You either vilify the guy, or defend him.
I'm doing neither.
Lynch was arrested last weekend in Oakland for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol. On Wednesday, he was charged with DUI by the Alameda County district attorney's office. His situation should serve as a reminder of two things -- well three, but we already should know that drinking and driving is bad.
It should remind us of the dangers of making athletes into heroes. Every once in a while they disappoint us with some very poor decision making. Lynch's his arrest, as well as some of the reaction, also should serve as a reminder that it can be dangerous to make sweeping generalizations about athletes who find themselves in trouble.
And we should all remember that Lynch only has been accused of DUI. He has NOT been convicted.
We all know it is wrong get behind the wheel if you've been drinking. No one is arguing that. And yes, it is maddening every time we hear about an athlete worth millions deciding against spending $50 or $100 on a limo or cab ride when they've been drinking.
But let's be careful not to say Lynch's predicament makes him a thug, a monster or even the same person he was when he got into trouble in Buffalo.
Did Lynch screw up? Absolutely, if it turns out he's guilty. If he is convicted, he will pay for it in the legal system. He might even draw a fine or a suspension from the NFL.
However, let's also remember that Lynch was in Oakland because he and his cousin, 49ers quarterback Josh Johnson, were awarding a high school graduate with a college scholarship through their Fam 1st Family Foundation.
Who knows, maybe the past two trouble-free years in Seattle were a mirage, and maybe Lynch's DUI arrest is just the tip of the iceberg. Certainly the Seahawks, who just signed Lynch to a four-year extension, are a bit nervous following this latest trouble.
But maybe Lynch really has grown up some since his days in Buffalo and his current legal trouble will become a just footnote to an otherwise positive career in Seattle.
Those of us who aren't privy to all of the details, who aren't around Lynch on a daily basis, should be careful before we vilify him -- just as we should be careful about putting on a pedestal any athlete or celebrity whom we don't actually know.
Lynch issued an apology through the Seahawks on Friday, saying, "I want to apologize to my family, the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL and the 12th Man for the negative attention resulting from my recent actions. This is not the type of community leader I have been over the last two years or the one I'm striving to become. I want to assure everyone that I will work to be better and look forward to a very exciting, and very successful season with the Seattle Seahawks."
What stands out in what is a pretty standard PR department-issued apology is Lynch referring to himself as a community leader. For all the baggage he brought with him to Seattle -- a misdemeanor gun charge in 2009 and having his license revoked in 2008 for "failing to exercise due care toward a pedestrian" -- Lynch has limited his destructive behavior to the playing field since coming to the Seahawks.
He has been active in the community, both here and in Oakland, and has become a leader in Seattle's locker room. Now, Lynch will have to start over earning people's trust, and while he deserves plenty of scrutiny and perhaps criticism, it also is important not to paint him a terrible human being because of this arrest.
As much as we love sports because it helps us escape real life, this and so many other unfortunate incidents remind us that athletes are real people. Making matters even more complicated, the athletes who fans adore are quite often 20-something-year-old males, and people in their 20s, males in particular, do stupid things from time to time.
It's not just football, basketball or baseball players. The 20-something lawyers, doctors, accountants, and yes, journalists, are capable of exercising some pretty lousy judgment, whether their decision-making is fueled by alcohol, testosterone or some combination of the two.
The difference, of course, is that when most people out of the limelight have a run-in with the law, it isn't front-page news. And while athletes sometimes think that is unfair, they need to remember that they chose a career that not only comes with big money and adoration, but also a lot of attention. So, they have to know going in that the spotlight, whether it shines on the good or the bad they do, comes with the territory.
Lynch screwed up if he drove while intoxicated. No one is arguing that, least of all him. If convicted, he will have to regain the trust of his employers and make amends with the family, friends and fans he let down. In that case, we shouldn't defend what he did, but we shouldn't make him out to be a monster either.
Herald Columnist John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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