Ron Cook: Too many people play blame game

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Personal accountability got an early jump on the long holiday weekend, shamelessly vanishing Thursday from two different parts of the sports world. It's hard to say what was more despicable. That the father of dead St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock filed suit against just about everyone even though his son was a drunk driver in the automobile accident that killed him in the early hours of April 29? Or that Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis insinuated the nationwide perception that he has a team of criminals is, at least partially, due to profiling by Cincinnati police?

I haven't been this offended since the Stella Liebeck case.

You remember Stella Liebeck, don't you?

She's the Albuquerque, N.M., woman who was awarded $2.9 million by a jury after she sued McDonald's when she was scalded by a 49-cent cup of coffee.

Can't we all look in the mirror, folks?

Just once?

The view from here is Hancock is responsible for his death, no one else. His blood-alcohol level was 0.157, nearly twice Missouri's legal limit, when he rammed into the back of a flatbed tow truck stopped in a driving lane to assist a driver from another accident.

The overwhelming grief Hancock's family must be feeling is understandable, but it doesn't seem right that Dean Hancock has filed suit against a St. Louis restaurant, claiming that its employees kept serving his son drinks even though he was impaired. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the suit alleges that Josh Hancock "regularly became visibly intoxicated" at the restaurant -- that's some admission, isn't it? -- and his intoxication "on said occasion was involuntary." What does that mean? Involuntary? Did the restaurant staff put a gun to Hancock's head and force him to keep drinking? Did the employees force him to go outside and put his key in his sport utility vehicle and drive off?

The elder Hancock's suit also names the tow truck company, the tow truck driver and the other accident victim as defendants, claiming they failed to remove their vehicles to the side of the highway in a timely fashion. The exact time frame is in dispute, but the tow truck had its warning lights flashing, according to the Post-Dispatch. It seems reasonable that Hancock might have been able to avoid the accident if he hadn't been intoxicated, if he hadn't been going 68 mph in a 55 zone and if he hadn't been talking on a his cell phone with a female acquaintance about meeting at another bar. (Hancock was not wearing a seat belt and marijuana was found in his vehicle, although toxicology reports showed he had only alcohol in his system at the time of the accident).

It would be harsh to suggest Hancock got what he deserved, but not by much. Thankfully, he didn't kill someone else, either at the crash scene or on the drive to it.

The story involving Lewis and the Bengals also is disturbing. On an ESPN radio show, Lewis accused the Cincinnati police of profiling his players after troubled wide receiver Chris Henry was pulled over in his vehicle for not signaling a turn. "I think there's profiling, no question," Lewis said.

At the time, it sounded very much like Lewis was playing the race card, but he vehemently denied that later, saying his remarks were in the context of his players being public figures. He also apologized in a statement released by the team and in a private telephone call with the Cincinnati police chief, saying his "comments did not illustrate the high regard I have for the Cincinnati Police Department."

Is that called covering your behind or what?

I don't profess to being an expert on profiling, but I do know if you are doing nothing wrong, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. Profiling wasn't the reason nine Bengals were arrested over a nine-month period; poor judgment was. Henry, who has been suspended by the NFL for the first eight games of the 2007 season, was arrested four times, not once in Cincinnati.

Now that the long weekend is over and a new work week has begun, it's nice to think personal accountability will return.

You probably won't want to hold your breath, though.

You know how it works these days.

Why blame yourself when you can blame someone else?



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