On demons, empathy and Dorial Green-Beckham

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

"First and most importantly, I take responsibly for my conduct and my mistakes. Don’t blame my girlfriend or her friends for anything. I am not looking for sympathy. I thank those who have given me concern. I have been young and dumb. I want to be better. During my suspension I’m entering counseling. With help, I know I can be stronger emotionally and spiritually. My relationship with God, my family, friends, teammates and coaches are most important in my life, not football. It may not be possible to fix everything, but it won’t be for not trying. — Dorial Green Beckham"

Granted, "young and dumb" doesn't quite describe the depths to which Dorial Green-Beckham may have sunk (depending on your interpretation of the police report) last Saturday night. But in all, this statement, read by John Beckham to the Post-Dispatch's Dave Matter, is basically what you want to see as a response from the Missouri receiver at the moment. Hopefully we'll learn more about the "counseling," but that's not a bad first step toward righting whatever wrongs can be righted.

Last night, my wife compared it to The Biggest Loser. We began to watch that show at some point, but we decided it was completely unfair that they kicked people off from the very beginning before they got too far down the road of getting the help they needed. It kind of ruined the show for us.

This came up as we were discussing, for lack of a better phrase, DGB's situation. We were talking about potential discipline options, and I showed her Pete Scantlebury's tweets above. I told her I was basically fine with whatever suspension DGB gets, but that I hope Pinkel uses this incident as a template for going to further lengths to teach and stress and educate. I said that if he was kicked off the team, I wouldn't complain too much, but--

--and that's when she dropped in the Biggest Loser reference.

I've only been a parent for a couple of years, and I only have one. But in this minimal exposure to parenthood, I've quickly come to realize just how much of a sponge a child is. What you do with and around the child is quickly absorbed. If the child doesn't get attention, or gets the wrong attention, there's a bit of a short circuit. We're incredibly lucky to have the arrangement we have -- both parents and all four grandparents within a few minutes of each other and the kid -- but I still notice the difference when she doesn't get quite as much positive attention. I'm already a guilty liberal, blessed and/or cursed with a reservoir of empathy. Kids growing up in impossible situations deserve and receive a lot of it.

We all have DGB's backstory memorized thanks to his five-star recruiting status and the fight it took to get him to Columbia. He and his siblings were in just about the toughest situation. Let's flash back to a piece published at Fox Sports after he signed with Missouri.

Dorial was another who needed help, because of the struggles of his biological mother, who has a checkered past and is on probation for receiving stolen property, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections website. He is one of her six children, all of whom lived with her at one point for months in a van in Springfield.

"There was nothing but drugs and alcohol and men," Tracy Beckham said. "It was crazy."

Dorial and his younger half-brother, Darnell, do not know who their father is, Tracy Beckham said.

"I mean nobody knows," she said.

The Beckhams’ relationship with Dorial stems from another student John Beckham met while coaching football at Hillcrest — Dorial’s oldest half-brother, Vincent Tate. Tate was 6-foot-3 and oozed athleticism, but he played only a couple of games before he was injured and stopped showing up at school.

Tate is serving five years in prison for multiple offenses, including assault and a felony of possession of a controlled substance, according to the Missouri DOC website.

"He was a tremendous athlete, but he went to the dark side pretty fast," John Beckham said. "Who knows what he could have done? He could have been pretty special, too."

A grade behind Tate was Sam Smith, Dorial’s second-oldest half-brother, whom the Beckhams had seen play in junior high. The Beckhams helped Smith become eligible to play football as a freshman at Hillcrest High.

When Smith played games, Tracy Beckham picked up Dorial and younger half-brother Darnell Green from Boys & Girls Town of Missouri, a home for abused and neglected children, where they lived with Smith. The trips were an escape for the two brothers, and Tracy Beckham would take the two to McDonald’s before they went to watch their brother in action.

"It was really hard at some points," Dorial said of his early childhood.

When you are struggling to even get by, when you are shuffling from home (and van) to home, I imagine it becomes hard not to miss developmental checkpoints. Maybe you catch up without any harm done, but it's hard. The dark side is always nearby. And when it corrupts some of the people close to you, everything gets exponentially harder.

Nothing in the world will justify what Dorial Green-Beckham allegedly did late last Saturday night; even the most rose-colored interpretation of testimony, text messages, etc., paints a picture of an angry DGB barging through the door of an apartment as someone is trying to close it, pushing a girl out of the way, and not pausing or taking stock of the situation (or his emotions) when she accidentally falls down a few stairs and hurts her hand/wrist. Even if everything else in the story was exaggerated or not as bad as it sounds, that's bad enough. We all get angry, but when we start to lose control of ourselves, there has to be something to reel us back in; DGB didn't get reeled back in, at least not enough. Again, nothing justifies that.

But knowing his background, and assuming that he probably isn't going to be kicked off of the football team -- one would assume that would have happened by now if it was going to happen* -- all I hope for is punishment that works. I honestly don't care about the length or magnitude of the punishment; I just want it to be effective.

