Stallworth Was Wrong but Unlucky
Sure they will, at least if Stallworth didn't lose a step during that brutal 24-day stretch in a Miami jail. The theoretical question is whether Stallworth should be allowed to play after his DUI manslaughter conviction.
I must hold my nose and say yes. Stallworth has paid his debt to society, such as it was. Once any criminal has done that, he or she can't be denied the right to earn a living if somebody wants to hire that person.
It's no solace that the potential employer is the Detroit Lions, who gave Stallworth a tryout Wednesday. There was probably more football talent in the prison yard than on Detroit's roster, but that's beside the point.
The point is people are still outraged that Stallworth got drunk last March, killed a guy, spent less than a month in jail and is now primed to resume his multi-million dollar career. Meanwhile, Michael Vick got two years for killing dogs. Plaxico Burress is doing two years for shooting himself.
We want to put our foot down on this one. Call it the Stallworth Rule. One drunken strike and you're out.
But can you really tell a 29-year-old he can never work again?
That's essentially what you'd be demanding of Stallworth. If you're going to make a principled stand, it doesn't matter if the Lions want to hire him as a wide receiver or janitor. His victim, Mario Reyes, would still be dead.
Just like Kim Radley. She was killed Jan. 25, 1984, by Craig MacTavish. He was a budding NHL star but spent a year in jail after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide and DUI. A year was better than 24 days, though you'd probably have a hard time convincing Radley's relatives of that.
Had the Stallworth Rule applied, MacTavish never would have helped Edmonton win three Stanley Cups and the Rangers win one. He wouldn't have become the Oilers' coach. MacTavish was so popular that when he was fined $10,000 for criticizing officials in 2006, Edmonton fans collected the money for him.
What if the NHL hadn't given MacTavish a second chance? Would the world have been a better place if he'd been forced to drive a delivery truck?
There are redemption stories out there. I certainly don't foresee Stallworth leading any team to the Super Bowl, much less becoming a successful head coach. But I can't condemn him to employment purgatory for one nagging reason -- it could have been me.
I don't drive a Bentley or party at the Fountainebleau until 7 a.m., but I'm sure that I've driven with a blood alcohol level of .126. Chances are, so have you or somebody you know.
I went to the crash site in Miami last week. It's the MacArthur Causeway, connecting Miami to Miami Beach. I could envision coming over the bridge and suddenly seeing a man in the road. Reyes was trying to catch a bus. He wasn't in the crosswalk, which thoroughly complicated the case for prosecutors. Stallworth said he couldn't avoid him.
He could have if he'd not gotten in his car in the first place. He was stupid, criminally negligent and totally without an excuse. But you know what else he was?
Not nearly as unlucky as Reyes, of course. But there's only one real difference between Stallworth and the rest of us. We loaded the gun and pulled the trigger but didn't hit anybody.
What if the Stallworth Rule applied to everybody who was guilty-yet-lucky? The St. Louis Cardinals would need a new manager since Tony LaRussa was so impaired he fell asleep at a red light.
Among the many others who'd be out of work: Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Marshall, J.J. Redick, Jeff Garcia, Jevon Kearse, Dontrelle Willis, Warren Moon, Diana Taurasi, Jason Richardson, Chris Chelios, Jim McMahon and Bruce Smith. All were in DUI-related incidents during or after their playing days. Some lawyered up and beat the charges, but you wouldn't have wanted to be in their passenger seat that night.
Athletes hardly have the DUI market cornered, of course. Witness the mug shots of Nick Nolte, Mel Gibson, Ray Liotta, Keifer Sutherland, Lindsay Lohan, Mickey Rourke and, of course, Marion Barry.
I hate to think of the damage Rip Torn could have done on the MacArthur Causeway that morning.
There's a huge difference in potentially killing someone and actually doing it. But the preceding stupidity is the same. That's why I think the Stallworth Rule shouldn't just apply to him. It would also have to apply to Charles Barkley. His blood alcohol level was higher than Stallworth's when he was pulled over a year ago.
To be truly principled, you'd demand that TNT fire Barkley. You'd never watch "24." You'd have Carmelo Anthony selling shoes, not endorsing them.
One other guy would never have been allowed to work again after his DUI conviction in 1976: George W. Bush. We'll pause now to let Democrats crack a few jokes. After the laughter subsides, we're still left with an unfortunate reality: a criminal has done everything the law required. Now, he wants to go back to work.
If you really want to put your foot down on this one, it would squash a lot more than Stallworth.