Is Adrian Peterson less a hero today than one month ago, given what we've learned about his lifestyle in the interim?
That is for you to decide, however you want to view the Vikings' superstar running back. I would suggest it was a mistake to view Peterson, or any athlete, as a hero in the first place.
You likely know the tragic story by now -- Peterson's 2-year-old son was allegedly killed by the boyfriend of the child's mother. It appears to be an awful case of child battery, which makes the case none the more dreadful just because the 2-year-old was fathered by an NFL player. Child abuse is child abuse and murder is murder, whether those involved are worshipped on Sunday afternoons or whether they are anonymous except to those who know them.
The twist in the story, that has blossomed into a discussion on the responsibility reckless fathers, is Peterson didn't know the 2-year-old was his until only recently. The child was the product of an apparent fling Peterson had with a young woman in the Twin Cities.
It has since come to light that Peterson may have as many as seven children by at least four different women. (When asked by ESPN how many children he's fathered, Peterson declined to answer.) He hasn't married any of the mothers, although he is engaged to the mother of a 6-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy, all of whom apparently live with Peterson in the Twin Cities.
It appears Peterson provides for all his children financially.
Peterson's off-the-field productivity has raised the conversation that comes up every time a star athlete is discovered to have fathered numerous children with numerous women out of wedlock: Just who the hell do these guys think they are, and where are their morals?
(Photo credit: MinnPost.com)
The answer to the first part of that is easy. They are young, testosterone-fueled, attractive, wealthy athletes who have numerous opportunities EVERY DAY to have sex with any number of young attractive women. It ain't no secret ... many pro athletes bed a lot of women. Babe Ruth did. Joe DiMaggio did.
The Green Bay Packers of the 1960s did. Wilt Chamberlain. Tiger Woods. Julius Erving. The list is endless. It is a rock star's life and jocks take advantage of it. Always have, always will. The second answer is a little stickier. I am not one to judge another's morals, especially if the sex is between consenting adults. It's none of my business. The better question is where are the athletes' brains? Where is their sense of responsibility?
Baltimore Sun columnist Susan Reimer recently hammered Peterson not for playing so soon after his child died, but for having a "careless and cavalier sexual behavior."
Reimers points out Peterson's -- and Ray Lewis' and Dan Marino's -- "casual approach to parenthood." She used the term "serial fatherhood."
And still no outrage from those who would hold football players accountable for so many other sins. It seems that they get a pass because they are supporting the children, made that much easier by their enormous playing contracts. But dollars, while very handy, don't get it done when it comes to raising children.
We praise our sports heroes when they set examples of good citizenship in their adoptive communities, but we haven't got the guts to call them out when they behave like alley cats.
Real men don't have to take responsibility for a handful of children they never saw coming because real men wear condoms when they are having sex with women they barely know, women who might be looking for a payday pregnancy.
These NFL stars are not real men. They are careless adolescents. And the children are the ones who pay for their play.
Reimer is correct. We do give star athletes -- and movie stars, music stars, corporate stars -- a pass when it comes to fathering children with with multiple women with whom they have almost no contact.
Much of it, as Reimer points out, is because the fathers can provide financially for their broods. That seems to make it OK. That, and the fact we like the fathers' ability to score touchdowns or make good music or act in a great movie. If they entertain us, and they pay for their "mistakes," well, then it is all hunky-dory.
Here's a check, kiddo, good luck.
The adoring public always seems shocked and disappointed when there are revelations about their favorite stars. Adrian Peterson has a bunch of kids with a bunch of different women? What the ...? He seems like such a great guy when he smiles during TV interviews.
We'd be better off if we'd view athletes with the skepticism and distrust we view movie stars or music stars. That is, not as heroes or super-human beings but simply as extremely talented and driven people who we enjoy watching for a few hours a week. They entertain us, and that's all.
I reached that point when I was about 20 years old. I don't hate sports or athletes or games. On the contrary, I enjoy the humanity, skills and drama immensely. Watching sports entertains me. I don't make life choices based on what a baseball pitcher or football quarterback or basketball point guard does.
I'd argue many of them would be better off making life choices based on what I -- and the majority of American men -- have done.
(Mike McFeely is a talk-show host on KFGO-AM in Fargo, N.D. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMcFeelyKFGO.)