McAfee’s Mea Culpa

November 4th, 2010 at 4:41 pm by under Sports

Pat McAfee stood next to his locker at the Colts complex on Wednesday – exactly two weeks after his arrest for public intoxication – and offered up an apology.  Actually, he offered up several apologies: one to his teammates, one to the Colts organization, one to his fans and one to the entire city of Indianapolis.  McAfee said he felt like a “complete let-down” to a lot of people – friends, family and the kids who look up to him as a role model.  He spoke about how much he wants to put the incident behind him and that moving forward he will do everything he can to restore the trust of his team and the confidence of a community.

The Colts punter handled the situation with about as much grace and class as one could possibly expect (given the underlying topic involved an alleged late-night, post-bar, drunken dip in the murky waters of the Broad Ripple Canal…an episode that landed him in jail for a night and out of a job for a week).

No one who was in that locker room on Wednesday could possibly doubt that his was a genuine, heartfelt, earnest apology.  He said and did everything exactly right.

But – why then – did something about the situation feel wrong?

McAfee took a public lashing from the media for what happened on October 20th.  His mug shot was plastered across the internet, his court appearance swarmed by television crews.  He was promptly suspended by the Colts for a week and forced to miss Monday’s primetime matchup with the Texans.  Now, two weeks later here he was offering up a seven-minute mea culpa in front of a throng of reporters, knowing full well that once again he would be the leading sports story of the day.

To be clear, I think what McAfee did was – for lack of a better word – dumb.  Very, very dumb.  He became the fourth player on the team arrested for alcohol-related charges this year. So one would assume he, along with his teammates, were granted fair warning that any further slip-ups would result in a suspension.  I understand there is a bottom line here.  When you are part of an organization like the Indianapolis Colts, you are held to a higher standard.  The rewards of being an NFL player also come with responsibilities.  McAfee was asked if he thought the team’s punishment fit the crime; he said he had no problem with it.  But I suspect if he was asked how fair the media’s punishment was, if he was being truthful, we would have heard a much different answer.

Based on the entirely unscientific collection of feedback I’ve received via email, twitter and facebook, many people are incensed at the way the media (present company included) handled the coverage of McAfee’s late-night antics, and I don’t blame them.  McAfee was blasted more so than any of the three previous Colts players who had a run-in with the law over the last nine months.  McAfee was not behind the wheel of a car, he was not found in a ditch on the side of the road, yet his story received far greater attention.  Retrospectively it’s hard to pinpoint why.

We live in a world where professional athletes are accused (and often times convicted) of domestic abuse, rape, DUI manslaughter, operating illegal dog-fighting rings, drug possession – and the list goes on.   These are crimes that break up families and destroy lives.  These are cases that deserve to be judged harshly both in the court of law and in the court of public opinion.   But a dumb, drunken visit to the Broad Ripple canal is not one of these cases.

I don’t claim to know Pat McAfee well.  I know him only from what I’ve seen off the field over the past eight months.  And from what I’ve seen, this is an athlete who has embraced the Circle City, one who consistently redefines what it means to be “fan-friendly.”  When he co-hosts Huddle Up Indy (a Colts’ show we broadcast live from Chili’s restaurant) he stops by each and every table on his way in, offering up handshakes and hellos.  To the mild chagrin of our production staff, as soon as a commercial break hits, Pat is back up out of his chair signing autographs, taking pictures and visiting with fans right up until the last possible moment when he sprints back to his seat before the tally light turns red.

This is a 23-year old guy who’s growing out a mop of hair so that he can cut it off and donate it to Locks of Love.

This is an NFL player who hula hoops and does the cha-cha slide with kids as part of a new program he’s helping launch to fight childhood obesity.

This is a son who made sure he had 45 seconds on Sportslocker Sunday to look into the camera and congratulate his parents on their wedding anniversary.

At the end of his public apology on Wednesday, McAfee said the worst part of the entire ordeal was disappointing his mom.  Not sitting out a game, not being publicly humiliated, not looking Bill Polian in the eyes.  The worst part of the whole debacle was the embarrassment he caused his mother.

But any embarrassment Mrs. McAfee felt about her son’s juvenile blunder should be tempered by the mature way he has handled himself in its aftermath.

Coach Jim Caldwell summed things up nicely, I thought.

“He’s handled himself in a very professional manner and done a great job addressing the issue. He’s a first class guy, we’re happy to have him back and we’re moving forward.”

2 Responses to “McAfee’s Mea Culpa”

  1. carla says:

    Ashley,
    Thank you for sharing a good story about a good young man. I enjoyed learning how he conducts himself off the court with his many reslly good attibutes and qualities. We in the public don’t generally hear about how players conduct themselves when out of the media’s camera eye. Yes he made a blunder, but he is so much more than that which you have so kindly shared with us. I would have never know these good things about him had it not been for the fact that I logged on to find a way to let channel 8 know that there is an issue with the sunday sfternoon football prodcast….my screen just goes blank…all other channels broadcast just fine….guess I need to call AT&T/Uverse as this has happened numerous times.
    Anyway, thank you Ashley!

  2. cynthia smoker says:

    I know this is a very belated post-just recently got my first computer and internet service. I thought I did a pretty good job of getting to know our Colts players, but your blog has proved me wrong. McAfee just grew about ten feet in my eyes…Nice to hear about his commitment to the city and devotion to Colts fans. Most impressive to know is that he still vaules family above all else. You’re never to old to learn form good ole mom and dad!