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The good or bad, which side do you fall on?

December 21, 2009
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

The death of Chris Henry should serve as an alarm to millions of young men and women throughout this nation.

But, it won't.

Before long, life will get back to normal for everyone, if it hasn't already.

"That won't happen to me," seems to be prevalent among young people today.

From what I have read, Henry finally got his life turned around and apparently a big part of it is because the last time he was busted by police, he (figuratively) turned around and saw that his boys were no longer in his corner.

That, basically, means they were never his friends in the first place.

Because of this change, Henry changed.

And, because Henry changed, the Cincinnati Bengals changed and gave Henry another chance.

This time, it paid off.

Until a few days ago when he was bucked out of the back of a truck and, the next morning, died from his injuries.

The losers in all of this are his three children.

They will grow up without their father.

Unfortunately, though, Henry very well may be remembered as a troubled athlete, a guy who had all this potential as a National Football League player and never really saw it come to fruition.

He will be remembered as a guy who was given 100 chances to turn his life around.

He will be remembered as a guy who seemingly was always in trouble.

This got me thinking of people in the sports world and what we think of them when we hear their names.

There are the good guys - Peyton Manning, Tim Tebow, A.C. Green, Tony Dungy, Walter Payton, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn.

There are the bad guys - Ryan Leaf, Shawn Kemp, Pete Rose, Travis Henry, Tony Mandarich, Plaxico Burress, Tiger Woods, Lawrence Phillips, Pacman Jones and Maurice Clarett.

The bad part is the bad list is seemingly easier to fill than the good list.

Why is that?

What list do you fall on?

Anybody not want Manning as their starting quarterback?

He is probably the hardest worker in football, does funny commercials, stays out of trouble, has a squeaky-clean image and is someone you would want your daughters to marry.

Anybody not want Tebow in your organization?

I am guessing he has more fun going to jails and talking to inmates about God than playing football. The son or missionaries, he is the guy you want as the face of your franchise.

Anybody not want Dungy as your coach?

Please do not start with what he hasn't won, that he can't win a big game, that his teams always underachieved.

He treated his players as men. He never yelled and made sure his players and coaches always had time for family.

Anybody not want Green on your team?

He spent many years with the Los Angeles Lakers and Kareem, Magic when they were "Showtime." He never got the headlines and never cared for them. He was the guy who did all the dirty work on the court and never complained.

He also remained a virgin until the day he got married at age 38.

You want him or Mike Tyson talking to your son about how to be a good man in society?

Anybody not want Payton as your starting running back?

Sweetness was all that and more. He scored a touchdown and handed the ball to the official.

He played hard and never made excuses. The one thing Mike Ditka said he wished he could have back is to allow Payton to score in the Super Bowl instead of William Perry the year the Bears demolished New England.

Anybody not want Ripken as the face of your franchise?

He played in 2,632 consecutive games for Baltimore, a major league record that will be hard pressed for anyone to break.

He came to work and worked.

He went to work every day from May 30, 1982 to Sept. 20, 1998.

He did not call in sick for any reason from a hangover to wanting a four-day weekend.

He did not no-show. He did not pull himself because he had a hangnail.

Anybody not want Gwynn as your No. 2 or No. 3 hitter.

He, like Ripken, played every major league game with one franchise. Gwynn played 2,440 games for San Diego, collecting 3,141 hits, 1,139 RBIs and batted .338. Only one time did he hit below .300, that was his first year with the Padres, when he batted .289 in 54 games.

Kemp and Travis Henry have almost as many kids out of wedlock to make a football team. Kemp has eight kids by six women. Henry has 11 kids by 10 women.

There is something to be proud of!

Leaf was an utter bust in San Diego and recently was arrested.

Rose gambled on the sport he loved and lied about it for 15 years. He will never be in the Hall of Fame.

Mandarich, like Leaf, was a bust as a No. 2 pick in the NFL draft. He spent years on steroids and just as many years denying he was on them.

Burress was a mess in Pittsburgh and now is behind bars because he thought he was above the law.

We all know about Woods and his affairs. I am just waiting for women from across the seas to come out of the closets to tell their stories.

Caron Butler was arrested 15 times before he was 15 years old in Racine, Wis.

But, someone gave him a chance and he has flourished.

He went from Washington Park High School in Racine to Maine Central Institute, where he graduated and was recruited by Jim Calhoun at the University of Connecticut. He played two years for the Huskies before being a lottery pick in the NBA.

Butler, a member of two NBA all-star teams, has stayed out of trouble since his youth.

I was listening to a coach talk to a room full of parents.

"Our job is to push your kids past the point where they think they can go," he said. "Our job is to push them to that wall and then through that wall."

The coach said the coaches are there to push kids to a new level, to a level they never thought they had.

Another coach told me that at no point in a sporting event is conservation of energy a goal.

He wants every kid to give every ounce of energy for as long as they are on any athletic field.


Have a Merry Christmas and see you in about 10 days.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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