There is no excuse, and there is no escape. Those were the two lessons provided last week by Riley Cooper after he got caught using the most destructive word in the English language. Cooper will never again be just a football player, because that word demands that there be no mercy.
Cooper is on a leave of absence from the Eagles in the hope that counseling will reveal why he acted so outrageously during a Kenny Chesney concert in June. Theoretically, he is trying to understand better why he drunkenly threatened to "fight every N-word" after an altercation with security, an ugly rant captured on tape and made public last week.
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The reaction to this remark was as dramatic and emotional as any I have encountered in nearly a quarter-century on Philadelphia radio, offering an insight into race relations that we all should have absorbed many years ago. As someone who grew up in the 1950s and 60s, I should have already known the true power of that word, but, until last week, I really didn't.
By the time I had arrived at the station Thursday morning, half a day after Cooper's remark became public, I had already decided that one word doesn't make someone a racist, and I naively argued in the opening minutes of the show that if Cooper's teammates never saw him that way, why should one moment change everything?
Then my co-host, Hollis Thomas, shattered my cozy, white-picket-fence reality. Thomas, an African-American, said the truth about people only really emerges when their guards are down — in Cooper's case, because of a lethal mix of alcohol and anger.
"If that word isn't already inside that person," he said, "there's no reason for it ever to come out."
Thomas has had to deal with racism his whole life, but he's only 40. He didn't experience it as vividly as Beasley Reece, the 59-year-old sports director at CBS3. Reece said he was called that word often when growing up in Waco, Texas, and he believes using it today is an "act of terrorism."
Reece angrily recalled a history of slavery, lynch mobs and segregation all associated with the use of that dehumanizing term. When he saw the tape, Reece said, "It was 1845 all over again," because Cooper used it in its most damaging form, as a threat.
Both Thomas and Reece said they would forgive Cooper for the comment, but never forget. After all that I experienced last week, I cannot react so kindly. I think the Eagles should release Riley Cooper, just as chef Paula Deen's TV empire recently crumbled and as actor Michael Richards (Kramer on Seinfeld) imploded after they unmasked themselves.
There will never be an excuse for using that word, and there should never be an escape from the harsh repercussions when someone does. Obviously, we still need to be reminded of those truths.
The arrogance of Antonio Bastardo
After two years, the mystery of Antonio Bastardo's amazing 2011 season has been solved. He was cheating.
At least that appears to be the only logical explanation for why he allowed 28 hits in 58 innings, with an astonishing 81 strikeouts. He never came close to those numbers before 2011, nor since. It was one magical season, courtesy of Biogenesis Inc.
Bastardo will pay the price for using performance-enhancing drugs with a 50-game ban, one of 13 ballplayers implicated Monday in the latest chapter of an endless story. His name had never been mentioned before as a suspect in the investigation, though those 2011 stats screamed for a logical explanation. Now we have one.
Of course, the big story is the new king of the steroid villains, Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended for 211 games for cheating and then sabotaging a subsequent investigation. Because he has no shame, Rodriguez is going to appeal the decision, thereby dragging his sport through months, if not years, of legal wrangling in a futile effort to hide his indefensible behavior.
If anything, Major League Baseball and the Yankees should be suing Rodriguez for contributing to an era of distrust unlike any in sports history. Even after Barry Bonds was drummed out of the game amid rumors of cheating, A-Rod was still plotting new ways to gain an illegal advantage. He is incorrigible. He is a disgrace to baseball. He deserved what he got, if not a lifetime ban.
And now Antonio Bastardo can take his place next to A-Rod and the rest of the cheaters. They have all displayed the worst kind of arrogance, the kind that endangers the very game that made them rich and famous.
Phillies GM only fooling himself
Ruben Amaro, Jr. has made many mistakes in his four years as Phillies GM, but never has his clueless arrogance been more apparent than in the final hours before the trade deadline last week. Basically, Amaro refused to make moves to help the team because he remains convinced that the 2013 club is good.
I know, I know. How could any logical person look at this dreadful ballclub and see something other than the loser it is? I asked that very question to Amaro last week during an animated, sometimes contentious exchange. His defense of doing nothing was that there was no logical offer to accept before 4 p.m. last Wednesday.
Unfortunately for Amaro, ace baseball reporter Jon Heyman had sources inside the Yankees' organization who begged to differ. In the final hour, Heyman said the Yankees offered $5 million and prospect Tommy Kahnle — a 23-year-old with a 95-mph fastball who has held Double-A batters to a .151 batting average this season — for Michael Young. When the Yanks inquired about another soon-to-be free agent, Carlos Ruiz, they were told he wasn't available, Heyman reported.
Now, we can argue all day about what is and isn't a good offer, but what there is no debate about is that Young and Ruiz are useless to a lost ballclub like the Phillies. Now that Cody Asche is starting at third, Young won't even have a position when Ryan Howard comes back, while Erik Kratz and prospect Tommy Joseph will be the catching tandem next season.
Amaro didn't make any moves because he believes the 2013 Phillies are victims only of circumstance — namely, injuries — and not his own poor planning. Of course, we all know better. The Philles cannot begin building toward a better future until the GM stops living in the past.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» Darren Daulton is proving all over again what a noble leader he was back in 1993. His appearance at the Phillies' alumni festivities last weekend was an inspiration to his teammates and fans. In his battle with brain cancer, Dutch will not go quietly. That's for sure.
» Jonathan Papelbon is making enemies very quickly these days. First of all, his six blown saves already qualify as a bad season, and he's still got two months to go. And secondly, his whining about the state of the team is absurd. Hasn't he figured out yet that he's one of the causes of all this losing?
» In his first months as Eagles coach, Chip Kelly has handled all challenges with intelligence and honor. My only concern so far is that his training camp sometimes looks more like a ballet class. No tackling until the first preseason game? Not a good idea.
» Marcus Vick, Mike's crackpot brother, struck again last week on Twitter when he placed a $1,000 bounty on Riley Cooper after the wide receiver's racial remark. Two questions: What does Marcus do for a living, and where is he getting the $1,000?
» Congratulations to the Sixers, who have been without a coach for 110 days. They have accomplished their goal. No one cares. No one will buy tickets for next season. Bravo.