I grew up a New York Giants fan and never was I a bigger fan than in the late 80's and early 90's. A lot of great Giants came and went during that time. Lawrence Taylor. Phil Simms. Rodney Hampton. Carl Banks. Pepper Johnson. O.J. Anderson.
But if you asked me who my favorite Giant was at the time, hands-down, it was Dave Meggett.
A one-man Wildcat before there was ever such a thing, Meggett was an offensive weapon that sometimes defied definition, but it was his work on kick returns that I found most electrifying. All due respect to Renya Thompson but Meggett was the first NFL player to get me excited about special teams.
Dave Meggett kick returns were events. Even if the game was boring, every kick return was a memorable moment waiting to happen. Like most things in sports, I probably remember him as being way better than he actually was, and I remember the amazing moments far more than the mundane ones, but if you asked me at the time, I would have told you Dave Meggett was a fantastic football player who deserved any honor the Giants wanted to bestow upon him.
Cut to 2014 where we know now that Dave Meggett is a serial rapist who will spend the next twenty-plus years in prison. He didn't magically become a rapist when his football career was over, he was the same person back in 1991 when he helped the Giants win the Super Bowl and I plastered my basement walls with posters and magazine cut-outs of him scoring touchdowns.
When I was thirteen, if I had the means, I would have built Dave Meggett a statue. And now, if I had somehow done that, I would have been the first one to tear it down.
Dave Meggett is the personification of the idea that you never, ever truly know a famous person. Ever. Especially in sports. As much as you might think you know that this person is a good guy and that person is a bad guy, you don't. And you probably never will.
Joe Paterno. Lance Armstrong. Mark McGwire. Pete Rose. Rae Carruth. Aaron Hernandez. Jayson Williams. O.J. Simpson. At one time or another, we thought each of them were honest, pure "good guys." Or at the very least, we assumed they were good guys because they were good at scoring points for our team. Then we found out. Of course, it's as much our fault for hoisting an ideal onto athletes and coaches that we would never assign to anyone else. Ideas of purity and ethics that we would never and could never live up to, and yet we expected it from them.
Not that it excuses their misdeeds...
Outside of the world of sports is a story like Jimmy Savile's. If you've never heard of him, he was a longtime kid's show host in England who, after his death, was revealed to be a prolific child molester and rapist who used his position to find and abuse victims. Imagine if Mr. Rogers was revealed to be a child molester and it's roughly the same idea.
This is kind of a weird, extended lead-in to a piece about Jim Boeheim. The longtime head coach of the Syracuse Orange basketball team is not at all on par with anyone I've mentioned so far and is by all accounts a model citizen.
I do bring all of this up is because, as you may have noticed by now, Dick Vitale is on some kind of one-man crusade to get a statue of Jim created and placed on Syracuse University's campus. The unrelenting passion he seems to have on the topic is jarring given that there is no vocal opposition that anyone is aware of. He routinely mentions it during broadcasts, even if SU isn't playing. He tweets his message directly to SU-related people. He's even called us out for questioning the cause that he so very much believes in.
His whole point is that we need to build a statue to honor Boeheim and his legacy before Boeheim is dead so that he can appreciate it.
In theory, fantastic idea. If it were up to me, we'd rename it the Boeheim Dome while we're at it. I'm 97% sure that there will not come a time in the future that we'd regret it.
But then there's that 3% chance. That 3% is small. The chances that something's coming down the pike to make us rethink everything we know about Jim Boeheim The Human are super-slim. They're barely worth considering.
But then you probably thought the same thing about Joe Paterno. How's his statue holding up these days?
If you really want me to get into it, Dick, I will. Do you know the entire story on Bernie Fine? Do you know 100%, without-a-doubt that Jim Boeheim knew nothing, covered up nothing and is guilty of nothing? I'm not. I honestly believe Boeheim didn't know, but, I can't tell you definitively. Just because I want to believe Jim is completely clean doesn't make it so.
And with a tell-all book on the horizon, on-going legal action and Bernie Fine's apparent willingness to enter the collective consciousness again, I'm not willing to risk it.
Besides, as Brent Axe succinctly put it...
.@DickieV He's got the court named after him and he's in the Hall of Fame. I think we got it covered :)— Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia) January 27, 2014
If I can get philosophical for a moment, we live in very self-obsessed times. If you were to ask most people what the most important moments or events in the history of the world were, there would be an overwhelming amount of moments from our own lifetimes. Our grandparents refer to themselves as "The Greatest Generation." Many of us believe we're currently living in the apex of humanity.
In sports, we retire jersey numbers and add people to rings of honor and halls of fame with such speed and indifference, it's as if we have no understanding that there is SO MUCH to come after us. We believe Michael Jordan is and always will be the standard by which basketball players will be measured, blissfully unaware that there is a player yet to be born who will dwarf Jordan's accomplishments. Why? Because there is no future. Not to us. At least, not in the way we care about sports.
Yes, Jim Boeheim deserves a statue on Syracuse's campus. Or at least, he deserves to be honored for his accomplishments in a way that shows future generations who he was and what he meant. Whatever that entails.
But until the Jim Boeheim Story is complete and the book is closed, there is no way in hell I want to fete him in that way. Because I can't say for sure whether or not there's more to the story beyond what I can see with my own two eyes. And quite frankly, I'll never be able to, so, better safe than sorry.