Lamar Hunt got into all this for the games. He loves the games.When he was a child, growing up in that weird and wonderful world of J.R. Ewing Texas oil, he would hang around in the yard, take a tennis ball and a piece of chalk, and invent his own little games. It was all so innocent. He was the son of H.L. Hunt, one of America's richest men. His brothers would go into big business. They eventually would try to corner the silver market. Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt just wanted to be around the games. "I think sometimes we look back, and yes, it was more innocent," he said. "I don't think we can help but feel that way." The times distress Lamar Hunt. He has spent all his life around these games, but now something big has changed. Over here, he sees that prosecutors will seek the death penalty for former Carolina receiver Rae Carruth. Over there, he sees Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis headed for a murder trial himself. Closer to home, the Chiefs' Tamarick Vanover pleads guilty to assisting in the sale of a stolen car. There are others making rotten news - large and small - every single day. There have always been a few problems with athletes through the years, but it feels like an avalanche now. Every night, the NFL is the butt of jokes on Letterman and Leno. "We can't have this kind of thing," Hunt said. "We want to be able to focus on football. We want to concentrate on the draft and mini-camps and some of those kinds of things. ... I can't recall anything quite like what has been happening off the field lately. We must find a way to stop it." This is how all of us feel. Trouble is, Hunt does not know exactly how to stop it. Nobody really does. Sure, you have those on one side who want all the shady players thrown out of sports. Just get them out of here, cut them, deport them, whatever. Then, you have those on the other side who want every player rehabilitated, rescued, given all sorts of chances. Truth is, you can't just eliminate every player with an attitude. And you can't save them all either. So, the league just keeps going. Hunt says he doesn't know the specifics about Lewis or Carruth, and that the Chiefs are still deciding what to do with Vanover. You would think they will cut him. But the bigger point is that it never will be as innocent again. Hunt remembers a time in football when the players were just working stiffs like the rest of us, when the newspapers and radio stations and television stations did not report every drunken detail, when it was still OK to call an athlete a role model. Those days are so far gone. We miss them. There's so much money in the game. Players get so much money when they're too young to handle it. The wrong people gather around them. Agents scurry about. The media is everywhere. It's ironic: Hunt went into sports mainly to avoid big business. Now, of course, sports are big business. Even now, though, Lamar Hunt wants to enjoy sports. He hasn't changed much from when he was a boy nicknamed "Games." Even now, he wants to tinker with the rules; he has an idea for a rule change that would prevent quarterbacks from kneeling down at the ends of games. That's the stuff he loves. This other stuff breaks his heart. "I really don't think it's less fun," he said. "I just don't think of it that way. I can't think of it that way." This is what Hunt wants to believe. It's still fun. It's still a challenge. Sports is still about winning and losing. Lamar Hunt really wants to believe that. Then, we all want to believe.
December 7, 2006 5:42 PM