Don’t let Young off the hook because of Big Ben

I always find it humorous when somebody tries to paint a better picture of a bad situation by comparing it to another one.

“Did you hear about the Johnson’s kid? He broke into the school Friday night and stole all the laptop computers.”

“Yeah, but at least he didn’t steal all the laptops and burn down the science wing like Elliott’s boy did a couple years ago.”

Both kids are clowns – don’t try to make one out to be better than the other. Case in point: Vince Young and Ben Roethlisberger.

According to the Tennessean, Young was cited for misdemeanor assault after punching a man in the face at a strip club in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday. The man apparently flashed Young an upside down Longhorns (as in Texas, Vince’s alma mater) sign, which angered the Titans’ quarterback to the point that the next logical step was to throw punches. (I’m only hoping that if Young sees someone flying an upside down American flag, he’ll show the same passion.)

If they haven’t already, I guarantee you that some people will compare Young’s situation to Roethlisberger’s sexual assault “history.” Don’t. In the grand scheme of things, they both don’t understand that as NFL players, they can’t make bad decisions that will embarrass their team or themselves. While Young’s citation was no worse than a speeding ticket (as opposed to Big Ben’s situation, in which he could have received much more than a six game suspension had he been charged), he still needs to use better judgment.

NFL players are allowed to have lives off the football field. It isn’t a crime for one of them to go out to a strip club, have a few beers and enjoy the action. But there’s a reason why you never hear Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady or Donovan McNabb’s names connected with something like this: Because they don’t put themselves in bad situations. They understand that in order to be a leader, they must act like one on and off the field. They understand that they can’t embarrasses themselves or their team when they go out at night and they also know that everyone is watching their every move.

Is it fair that some people antagonize athletes in order to get a rise out of them? No. Was it fair that Young was being hassled by some idiot possibly looking for 15 minutes of fame or worse, a lawsuit? No.

But there were more than 10 different ways Young could have reacted to the situation, none of which would have ended with him punching the man. He could have asked a bouncer to intervene, ignored the man entirely or here’s a nutty thought: He could have walked away. Nothing was stopping Vince from showing the guy his backside. It wouldn’t have made him less of a man if he blew the guy off and went on to enjoy his night. In fact, it would have shown his maturity and intelligence. Young has to realize that he’s not on a freaking playground anymore and he doesn’t have to prove his toughness to anyone.

Most of the reports from Tennessee this offseason on Young have been positive. The media has said that he has shown more of a dedication to his craft and that he has taken a more active leadership role. But one mistake can ruin weeks, months or even years of positive behavior and unfortunately Young is about to find that out the hard way. He’ll be lucky if all he receives from this situation is a citation. We’ve all seen that Roger Goodell will go to extreme measures to crack down on players that get into trouble off the field and while Young might not face a suspension this time, he’s one incident closer to being punished.

What Young did wasn’t as bad as what Big Ben was accused of. But that’s not the point. Both players, all players, have to realize that they’re under the microscope at all times – especially higher profile ones. If Young wants to continue to be relevant in the NFL, situations like the ones Sunday night can’t happen.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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