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Dan Bickley

Cardinals’ Keim delivered more than an apology in return from suspension

(Screenshot/@AZCardinals)

Bad decisions are not reserved for bad people. They are often pitfalls of an addled brain. Most of us have been there. Not everyone pays the price.

Steve Keim is different. His arrest for extreme DUI came with a five-week suspension, a $200,000 fine and a public flogging exacerbated by an erroneous police report. A popular website posted a headline that read: “Cardinals GM Steve Keim Tried To Name-Drop A Dead Cop During His DUI Arrest.”

That wasn’t true. The official report was quickly corrected. Stories were updated. But that headline remained, looming over updated content, the genie that never fits back into the bottle.

Keim’s bill does not condone or absolve his decision to drive impaired, needlessly endangering everyone in his path. But it provides precious context for his behavior following his reinstatement.

He spilled guts when addressing the organization on Tuesday. He did the same when standing before his football players on Wednesday morning, followed by a poignant session with the media.

Each time, his emotions were genuine and raw. He did not pull from the Mark McGwire playbook and direct all questions to the future, focusing on moving forward and nothing else. He didn’t draw lines in the sand or announce he would take no questions on his arrest after his sacrificial appearance was over.

Keim went further than most and further than required, and that says something about the man.

He also looked different, at least 25 pounds slimmer. A beard has replaced his trademark goatee. He shared an uncomfortable story, how he placed his 12-year old son in the center of unwanted attention, losing the hero worship of a child along the way.

“My 12-year old son texted his buddy, and (his friend) said, ‘They keep showing your dad over and over again on TV. I’m so sorry he’s having to go through that,’” Keim said. “And my son said, ‘I’m not. He shouldn’t have been doing it.’ And my son is right.”

Say what you want, but Keim ate his plateful of crow and swallowed hard. His demeanor carried no scent of spin control or embitterment. He never deflected or tried to avoid the storm. He chose the harder path, vowing that his old job comes with a new path, and that poor decisions can also make better men.

The Cardinals didn’t flounder in his absence, and while Keim deserves credit for assembling a talented staff of underlings, that must compound the sting. As a young boy, he told his mother he would become a NFL general manager. Clearly, he never doubted his ability or perceived destiny.

But after climbing the ladder and leading a successful team, growing exponentially in wealth and fame, he found himself behind bars. Wearing an oversized orange jumpsuit. Staring at a cement slab underneath his feet. In jail, amid unnerving company, facing the hardest question of all: How did I end up here?

Things have changed during Keim’s suspension. The new head coach has grown in stature. Steve Wilks became the face of the organization overnight, and his captivating authority has sparked a new energy in Arizona.

Team president Michael Bidwill sent a strong message with his disciplinary measures, displaying no favoritism to one of his top executives or hypocrisy to the players in the locker room. He emerges as a clear-thinking owner with a deep well of trust among those in uniform, a rare asset to a league that always seem to alienate and infuriate its players. His rising status in the league will do nothing but help the Cardinals in the future.

Meanwhile, Keim is poised to become the best kind of redemption story. He’s always owned his personnel mistakes, and now he’s done the same with his personal mistakes. He seems legitimately appalled at himself, whether the epiphany occurred in jail, in the mirror or in the mess he caused.

Maybe it’s what he lost. Or what he became. Or what he didn’t lose. Or what he risked along the way. We don’t need to know. We just need to believe.

To his credit, the Cardinals’ GM delivered more than an apology in his official return to the spotlight.

He went deeper than required and ended up closer to the hearts of those he disappointed. And those happy to see him back.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com.  Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier