Black cloud over blond kid

I went on TV tonight and lied.

OK, not really lied. But when Elizabeth Brackett asked me on Chicago Tonight if I was shocked when I heard that Chicago Blackhawks’ star Patrick Kane had been arrested after allegedly robbing and beating a 62-year-old cabdriver in an early morning dispute in Buffalo Sunday, I first babbled about how as a sportswriter, you’re never really shocked when an incident like this happens regarding a professional athlete but that yes, it was surprising given that Kane did not seem to fit that profile.

Surprising? I’m surprised I tempered my comments when, in fact, my reaction when my 11-year-old son’s friend texted him about Kane was something like, “WHAT? NO WAY? Little Patrick? I don’t believe it.” I may have even thrown a “My God” in there.

As if it was my cute little blond nephew was the one who got pinched.

And that’s the point.

Was I shocked because Patrick Kane looks like my nephew? Was it because I felt like I knew him after visiting his childhood home in Buffalo a few years ago, went to lunch with his parents and ate Patrick’s favorite spaghetti at their favorite restaurant? Or was it because I stood in his bedroom and looked at his little bed with the hockey blanket and pillows and trophies neatly arranged on shelves above it, and plaques and pictures on the walls?

Was I just as shocked when the allegations came out earlier this summer about Bulls’ star Derrick Rose cheating on his college entrance exams, and a photo circulated on the Internet with him at a college party, flashing gang signs? (He later said he was just fooling around.)

I am not suggesting that those allegations are as serious as what Kane is charged with. But it’s hard not to compare the two. Both are their team’s and their league’s top draft picks; both are 20 years old (Rose is six weeks older) and both, I had deduced through interviewing and observing them, are seemingly good kids with good intentions.

I know I would have been just as shocked if Rose was arrested on felony charges. But I also know that when I blogged about Rose a couple months ago that I was suspicious of him, even as I repeated allegations for which there was no proof.

I rationalized that my suspicions stemmed from being burned by athletes’ transgressions before, athletes whom I also initially believed and trusted. I wrote that I didn’t really know Rose at all.

And so as I sit here, my TV makeup coagulating in my pores because I know how long it will take me to scrub it off and I want to get my thoughts down, I have no thoughts. At least not any that make sense.

Am I racist or is this the proverbial white liberal guilt kicking in?

Would I have jumped all over Rose if he had been in this situation when I find myself wanting to giving Kane the benefit of the doubt and hoping that there is an explanation that will at least make it all a little more palpable?

Do I know Patrick Kane any better than Derrick Rose because I stood in Patrick’s bedroom with his parents and looked at his little trophies, and Rose’s mother did not want to be interviewed.

I wrote that I wanted to believe Rose when he said he didn’t cheat. I still do. It will be harder to buy anything Kane says but I still want to – particularly when the last time I had a conversation with his father several months ago, he said his wife was “mad” at Patrick for playing with his mouthpiece instead of wearing it like he was supposed to when he crashed into a teammates and cracked his front teeth.

When I heard the news Sunday, I pictured his parents grounding him.

There was a time when a hockey player going out, getting drunk and maybe even hitting a cabdriver would not have created the scandal it does today. Maybe we’re more civilized. Or maybe it’s because we pay athletes millions of dollars to  perform on the athletic field but also to be the face of their franchise.   

Maybe it’s because we expect more from them.

Even when they seem to disappoint us so damn often.

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