'Father figures' in sports


THERE ARE two kinds of professional athletes. One was exemplified by Brooklyn Dodgers great Jackie Robinson, who broke major-league baseball's color line. According to biographer Arnold Rampersad, Robinson abhorred the groupies who hovered around big-league ballplayers.

"One major reason Jack wanted to quit baseball had to do with women," Rampersad wrote, quoting Martin Stone. Robinson, according to Stone, observed that "when I go out on the road, all these women are after me. I'm not interested in them. I can't go on this way."

Sam Lacy, the Baltimore Afro-American's renowned sports editor, knew from firsthand experience that Robinson was sincere in his feelings. Lacy, according to Rampersad, said Robinson had "a cleanliness to his character that I admired. I remember once in the early days we were playing cards in a hotel room in Miami, and somebody brought two white women in and Jackie just got up and left right away. I suppose that was just his nature."

The nature of other pro athletes would have inspired them to grab both women and let the orgy commence. Jim Bouton and the late Curt Flood, in their autobiographies, let the world know that not all major-league ballplayers resisted temptation the way Robinson did. Flood indicated that sexual promiscuity among the 1967 and 1968 St. Louis Cardinals was one of the factors leading to team camaraderie.

Pro athletes today are not much better than their counterparts of bygone years. In fact, they may be worse. The May 4 issue of Sports Illustrated has on the cover the cherubic countenance of little Khalid Minor, son of Boston Celtics guard Greg Minor. SI's cover story is about the not-so-shocking revelation that pro athletes are fathering out-of-wedlock children in growing numbers.

The guilty parties, according to the article, range from the old -- Pete Rose and Steve Garvey -- to the new. They are black and Hispanic -- Dave Meggett and Oscar De La Hoya -- and white -- former Orioles star Jim Palmer. The history of pro athletes' sexual escapades goes back as far, SI's story says, as Babe Ruth and Max Baer, a heavyweight champion of the 1930s who admitted he might have had out-of-wedlock children spread across the country.

"Where's Daddy?" the caption on the cover of SI asks, with little Khalid peering up into the camera.

More than likely, somewhere seducing a woman other than your mom, kid. SI called Minor "a standard-bearer for irresponsible fatherhood" and revealed that he was ordered by a court to receive counseling after his ex-girlfriend, the mother of Khalid and two other children she had by Minor, accused him of assaulting her.

But if Minor is the standard-bearer, he has plenty of competition for the title. In the NBA alone, SI says there are Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Juwan Howard, Scottie Pippen and Latrell Sprewell (yes, he can vote and breed, much to the dismay of us all). Not on the list is the buffoonish Dennis Rodman, which should give those who are on the list reason for some deep self-reflection.

The worst of the lot might be Shawn Kemp of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who has managed to beget seven children by six women. Kemp was traded to Cleveland from Seattle, where, the SI story said, being the father of seven children weighed heavily on his mind and might have adversely affected his play.

Gee, do ya think? That's something for all of us to ponder while we figure out a way to fit Kemp for a male chastity belt. Here is a man who clearly (please remove the small fry from the room as you're reading this) has not learned to say no to his genitalia. Regrettably, he thinks with them. Men in and out of professional sports are notorious for thinking with their genitalia.

That's why it's hard to sympathize with professional athletes who make millions and then balk at paying child support because they claim women are trying to set them up. That's all the more reason for not hopping in the sack anytime a pretty young thing bats her eyelashes at you, guys. Sometimes it's more manly to say no to your genitalia rather than heed the raging of your hormones. (See reference to Jackie Robinson above regarding manliness.)

Here's a flash, gentlemen: Instead of grabbing a woman and spending a night of passion, try staying in the hotel room and reading a book. I recommend one about Jackie Robinson, who realized his brains were in his head and not below his waist.

Pub Date: 5/16/98

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