, I had no idea Jones had stepped up to the plate in such an admirable fashion. As he told the reporter: “I don’t want them to make the mistakes I made.”
Anyone who has raised children knows of the joys, but also the heavy responsibilities, heartaches and sometimes sleepless nights that entails. But when someone bears these inherent challenges to care for someone else’s children? Now they’ve proved themselves a guardian of the highest order.
Stepping up to the Plate
I had a similar reaction a number of years ago when I reviewed a book written by John Hagee, the well-known megachurch pastor from San Antonio. As a conservative, pro-Israel, pre-trib-rapture believer, Hagee seems to be a lightning rod for criticism.
Ironically, I read a letter to the editor in my local newspaper not too long ago where the writer threw stones at Hagee. Among other things, he accused Hagee of making anti-Semitic statements. Wonder if he knew about the pastor’s support for Israel?
Regardless of how one feels about Hagee’s theology or politics, though, when I read in his book that he had adopted two boys when their mother was unable to care for them, my opinion of him rose three notches.
Sometimes it can be easy to forget that the people who make headlines, whether for the right or wrong reasons, are human beings. Too often, we can be guilty of forming snap judgments without a fuller, more well-rounded account of their lives.
When I sent a copy of the recent “Pacman” Jones story to an old friend and fellow football fan, he wrote back, “I’m glad to know he changed. He sure was a dirty player for the Bengals.”
That image may follow Jones for a while. But so should his magnanimous gesture in showing himself a true friend and father figure.