Do you believe in redemption? If you are a sports fan, there’s a very good chance that you do. Considering how often some athletes make bad decisions under the Klieg lights or run afoul of the law in the shadows of night, it’s almost a requirement of fandom or media coverage to seek a second chance for them. Yet, redemption and sports have been married since someone decided to make money from our desire to watch someone run, jump and hit.
What about believing in a different, more private sort of redemption? Reclamation, if you will.
On Thursday’s broadcast of "The Dan Patrick Show," the venerated sports anchor interviewed former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. The former Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion spent about 15 minutes talking about the aftermath of "the biggest mistake of his life," the violent strike of his now-wife in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.
Although people have wondered if Rice would get a chance to return to the NFL — especially in light of the unrepentant Greg Hardy wearing Dallas Cowboys navy blue — the 15-minute video touches upon a more important story.
Rice discussed how he and his wife, Janay, have been united in the weeks and months since the domestic violence incident at the since-closed Revel Casino in the winter of 2014. And while he also delved into his relationships with NFL personnel and the stalled conversations about a return to the league — "I told my agent to tell me when it's real," said the former Rutgers University star — it was his words about his 4-year-old daughter that were the most stirring.
"I have a daughter, and I couldn't imagine that happening to my daughter. And that's my lifelong journey for her to raise her the right way, to make her understand that daddy made the worst decision of my life, and to protect her from that.
"The moment is going to have to come when I have to speak to her... she still asks about football, and I still have to craft enough responses to help her understand why I'm not playing. I'm not ready to have that talk with her yet, but when she gets old enough...
"She knows how to use the iPad and the tablet, and I would hate for her to learn how to type in my name and the first thing that comes up is the video without having me to explain it to her..."
Whether we like it or not, what made the Rice incident stand above any other involving a public figure was the irrefutable, undeniable and unflinching evidence that it happened. Through that hotel video, millions of people saw it in a way that unless they live up close and personal to the horror, they never would have otherwise. And that video lives forever online, in newsrooms and our minds.
The video, more than allusions and accusations that may fade in our collective memories, is the very reason what happens at home is more important than any possible public redemption. Away from the NFL, the court of law and most certainly away from the court of public opinion will be where the Rice family continues to figure itself out.
While it is well within our rights to believe certain things about Rice — a truly good guy who made a life-shattering mistake, a fire-hydrant-sized bully with no regard for anyone but himself, a contradictory mix of the two — we often choose to ignore the lives of those impacted in the aftermath. We cast the offender aside as another in a rotting lot of horrible people or, in the case of too many, find a way to blame the victim all over again.
Yet, there's a young child who knows nothing about this, a child who sees "Mommy and Daddy" rather than the "victim and abuser" that the public will forever know them as. If we are to believe Ray Rice — and considering how the horrendous mismanagement of his punishment by Roger Goodell and Co. actually made him appear as a partially sympathetic figure, it's plausible — then a return to the NFL would be personally fulfilling, but not nearly as paramount in his life as his preparation for the most important conversation of his life.
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon's beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school's 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.
He shares more of his perspectives at jasonclinkscales.com.