The NFL, which suspended Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson for the rest of the season for taking a switch to his 4-year-old, will hear his appeal Tuesday, Dec. 2. I must admit that I feel sorry for Peterson. It’s a terrible thing to be deprived of your livelihood, of doing the thing you’re good at, maybe the only thing you’re good at. It’s particularly terrible when you realize that Commissioner Roger Goodell – who seems to be making up punishments as he goes along – came down hard on Peterson, because he initially didn’t come down hard enough on former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice after he cold-cocked his wife in a casino elevator.
Regardless, Peterson did a terrible thing. And the fact that he and his supporters don’t really get that is troubling, not only because it perpetuates childhood violence but because it shows that there is a segment of our society that doesn’t think clearly.
Understand that this is first and foremost about the protection of children, which all of us in society have a hand in. Whether we have children or not, or even like children, we as members of a civilized society have an obligation to see the next generation come to healthy, happy fruition. No one’s trying to mind Peterson’s business. No one’s denying that different cultures have different ideas about child-raising and that traditionally taking a switch to a child in black culture may have been a “cruel if only to be kind” way of keeping a rebellious child from suffering worse at the hands of white authority.
But choices have consequences. And private choices often have public consequences, particularly when you’re famous.
“Water Music” – the first novel in my series “The Games Men Play” – is all about how the choices of others, even those made in the distant past by people we do not know, affect us, sometimes tragically.
“I choose you. I choose you,” Alí Iskandar tells his lover – and tennis rival – Alex Vyranos. Alí has seen firsthand what happens when you are left with the remnants of the choices made by others. But Alex doesn’t understand – not really, not yet.
“Yes, of course, you choose me and I choose you,” he says. “Choice gives life meaning. It’s the only thing that does.”
Here’s hoping that whether or not Peterson plays again this year, whether he remains with the Vikings or goes to the Cowboys, he’ll make better choices in the future.