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Male Athletes and the Women Who Torment Them

One of the most interesting reporting experiences I ever had was attending a four-day seminar that the National Football League runs each year for its incoming rookies, trying to prepare them for life in (and after) the N.F.L. Not the football part, but the life part: handling money, staying away from bad influences, etc.

It soon emerged that, for a high-profile male athlete, one of the best perks was the availability of women (no surprise there). It also emerged that one of the greatest pitfalls facing such athletes was … the availability of women:

”The C.I.A. has nothing on a woman with a plan,” Irving Fryar tells the rookies. ”There are women who have a plan to trap you. It’s going to happen to somebody in this room.” Marcellus Wiley, a San Diego Chargers veteran, advocates ”keeping a stable” of women to avoid undue complications. ”You ugly?” Wiley says to the rookies. ”Don’t matter no more. Green, dog, it’s all about the green, and you got green. The root of ‘dating’ is ‘data,’ and that means you gotta find out some information on her.” In one of [life-skills coach] Zachary Minor’s staged scenes, a ballplayer recounts to a teammate the fight he just had with his girlfriend. ”She wanted me to hit her!” he screams. ”She wanted me to hit her!” Later, the Giants’ lineman Jeff Hatch reflected on the symposium’s teaching about women. ”If you came down from Mars and saw all this,” he said, ”you’d think that women were an evil, evil species.”

I thought of all this when two news items recently crept through the ether:

New Jersey Nets guard Jason Kidd is filing for divorce from his wife Joumana and filing for a temporary restraining order against her, claiming that Joumana has physically and emotionally abused him. This is a particularly complicated story in that Jason was once arrested for domestic violence against Joumana, and because Joumana has now countered that it was she who was abused.

Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr was allegedly the target of a $2 million extortion attempt by an 81-year-old woman in Texas who reportedly was threatening to “injure the reputation” of Starr by divulging an affair they’d had in 1960. In 1960!

Divorce and extortion cases like this are always ugly and almost always very, very murky. But based on what’s been made public so far, I’d say this:

Regarding Starr: I’m surprised that a 47-year-old liaison could be thought to be worth $2 million, and I don’t see how it could significantly damage Starr’s reputation other than perhaps upsetting his family.

Regarding Kidd: Given the macho code of the male locker room, I’d be astounded if Kidd would publicly assert that his wife beat him up unless there were some truth to it.

I am sure there are all kinds of potential motives and incentives I am missing here. And maybe I am gravely misinterpreting things because I am male.