08 December 2009

Laws and Those They Don't Apply To

I know sports players are treated differently from regular folks, but this is ridiculous.
In the past two weeks, two Minnesota Vikings (Adrian Peterson and Bernard Berrian) were both pulled over after being clocked at speeds well over 100 mph (Peterson: 109 mph in a 55-mph zone; Berrian: 104 mph in a 60-mph zone). Both were let go with tickets – but if my reading of Minnesota state law is correct, they should have gotten far worse.
According to Section 171.17 "REVOCATION" of Minnesota statute, "The department shall immediately revoke the license of a driver upon receiving a record of the driver's conviction of ... violation of an applicable speed limit by a person driving in excess of 100 miles per hour. The person's license must be revoked for six months for a violation of this clause, or for a longer minimum period of time applicable under section 169A.53, 169A.54, or 171.174." In other words, having exceeded this speed limit, both of these men should have lost their licenses. If it had been you or me, that's probably what would have happened, and I would be writing you from my new home in the garage.
But that didn't happen. If anything, Berrian and Peterson got off with tickets, which don't add to much given the fact that Peterson has a salary of $2.8 million and Berrian has a $13.7 million salary. I'm sure the speeding tickets, which would have seriously dinged yours-truly's budget for the month, will probably end up being a drop in the bucket of a never ending sport-cash waterfall.
Had I gotten pulled over, I would have lost my license and likely been thrown into the back of a squad car. I wouldn't, as Berrian and Peterson did, have gotten a ticket. And I sure as hell wouldn't have one of the troopers, as he hands me said ticket, wish me luck against Chicago. No, I wouldn't have gotten any of this. Why? Because I am no one. I don't throw a ball, I don't get paid millions for it, and I'm certainly not connected to the image of the state. No. I'm jail fodder for sure.
What bothers me so much about both of these instances is that these men acted like they were above the law, which, seeing as how they've been let off easy, seems exactly correct. It's a great message to send to people: I can drive 60 miles over the speed limit on the same public roads you and your children travel on because I am famous. And if I were to hit you? Well, I'll probably get out of that somehow, too.
These sorry incidents are symptomatic of the sports-worship that I think misplaces our priorities as a culture.
To use an old argument, the people who teach our kids get paid squat, but thoroughbred athletes like Peterson and Berrian are paid millions to play a childhood game that's been inflated and distorted beyond any sort of playground fantasy. This is nothing new – the Romans had well-paid gladiators who were no doubt spoiled by success – but I would like to think that the vast gulf between the salaries of those who contribute to society and those who suit up on Sundays would close someday. I guess it won't.

The world can really be divided into two categories: those who can get away with driving 109 mph and those who can't. Where do you fall into this scheme of things?

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