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Forgiveness and Riley Cooper

I think Riley Cooper will be out of the league in less than two years. Although I’m a huge proponent of forgiveness and hope I’m wrong in this case, forgiveness doesn’t always include forgetting. And his teammates, not to mention his opponents, might have a hard time getting this one out of their memory.

Apologies are nice and Riley Cooper’s seemed very sincere, but so did his racial slur. And that’s the problem. When you use language like he did it reveals so much. You don’t just say stuff like that; those words just don’t come out of your mouth on accident. They are either part of your lexicon or they are not.

I don’t know what locker room he will be accepted into. The Eagles say they have forgiven him and that seems sincere as well, but there will be many that will not forgive, and they will take great satisfaction in exacting their retribution on Cooper. There will be many players across the league that will take Cooper’s challenge to heart and fight him on the field and off the field both figuratively and literally.

Cooper will be a target, maybe even in practice. And Brian Bosworth can attest to what happens to players in the hyper-aggressive-alpha-male world of the NFL when they place a bullseye on their chest. They don’t last long. The beating he’s going to take between the white lines will be prodigious and the constant vituperation he’ll have to endure will be nothing short of withering. This will create a very difficult context for Cooper to compete in and I wonder if teams will wish to endure the distraction for a player of average ability.

Thomas Szasz, a 20th century Hungarian psychiatrist, once said, “The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

Football players are like elephants: they have great memories.