Category:NFL
Posted on: September 5, 2008 7:45 pm
 

Laveranues Coles is Still a Hero

This is not topical. Not at all. It is not breaking news; heck, it barely was three years ago. It should have been, but things like this never are. We don't think of NFL stars as people.

About three years ago, Laveranues Coles, a Pro Bowl receiver, then as now a New York Jet, admitted that he had been raped, not sexually abused as he tried to portrait it, but raped by his step-father when he was a pre-teenage boy. Raped.

One of the most talented and prolific wide receivers of his era, raped. Not once, as if the number of times matters, but continually.

After the Jets defeated Miami in their week two game in 2005, Coles publicly admitted that a man his mother was dating and would latter marry started raping him. For three years, Coles lived through the hell of being raped. For more than a decade, he lived through the hell of feeling unclean and unwanted because of it, eating away at his mind every day when he woke up.

Even as he caught more than 80 passes for 1204 yards and six touchdowns on the way to the Pro Bowl one season.

If this had happened to me, I don't think I could have gotten out of bed in the morning. I don't think I could have gone to school and put a fake smile on my face. I'm just not that strong.

Do you think you are?

Instead, we are lucky enough to be able to sugar-coat things like this when we see them and push them aside. We don't want to address the problem; we don't want to think about it.

We want to believe Coles is the exception; we want to think he's the only one who will suffer through this.

And we are right when we think he is the exception: he is one of the few who is willing to admit what happened to him.

According to data compiled by stopitnow.com, 88 percent of all cases involving “sexual abuse” of children is never reported. Ever. Eight-in-every-nine-cases. Coles is the exception.

But that's the only place where he is.

About 20 percent of girls will be sexually abused in some way as a child and between five and 10 percent of boys. Many of these cases are not as severe as Coles, but some are. Additionally, 70 to 90 percent of these children will be victimized by someone they know.

They will be victimized by an aunt or uncle, mother or father, brother or sister, cousin, anyone. Maybe the parent of a friend. Most likely, no one will ever find out.

And that really makes sense.

Think of your most embarrassing moment. Whatever it is. Could you go up to a random stranger and tell them about it? Of course not. At the very least, I know I could not.

Somehow, Coles did. And his “embarrassing moment” is something so much more surreal than anything I could make up.

No, let me rewrite that.

His "embarrassing moment" is something so much more real than anything I could ever dream up.

"I just want to help kids because I think it happens to more people in this world than actually allow ourselves to believe,” said Coles in 2005. “Coming up, I always felt like I was the only one that ever happened to. Then, when I started going to different sessions, they let me know that it happens to a lot more people."

That still is, three years later, the greatest quote I have ever heard out of a professional athlete.

Do I like Coles as a player? Would I be happy if my team traded for him? No, I would not.

But there is not a person in the National Football League, there is not a person in professional sports that I respect more than I do Coles. Not one.

There might never be.

The fact that he had the courage just to pull through this is remarkable.

The fact that he was man enough to seek counseling despite being a jock is just mind-boggling.

The fact that he would come forward and tell the world in hopes that it would help other kids suffering through the same hell he once did is heroic.

And we need to think of Laveranues Coles as such, as a hero. Every day.

In a sports media world that is dominated by and continually obsessed with the Jeremy Shockey's and Terrell Owens's, we need true heroes.

We can have our fake ones, the guys who on any given day lead our favorite teams to unprecedented heights, the ones we would emulate as children. Those we can dehumanize and idolize as if they are gods.

Laveranues Coles is a real hero; he is the type of man that everyone should emulate to be. He is the type of person we need to wake up each morning and wish we could be as talented as.

Not necessarily on the football field, but mentally and courageously.

He is a true hero because after what he has gone through, he is more human than any of us hopefully will ever have the burden of being.

That is why I am reminding you of this story.

I hate the New York Jets; I always will. But I also will never scream louder, jump higher, smile realer than whenever Coles scores a touchdown.

I might not want to, but the internal love I have for this man is that rooted in me.

There is no data as to how many people have sought help because of Coles, but I am sure it is plenty. Even if it is one, then Coles has earned his moniker.

Not “Trouble” like he once went by. No, that one doesn't fit anymore.

“Hero.”

