What Pacman Needs

You were probably outraged in some manner when you heard about either of the latest news items concerning Tennessee Titans cornerback/gangster Pacman Jones.

If you're Pacman himself, one of his buddies or his lawyer, you're probably incensed that the Las Vegas Police and Clark County District Attorney's office have charged Jones with two counts of felony coercion.

If you're NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Titans head coach Jeff Fisher or anyone who pays attention to NFL news, you're probably disgusted with Pacman's latest questionable foray into the strip club underworld: an exchange of post-lap dance stoplight gunfire between one car and another transporting Pacman's entourage.

Whether or not Jones was driving or riding in that car is irrelevant (police claim he wasn't). If he becomes a convicted felon, it's also irrelevant.

Pacman Jones continues to associate with the seedy elements of society. His potential degree of guilt in February's Las Vegas strip-club fracas has been given validation by the charges brought against him. He continues to disgrace the NFL, the Tennessee Titans and everything Goodell is trying to accomplish.

My initial reaction to all of this was to support a lifetime suspension from the NFL for Jones. But that's over the top. It's absurd, no matter how fed up you are with Jones' seemingly endless string of the off-the-field incidents.

Should his suspension be extended another year? No. What will 730 days away from the game teach Pacman that 365 won't? Likely it will just mean the end of his career.

That sort of suspension might fly if we were dealing with an older NFL player. If Michael Vick's dog-eat-dog drama plays out the way I think it will, by all means, suspend him for a year or two. He'll get the point, and likely already has.

Here's the difference. Vick is an adult. He should be held responsible for his actions to the fullest extent of Goodell's power.

Pacman is a 23-year old kid who, sadly, may not know any better. If he does, he doesn't care.

He needs a daddy. More specifically, an African-American one.

I hate to bring race into this, but I think it's the overriding issue here. When Jones was five years old, his father was shot and killed. He was raised by his mother and late grandmother.

Where is the father figure in his life? It's not Goodell or Fisher. Pacman obviously doesn't respect either of those men. He's ignored their requests and attempts at discipline.

He needs an African-American role model to help him clean up his act. Someone he will listen to. Someone who commands respect and attention. Someone who he knows is on his side.

It's time for President Gene Upshaw and the NFL Player's Association to step in. It's time for the members of the NFLPA's Player Advisory Council - Donovin Darius, Tony Richardson Takeo Spikes, James Thrash and Troy Vincent - to take this young man under their wing. And I'm guessing Jeff Saturday, regardless of his skin color, can help, too.

Upshaw needs to sit down with Pacman and show him the way. Explain that if he continues down the self-destructive path he's already on, he won't be eligible for all the rights and privileges membership in the NFL's exclusive players-only club grants. They won't tolerate or support his actions any longer.

Upshaw should tell Pacman he can either enjoy a long, productive NFL career as one of the league's top cornerbacks, never having to work again after retirement, or he can throw that life of fame and fortune away. What will he be left with? Life as one of America's most high-profile thugs, with an almost-completed degree from West Virginia University.

Upshaw needs to give Pacman the choice. Play ball or go home – to prison, or the grave.

Upshaw, and no one else, needs to tell Pacman these things. Because he might be the only one Pacman will listen to.

I realize all of this sounds odd coming from a white man who hates rap music and has never set foot inside a strip club. But I think it's the truth. Furthermore, I didn't flunk out of junior high twice and my entourage would never pull out their guns at a stoplight. I owe all of this to the fact my father grew up surviving the mean streets of Monett, Missouri.

Larry Johnson needed a black head coach, someone he could relate to. Jones needs a black father figure – someone to show him the way.

Otherwise, it's game over for Pacman.

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