This week my school district here at the Jersey Shore is off, so I have had a lot of time to read, listen, and watch a lot of sports coverage. As usual, ESPN SportCenter becomes more suited for people with ADD each morning, WFAN's Mike&theMadDog continue to treat callers who know more than they do like 5-year-olds, and every sports weibsite thinks they have the answer about the 2008 NFL Draft (no one does by the way).
Speaking of the NFL draft (which I doubt I'll even bother watching anyway), the recurring theme I have been inundated with as a viewer, listener, and reader has been the full assault on Arkansas running back Darren McFadden by just about every talking head out there regarding his "character issues". The anti-McFadden chants hit a crescendo yesterday afternoon on the radio airwaves in the New York City tri-state area on ESPN 1050 AM, during the Michael Kay Show. Kay, a guy I respect and listen to despite the all-too-often New York Yankee propaganda suggested the New York Jets should really think long and hard before consdering taking McFadden if he's still available. He then went on the rants about his trouble with the police, his mom being a crack addict, his brothers respectively being members of the Bloods and Crips, the children he may have fathered out of wedlock. You would think we had the second coming of Adam Jones here, if you did not know any better. Out of five callers, just one male appealed with Kay to lighten up on McFadden, while four others fully agreed with Kay. Of course with the recent disgraces of guys like Jones and Chris Henry, it is completely understandable we are all focused on the wrongdoings of some of our athletes.
Myself? At that moment I didn't know what to think really. I'm a guy in New Jersey who roots for Southern Cal when it comes to NCAA Football. I don't read anyting online concerning the state of Arkansas. When it comes to NFL, I'm still holding on as an Oakland Raider fan, though I'm as close asI have ever been to giving up even following the NFL (especially if Jones is back on a field). I remember hearing the reports about McFadden being handcuffed by Little Rock police. And now in recent weeks, I have heard/read about the gang and drug connections.
So then the mailman comes with my copy of Sports Illustrated yesterday. I believe SI to be the lone reputable, respectable, and progressive sports publication left in America. I loudly appluad the recent addition of former New York Times columnist Selena Roberts, as well as the outside-the-box stories the magazine often includes along with balanced, mainstream coverage. And it took SI to make me realize that (only they and writer Jim Trotter) have given us the whole story on Darren McFaddenand his character leading up to this weekend's draft. If there is anyone out there who has heard/read/listened to the same angles I have in recent weeks regarding McFadden, I highly highly suggest you read this excellent piece on McFadden in this week's SI (4-18-2008, p. 30).
I do not want to rewrite the story here, but let's just say Michael Kay is either a highly irresponsible sports radio journalist or had not yet read this story before his hate-mongering, borderline racist rant on public airwaves. Reading this story, you will learn that McFadden was not arrested in that most recent incident in Little Rock and despite popular belief he DOES NOT have a police record; that his mother is a FORMER crack addict; that each brother WAS a Blood or Crip gang member; and that IF he is the father of two children he intends to accept responsibility for them. The story also includes the note that McFadden has avoided any situations "whee trouble could arise" including an annual Greek Step Show, a social event for college students in the region. McFadden's ending quotes in the story indicate while he wil never turn his back on his family, there boundaries and limitations they will have.
McFadden is not the first guy to come from a challenging background, and compared to a guy like Matt Leinart (hurts to say this as a Leinart/USC fan) coming out of college, McFadden is much more mature, responsible and accountable.
To me at the very least, that is an account in SI highly different than that of everything else I had heard or read before. Amazing how the tweaking of some words (i.e. former, was, does not) can paint a completely different picture of the guy. So while McFadden surely is not perfect and has work to do, he is no where near the individual so many nationally have made him out to be in recent weeks. Thank you to SI and Trotter for the first balanced story on this guy). If anyone else here has read or heard a fairer version of McFadden other than SI, please let us know so we can credit them along with SI. And in the meantime we can cringe today when we hear more of the talking heads talk about the character issues.
For the record folks, yes I am a Raiders fan which could easily lead to you believing this is an apologist piece for a guy who may become a Raider this weekend. So let it be known, I DO NOT want Oakland to select McFadden. Why? The Raiders just spent a lot of money in the offseason on the running back position including Justin Fargas. I'm hoping for Chris Long to be the selection because I believe defense to be more of a need in the first round - not because of the ignorant, unfair, angles we are getting about McFadden.