* There's always a chance that the student conduct board, or the curators, or some third party gets involved. There's also a chance we learn about more domestic incidents that would make it hard to keep him on the team. But from what we know at this specific time, I assume he remains on the squad.

In Mike Alden's latest Mizzou Network interview, he talks a very good game about culture and respect and some of the programs Mizzou has implemented.

"We constantly talk to our young men and women about the fact that not only are we focused on our academic integrity and our competitiveness of what we do, but from a social responsibility standpoint, we want to make sure we're growing as men and women every day, and we're positive representatives of our institution, of our teams, of our program, of our families, whatever that may be. That's something we continuously and constantly work with our young men and women on: to be able to grow as men and women. And Tigers."

On a program called "Men for men and women for women"...

"Those were programs that were initiated by our student athletes at Mizzou, and what those are focused in on with regards to our women and our men, as far as our athletes are concerned, they get together as groups and they talk about common interests and issues relative to respect, to responsibility, to discovery, to excellence, the core values of our institution. How we can reflect those each and every day, how we can use personal experiences to be able to grow, how we can make sure that we're constantly talking about respecting one another, our commonalities and our differences, and how we can make sure that we elevate. I'm so proud of the way our men and women have embraced that effort. It's been initiated by them, and certainly it's something that's really benefited our entire athletic program. It has really become a model for many other programs around the country.

"I've been so pleased with the way our coaching staff and our general staff have embraced that and certainly are part of that effort, working together with our men and women as they grow."

On Dr. McGuire's positive coaching program...

"The positive coaching program that we have with Rick at the University of Missouri once again is a program that's a national model. People look at that and assume that's only for coaches. The reality is we're all coaches, right? Whether we're parents, whether we're coaches as parents, whether we're friends ... neighbors ... to be able to reflect that in a positive way, making sure that we're accentuating the positive efforts and modeling appropriate behavior and talking about those activities...

"For us at Mizzou, the logo never comes off. It NEVER comes off. So wherever we are, whether it has to do with, we're in line at the grocery store, or we're competing on the basketball court, or we're walking around the community, whatever that may be, the logo never comes off. And we want to make sure that we're reflecting that in a way that certainly showcases the positive aspects of the University of Missouri and us as individuals and teammates at Mizzou."

That all sounds great. These are things you want your athletic director to say. But one doesn't know how well a culture has been established until it is tested, and this month has been quite a test. As they say about leadership, it's not about the original plan, it's about what you do when the original plan fails. The DGB situation offers Alden, Gary Pinkel, and other decision-makers an opportunity to set a trend of sorts. Preaching respect is fine; what happens when the original message doesn't break all the way through?

If DGB is suspended for six games, that's fine. Four games? Fine. Two doesn't quite seem like enough, but again, I just want it to work. DGB has one last chance, and I want him to learn the lessons that haven't quite hit all the way home yet.

I'm not sure there is any better place to learn about respect, women, life, yourself, etc., than on a college campus. We all know this is DGB's last year at Mizzou, either because he gets kicked out or he declares for the draft. But in the absence of a degree, there are other lessons he needs to be learning. "Counseling," whatever that actually entails in this situation, is the first step in that direction. If I were Pinkel and company, I'd be looking into having him speak with domestic assault victims, with women's groups on campus, with female leaders within the Mizzou athletic community. With Rick McGuire, one on one. With an anger management specialist. (Actually, considering the events of the last week or so, let's just have all athletes meet with an anger management specialist.) Be constructive, be creative. Reach him. It appears he may be willing.

Maybe a half-season suspension really is enough. Maybe after this past weekend, it finally clicked that he has to improve himself before he destroys his future. His statement is just a statement, but it's a hint that this might be the case.  But maybe a lesser amount of games and the aforementioned seminars/conversations are better. I'm not really sure. But whatever punishment is announced, I just want it to work. He has long had my empathy, and perhaps none of us will even begin to understand how hard it was to grow up like he grew up. But it's time to start fixing the problem. Efforts to date have not done that, and empathy runs out at some point. The tank is close to empty.

I want Dorial Green-Beckham to take advantage of this final chance that he's been given (if he has indeed been given one). He's lucky to get another chance at all, of course; one has to figure that an arrest and charges might have been the end of his time here, and even though his girlfriend's roommate probably should have pressed charges, she didn't.

We could certainly say that he deserves a lucky break after the bad breaks he got growing up, but he was blessed with almost super-human athleticism. That's a break in and of itself, and because of that, he got another break this past week. Barring jail time, he'll end up making money in the NFL regardless of how and when his career ends in college. But I want his story to be one of redemption and holding demons at bay. Last weekend showed that the demons are a lot closer to winning than we perhaps realized. And maybe they already have. It's up to him to prove they haven't, and it's up to Pinkel, Alden, and the university to figure out the best way to keep them at bay. The logo never comes off; Dorial Green-Beckham is Missouri, and if it's not too late to find a positive ending to this story, here's to finding it.

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