I always wanted to play professional football. Like a kicker or punter, maybe even like a field goal holder, but without any contact with the other team. At all. Ever. That sounded like a perfect job for me. Someone could show me how to hold the football just the way they like it, and I would be in there. I never tried out for a football team – although I was cut from a peewee baseball team that I tried out for when I was 9. I was traumatized. I never tried out for sports again. I was the only kid cut. They had like 30 kids on the team, and had to make 2 teams because they had so many kids. I was so bad, I was the ONLY kid cut. That is a true story.
I never played organized sports. I never wore pads, or ran drills, or did a walk through. I walked onto the field at Rich Stadium in Buffalo once when I was a kid, but it was a tour and I was with my dad. We even went into the locker room. It was awesome. I didn’t, however, sacrifice my social life during junior high and high school to pursue a dream of playing in the NFL. I never went to college on a scholarship to play for Penn St, or Purdue, or Alabama. I never met with a college recruiter, or coach. I did have a parole officer once, though. But I always wanted to play professional football. I didn’t want any of the work, the sacrifice, the years of honing my skills, the sweat, tears and discipline it took to realize the dream. I didn’t sit in a locker room except in gym class. I had no locker assigned to me except for the locker that was bolted to the wall in my prison cell – and the plastic footlockers they gave us later when most prisons had open dorms.
See, I wanted to play professional football, but have no real idea what goes on during game days on Saturdays in college or Sundays in the NFL. Their rituals, their drills, their comradery, or their unwritten team rules. I don’t know about coaches meetings, or players meetings or locker room etiquette. I don’t know how to run a play, read a playbook, or how to work with a trainer when my body gets sore. None of the nuances of the grind.
So, it stands to reason, that since I know none of these things, I probably should not write a book about changing the atmosphere in the NFL. I mean, I am not part of that social fabric. It’s not my area to speak on because I never was part of that area to begin with. I am ignorant when it comes to knowing what I needed to know to give an informed opinion about it.
Realistically, one doesn’t have to have played sports to have an opinion. No more than someone who is a heart doctor or brain doctor need to have the maladies for which they operate. Nor does a substance abuse counselor need to be an ex-addict to be effective. It’s not logical to hold someone to such a standard in a general sense. Life does not occur in a vacuum.
Before you act for the greater good, you should know what is great and what is good.”
However, there are a lot of movements in the city, state and country about prison, confinement, solitary and even prison abolition that are not only ridiculous, but massively uninformed. Led by men and women who have been impacted by incarceration who now they believe they are some type of martyr when it comes to change and elimination. Prison reform is a complex issue, and to enable people whose only contribution to the discussion is a DOC number is absolutely unconscionable.
Prison is necessary for a functioning society. There isn’t enough rehabilitation this side of Jesus Christ that can break some people. It’s an unfortunate and tragic reality. There are men whom I’ve met during my incarceration that I am happy will never be released. That deserve to be in prison. Their crimes were so heinous, so violent that being back in the community shouldn’t be an option. That’s simply my opinion, not based in any empirical evidence except knowing them inside prison.
Which, in turn, leads me to another aspect of the “reformation movement”. The idea of prison as a logical extension of committing crimes verses the idea of prison as punishment for a crime.
See, losing freedom and privilege as a citizen comes by proxy with incarceration. It’s a symptom of the disease. You violate the law, you lose certain rights that are given to all citizens who don’t break the law. It should not be mitigated. It should not be softened or eliminated, in my opinion, some mirrored version of quid pro quo.
These movements are based mostly in the hatred of the system rather than a motivation for altruistic change. It’s a rage against the machine type thing. Most of the participants are people who were once incarcerated who now believe that social media has some type of applicable power. Power they were denied when they were incarcerated. So, they get on Facebook or Twitter, or start a web page or hash tag. The men (or women) they showcase are the flavors of the month. This guy or that gal need released because he/she’s being abused, or falsely accused or whatever. When you read their jacket it’s filled with years of criminal behavior, assaults, robberies, escapes. The people who do not fit this definition are rare.
Utilitarianism when it comes to incarceration is the only choice logically. The needs of the many outweigh the need of the few, or the one. Are there good men in prison? Are there innocent men in prison? Yes. Are there bad men in freedom? Are there bad men exonerated? Yes. The pendulum swings both ways. But when it swings not in your favor, against you, the rallying cries begin. In my opinion, we cannot have it both ways.
But I am an unlearned man. I have not had debates of punishment vs rehabilitation. I have only had my time in prison to teach me. I understand because I have been there. I have served my time. I spent parts of 4 decades in prison. Morality versus practicality. Deontology vs utilitarianism. I’ve been in the darkness and I made it back, so I must say that the society must prevail over individuality – at least when it comes to incarceration.
I know, my friends that these are deep subjects. People are in such volatile positions over these ideas. What I believe you shouldn’t do it embrace the anger and hatred. It will consume you. Your focus must be on getting out and staying out. Goals for getting to the gate and staying past it. Beware of the anger. It’s so easy to slip into while you are there. If you could only look at the people who have charge over you not as your enemies, but as people doing a job, your heart will be lighter, as will the world around you.
And maybe, just maybe, you will see if that guy had both feet in bounds…..even if you never played a day of football in your life.
And that’s ReEntry to me.