Monday, October 23, 2006
Two Tigers Send Right Message to Teammates
Two Tigers send right message to teammates
Geoff Calkins, Memphis Commercial Appeal
October 23, 2006
Antonio Anderson woke up Saturday morning, saw the story in this paper about two teammates getting into trouble, and found himself deeply bothered by the headline. "U of M officials investigate complaint against ballplayers," it said.
Anderson talked to another teammate, Chris Douglas-Roberts. Together, they asked Memphis coach John Calipari if they could talk to the media. "We wanted to say something," Anderson said. "It wasn't Memphis ballplayers who did this, it was two individuals. And they're going to be accountable. But don't think that we're bad guys, because we have a lot of good guys on this team."
Which is nice to hear, and certainly true, in large part. Anderson and Douglas-Roberts seem to be high-character kids. Robert Dozier has never brought anything but honor to the university. Willie Kemp, Doneal Mack and Tre'Von Willis, oh, this isn't about making a list.
It's about two players who decided to speak out. To step forward as leaders of a team that could do some damage if the players follow the example of last year's Tigers and make the right choices.
"We wanted to send a message," said Anderson.
To whom? The media? Fans? Your teammates?
"Everyone," he said. "We stand for the right things in this program. Why should one story cause people to look at us differently?"
That's a complicated question, of course, with more than one answer.
First, it's not entirely clear the story that sparked this discussion caused anyone to look at the larger team any differently.
Two female students allege that Joey Dorsey and Hashim Bailey threw a full bottle of water at them and threatened to bash in their faces.
While the headline said "U of M officials" were investigating "ballplayers," the subhead said "Dorsey, Bailey are implicated in dorm run-in."
Even if the subhead hadn't specifically named Dorsey and Bailey, though, should Anderson and Douglas-Roberts really be surprised if people fail to distinguish between the well-behaved Tigers and the less well-behaved?
Quick, which Miami Hurricanes were involved in that brawl last week? You have no idea, do you?
The Hurricanes were at it again. That's what everyone said, and they didn't stop and think about the nice, scholarly Hurricanes.
Programs get reputations. Those reputations are generally made by the sins of a few. Only one of Bob Huggins' Cincinnati Bearcats punched a horse. Only one had to.
At Memphis, Calipari's Tigers have largely avoided serious off-the-court trouble. The Jeremy Hunt incident got big play, but that was only because it was so badly bungled.
Look around the country, at UConn, at Missouri, at Iowa. All those places have had more serious problems than Memphis.
But the small problems are starting to stack up, in a way that could be foreshadowing or could be nothing. Kareem Cooper pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana last year. Dorsey was recently caught driving with a suspended license.
Throw in Hunt, Bailey, Clyde Wade and Andre Allen, and six current Memphis players have made the paper for off-the-court issues.
Small wonder Calipari gave the players yet another lecture after practice last Wednesday, telling them that while the town wants to love them, it depends on how they handle themselves.
Hours later, Dorsey and Bailey allegedly threatened the two female students.
So it can only help to have Anderson and Douglas-Roberts stand up for themselves, their school and the idea that reputation matters.
Think about this last part. At the very least, they showed they care what others think. They care what you think, about them and their university.
If Anderson and Douglas-Roberts have that idea, maybe Dorsey will catch on, too. Maybe young kids like Cooper, Bailey and Pierre Niles will grow to understand how we're all defined by our choices.
"We're the leaders of the team," said Anderson. "We want to send the right message to the newer guys."
It's good to be good. It's bad to be bad. And no matter what anyone says, respect isn't something you can earn on a basketball court.