In light of the tragic news that the 2-year old son of Vikings RB Adrian Peterson died last week, it has since been learned that AP has lived a rather seedy lifestyle.
The rumor now is Peterson has fathered five children with four different women. As this detail was learned, many Twin Cities media folks asked if this has changed how you view AP. My answer? My opinion on Peterson has not changed one iota. For the past several years I have believed he is one of the best running backs to put on an NFL uniform in the past couple of decades. So why should that opinion change despite how he has lived off the field?
What Peterson has (or hasn't) done off the field has never been a big concern for me when I watch him (or any professional athlete) perform his craft. Does that mean I approve of how AP has lived his personal life? No. It's quite obvious that I have a whole different value system. But the questions is how will this impact AP's standing in the rest of the community? He has committed a lot of time to various charitable endeavors, many of which benefit children. Many athletes carefully craft their image to appear one way in the public eye despite their personal lives being less than exemplary. That's not to say that athletes don't genuinely care for the people who benefit from the giving of their time and resources. But it does bring up the issue of the athlete's purity of purpose and whether or not that should matter.
The cautionary tale of revering professional athletes as "great people" is a lesson I learned with Kirby Puckett. In the 53-year history of the Minnesota Twins franchise, I submit there was a nary a more popular player than Puck. And it was hard not to like him personally since he appeared to be this fun-loving character who immersed himself in the Twin Cities community with many worthwhile charitable ventures. But just a couple of years after his 2001 induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was revealed Puck had lived a secret double life. He carried on an extra-marital affair for years, often resulting in his wife Tonya covering for him. We also learned that Tonya was the mastermind behind Puck's annual billiards tournament, which raised money for children with heart disease. All Puck would have to do is show up as the face of the cause. Again, there was likely some positive advances made in research of children's heart disease thanks to the Pucketts' work. But is that now somehow tainted because of the life Puckett led?
I realize that human failings aren't exclusive to pro athletes. Yes, they can do things within their sport that seemingly defy the laws of human physicality. But at the end of the day they are mere human beings who are susceptible to the temptations available in this flawed world. As such, they're not people I typically look to on how to live life as a productive member of a society.
This is something I plan to get into in more depth on tomorrow's radio show.