Spare Me The Public Apologies
A lot has been written over the last several days about the troubles of Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand, who was arrested for drunk driving recently. I get why people are alarmed and agitated, as drunk driving presents a very real danger to all of us. I understand why people are disappointed, if not surprised, by Lewand's apparent stumble in his battle against alcohol. For his part, Lewand has apologized, and the NFL is looking into what to do about the matter.
But what I don't get is why so many people in metro Detroit, sports fans in particular, feel like Lewand owed them an apology, or why some of us feel he owes even more of a public explanation...
I don't think a mistake of this magnitude -- no matter how embarrassing it seems -- has to cost Lewand his job. I do think Lewand owes everyone an explanation. He is the president of an NFL franchise.
So what if he's an NFL executive? Tom Lewand doesn't owe me jack (except to try and field a decent football team, if he expects me to actually show up for a Lions game this year).
Lewand's a big name, yes, but a man who works for a privately owned organization. Maybe he owes an apology to team owner William Clay Ford for bringing negative publicity to the franchise. Maybe he owes the players an apology, as they are often excoriated and fired for offenses not unlike Lewand's. And he most certainly deserves to pay whatever penalty comes with driving while twisted out of your mind. But why in this country do so many of us insist on propping fallen celebs against a megaphone and demanding that they shout a mea culpa to anyone in earshot?
I remember feeling the same way during all the discussion about Tiger Woods' marital infidelities, as I listened to all of these grown-ass pundits whine about Woods' transgressions as if he'd wounded them personally instead of his wife. What kind of deluded are you if you think that a global celebrity who's richer than Croesus might not have his fair share of "side action?" Hell no, it's not right. But neither is it a soul-wrenching revelation -- and it's certainly not one for which he should be dragged to a dais and forced to apologize to packs of sportswriters, many of whom drink, gamble and philander right along with the best of the athletes and GMs they cover.
In addition to being utterly useless to anybody with even a hint of a life of his own, public apologies are also painful to watch and almost always unrevealing. (My exception would be political figures, because they do indeed work for "the public.") Most of the time, these apologies are done in some last ditch attempt to save an endorsement or a multi-year contract or front-office job. They're usually just as phony as the sanitized image that that sneaker company sells you at the outset of the athlete's career. We, the public, don't need apologies from big names anymore than we need 'em from the manager of an IHOP or a mechanic at Midas.
Famous people struggle with their demons same as nobodies. Famous people screw up just like me and you. And while they shouldn't be any more above the law than the average cat, neither do I think they should have to convince me and you of how regretful they are. I'm an adult who messes up plenty and have sense enough to know that the Tom Lewands of the world do their fair share of effin' up as well, no matter what type of image they try to sell me at the podium on draft day or during the U.S. Open or in commercials. As a private citizen, I don't want to have to apologize to the world when I make a mistake. And although the Lions probably think an apology will help assuage fans who're indignant about Lewand's mistake, I feel it's unfair to ask more of sports figures simply because they are sports figures.
Plus, it seems kind of childishly naive, all this "hurt" and "shock" and "disappointment" we register with each new scandal. An adult who thinks that a well-known personality has to publicly and tearfully say "my bad" each time he or she gets caught doing the same humiliating stuff that nobodies suffer through in obscurity? That, to me, is pretty sorry in its own right.
(Even though it was ostensibly aimed at kids, Barkley's old Nike spot could probably stand to be quoted at some adults, too...)