Pro sports needs to discover ways to help lost souls |

Pro sports needs to discover ways to help lost souls

Steve Yingling

Professional sports becomes a pretty pathetic operation when you see unaccountable athletes get more chances than the rich guy in a mulligan friendly golf tournament.

I understand why athletes such as Minnesota Vikings’ receiver Koren Robinson are given second, third and fourth chances. They are impact players who can turn a so-so team into a winner when all is right in their world. The objection is that teams shouldn’t throw million-dollar contracts at problem athletes who haven’t had a proper amount of time to recover.

The sad thing is that these athletes really don’t recover until they lose everything. You know some of the stories: Michael Ray Richardson … Earl “The Goat” Manigault … Steve Howe … Daryl Strawberry.

Robinson apparently had another relapse in his ongoing battle with alcoholism earlier this week. He was clocked at doing better than 100 mph in his BMW Sedan on Tuesday, a day after his Minnesota Vikings lost to the Oakland Raiders 16-13. By the time police caught up with him 10 miles down the road near the Vikings’ training headquarters, Robinson’s trouble had only begun. A field sobriety test measured Robinson’s blood-alcohol level at .11.

Given his history of alcohol-related trouble, Robinson is in no position to slip through the legal system’s cracks on this one. He pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence in 2005 and tried to come to grips with his problem by entering a 28-day treatment facility.

Those transgressions cost him his job in Seattle, and there is no reason to believe that Minnesota won’t cut its ties with him before the season starts.

After all, Robinson signed a three-year deal in March worth up to $12.7 million. The Vikings can certainly shop for a lower-risk player for that kind of money.

“I couldn’t be more disappointed for him, for the football team, and for the community to have that happen,” Vikings’ coach Brad Childress told The Associated Press. “What a demon it must be. I saw no indications out here. He was having a great training camp. Obviously, it was too strong of power and too strong of an influence.”

Naturally, the Vikings were taking a big risk by hoping that Robinson might take some of the sting out of losing Randy Moss a couple years back. But can they really expect somebody to recover after a 28-day rehab with the lifestyle these athletes live?

Even if the Vikings don’t cut Robinson loose, the NFL stands to suspend Robinson for up to a year for possibly violating the substance-abuse policy for a third time.

But as we’ve seen before, athletes can leave their problems behind in the U.S. and start a “new” life in Canada or Europe like Ricky Williams and Richardson have done.

Isn’t it time that professional teams show more accountability to the players they use on the field? Wouldn’t it have been nice for the Vikings or Seahawks to put Robinson in a one-year treatment program and not let him back on the field until he had addressed some of his problems?

But that will never happen. When you get right down to it, the people inside the helmets don’t really matter.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or

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