At least that's what I will always call him.
Posted on: July 28, 2008 1:10 pm
 

You into the Brett Favre Saga? Me Neither.

Maybe I am alone; maybe I am out of touch; maybe I am just missing something. No matter what, I do not think it's a bad thing.

When I woke up this morning, I made my normal voyage over to ESPN.com. I don't like ESPN, never have and never will, but I need to make the trip in order to keep the proverbial enemy closer.

And there I see it.

A tag-line that seems as foreign to me as Louisiana electoral procedure. A tag-line that I would have hoped would be considered a cold-blooded lie. A tag-line so incomprehensible I was not sure whether to be afraid or laugh.

“Are you on Brett Favre watch? Us, too, so here's the latest from him:”

ESPN asked me, did not wait for my response, and told me anyway what was going on.

The network told me that he had not gone to camp, yet. That he hadn't been traded, yet. That he hadn't sent in his letter of reinstatement, yet.

Basically, ESPN told me that Brett Favre's situation is exactly the same as it was three hours after he retired.

And people care about this?

I look down the right side of the page to view the other, so-called secondary headlines. These are things that news status quo reports about Brett Favre trump, apparently.

Gold medal-winning gymnast Paul Hamm withdraws from Olympic games.

Goose Gossage inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Rafael Nadal wins the Rogers Masters to close in on Roger Federer's top ranking.

And those are just the news reports that interest me.

Champions were crowned in the Arena Football League, Tour de France, and World Cup of beach soccer. An unheralded golfer came back to beat John Cook to win the Senior Open Championship. A feature-length article about a player traded to the Harlem Globetrotters is almost impossible to find.

All of these, each and every one of them, clearly news, and each and every one of them is trumped by nothing.

And I'm supposed to believe that I'm the only person who does not care?

I am jonesing for football season unlike anything else, but this was never what I wanted. I never wanted a 24-hour-a-day media frenzy into each action Brett Favre has taken. Why would I? What am I learning? What do I get out of it?

Yet apparently, this is what everyone wants, at least according to ESPN.

Yes, ESPN thinks everyone wants to know everything Brett Favre, well, hasn't changed, from the last update. We apparently want to know every team that he hasn't been traded to, whether it is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Minnesota Vikings, the New York Jets, or whomever. Of course, we also want to know the thoughts of all the players on all of these teams that Brett Favre has not been traded to.

Gene Wojciechowski, never one to shy away from the easy, obvious argument, claims that nothing has happened because Green Bay is in a no-win situation. The Packers don't want to trade him to an NFC North team or wave him to where he signs with an NFC North team, but they also don't want to alienate Aaron Rodgers further. They also owe Favre at the very least the ability to play somewhere if he wants to play.

And that's all fine and dandy.

But we knew that four months ago.

We knew four months ago; we knew in the middle of his retirement speech when he said, “I still can play” and just a minute later reaffirming that with, “I know I can play;” we knew when he threw that interception in overtime against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship that Brett Favre would be back in 2008, even if it was not with the Green Bay Packers.

And yet, somehow, this entire saga in which nothing has happened is news? I don't get it.

When Brett Favre gets traded, that is news.

When Brett Favre gets waived, that is news.

When Brett Favre is reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell, that is news.

When Brett Favre reports to training camp, any training camp anywhere, that is news.

But when Brett Favre answers his telephone, when he considers doing something he's been considering for five months, when he fills out a form that means nothing until sent, that is news? I really just don't get it.

Maybe I am alone when I think ESPN is being just a tad bit presumptive when it assumes we are all hooked on the Brett Favre watch, stalking his every movement like only ESPN knows how.

Or maybe I am just out of touch.

But I'd like to think that I'm not. I'd like to think that there are some slightly more significant things going on in the world of sports.

I'd like to think Bruce Vaughan's birdie on the first playoff hole of the Senior Open Championship is a better story. It's a story that signifies that a career journeyman who never finished better than a tie for 22nd in one year on the PGA Tour, who previously only won two minor-league tournaments in his life, can still compete with and defeat someone who won 11 PGA Tour events in a major championship.

Isn't that what we want to hear?

There are definitely more riveting, more charismatic and heartwarming stories out there, even if ESPN is too caught up in the nothingness to let you know what is happening.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com