It's not saints vs. sinners with Colts and Pacers
Eight hours earlier, we were sitting in the media room at the Colts practice facility, talking about exactly this issue, saying how the fans and media have completely bought into this Pacers and Colts as sinners-and-saints duality.
"At some point,'' Mike Chappell, The Star's Colts beat writer, said plainly, "that's going to blow up in people's faces.''
At 3:02 a.m. Tuesday morning, there was Dominic Rhodes, fresh off his MVP-worthy Super Bowl performance and a visit to Disney World, getting pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
What did Colts coach Tony Dungy say a couple of weeks ago about having a team of players you'd love your son to emulate?
And is there any way we can pin this one on the Pacers, maybe find a way to prove that Jamaal Tinsley surreptitiously slipped Rhodes a mickey (and we aren't talking about the mouse)?
(In a far less significant matter, one that's more laughable than lamentable, it was learned that Dallas Clark was thrown out of an Iowa high school girls basketball game for allegedly saying the wrong thing to a referee. Not exactly kidnapping the Lindbergh baby, I know.)
Here's what we need to understand -- and when I say "we,'' I'm talking about fans and the media: Neither professional team in this city has a monopoly on morality or immorality. Both teams are populated, by and large, with good people who care about this community. And both teams have guys who don't get it and never will.
The whole saints-versus-sinners comparison offers us a simple-and-easy formula to use when we're playing compare-and-contrast with our pro franchises, and it's especially convenient when we're still giddy after a Super Bowl and inclined to believe only the best things about our conquering heroes. But it's misleading.
The Colts have had their issues over the years. Nick Harper and a domestic incident. Mike Doss and gun-related charges. Joseph Jefferson's drunken driving conviction. DeDe Dorsey's recent arrest for carrying a firearm without a permit. And there have been some others.
Let's not play Compare That Crime here, or diminish a DUI charge as a somehow lesser indiscretion than allegedly participating in a bar fight. Drunk drivers kill people. Bar-room brawlers don't -- generally speaking.
No, Rhodes wasn't hammered, not with a 0.09 percent blood-alcohol level. And yes, when I read about it, I thought, "There, but for the grace of God, go I.'' That, though, doesn't excuse or diminish it, especially coming from a member of a franchise that has chosen to cover itself in a cloak of goodness.
Remember, too, this is the second time around for Rhodes, who is a free agent and will be seeking a bigger deal elsewhere. In 2002, he admitted striking his girlfriend and was placed in a diversion program. If he wasn't gone before this, he is now.
Ultimately, the bigger point is this: If you think all the Colts are God-fearing boys-next-door types who wouldn't think to jaywalk when nobody was watching, you're misguided.
If you think all the Pacers are lawless, gun-toting bandits intent on shooting up the Westside of Indianapolis, you're misguided.
One thing I know: This column will be well-read by every member of the Pacers organization. I can promise you, the moment the Rhodes story hit the wires, Pacers management and players were saying, "OK, let's see how the TV stations and the newspaper cover it when it involves the sainted Colts.''
Suffice to say, the Pacers have not been particularly happy with the coverage of the most recent incidents involving their players. They say there's a double standard being exercised in the coverage of the Colts and Pacers -- which is funny, because five or six years ago, the Colts were complaining how the Pacers never had their feet held to the fire. The Pacers say: When it's a Pacer, it's yet another Pacers mishap and it's viewed as a reflection on management. And when it's a Colt, well, it's an aberration, an individual mistake that has no reflection on the organization.
While I'm not ready to buy the Pacers' unspoken contention that they're no worse than the Colts, I'll acknowledge that when it comes to these sorts of issues, the basketball team has been spectacularly unlucky.
All of the Pacers' issues have involved big-name players, starters, whose names get more play because they're part of a smaller roster. And with The Brawl on their resume, and a history that has involved Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson, every subsequent misstep (Club Rio and 8 Seconds Saloon) has confirmed the perception of the Pacers as outlaws.
With the Colts, it has generally involved lesser lights, it has generally happened during the offseason, and it has generally happened in places other than Indianapolis. There was a distressing pattern of legal trouble emerging before the 2005 Colts season -- and we harshly called the team on it, too -- but since then, the incidents have been far less frequent and not nearly as notable.
Saints and sinners.
Good Colts and evil Pacers.
Simple and easy and tidy.
And, as we've seen again, wrong.