Sunday, July 27, 2008

Campbell and the Army’s football fumble

A teary eyed Caleb Campbell was forced to pack his bags and leave the Lions training camp. He was to report immediately to active military service. The announcement came just two days after the talented linebacker had agreed to contract terms with Detroit. And although I feel the U.S Army made a fair and righteous decision, the entire handling of the situation was poor.

This was an example of military intelligence, but no common sense. As I spotlighted in a May blog entry, the proper decision (based on fairness) was obvious from the beginning. But there was a fumble, and with each day that passed, there was no doubt that the end to the growing controversy would end without winners. It didn’t have to be this way, but it appeared that the Army was more willing to pin their hopes of righting this ship on a West Point linebacker failing in the NFL. Campbell had yet to fail. And suddenly, months too late, the plug was pulled.

The Army’s policy on soldiers and professional athletics was well in place before the 2007 season ever ended. It was in place, when NFL scouts sent an invitation for Campbell to attend the scouting combine in Indianapolis. It was in place, when the Detroit Lions selected Campbell in April’s 7th round. It was in place, as they allowed him to attend OTA’s, and as contract negotiations began. There was plenty of time to act, but the Army refused. Instead, they allowed a young man to take steps towards his dream, only to pull the rug from beneath him.

It isn’t that Campbell was trying to avoid his military service. He’s not a deserter, so don't confuse him with one. If the Army gave the call to combat in April, he would have grabbed his weapon and knowledge and hit the battlefield. This is about the Army telling him he didn’t have to serve immediately, and providing another option. This is about the Army allowing him to attend the combine, prepare for a professional football draft, and sending him off to represent the military as a Detroit Lion. The Army’s approval sent him reaching for goals and setting sights on dreams, only to shorten his arms, shatter the images, and leave everything just short of completion.

And even with the emotional roller coaster Campbell has been on, the Army still doesn’t have it right. As Profootballtalk reports, Campbell will return to West Point to be a Linebackers coach for the Army football team. How does that address the issue of fairness? Yes, he’s now honoring his active service duty, but it’s still not the hostilities some of his classmates will face. The message of “the better the player, the safer the haven” still exists. Doesn’t it? The Army supposedly got the monkey off their backs, but all they did was move a soldier from one American football field to another, and with the only reason being that he’s an exceptional athletic talent in comparison to other cadets.

You can try to disguise it anyway you want, but the Army still didn’t get it right, and the Caleb Campbell controversy ends with losers on all sides......That's if it even ended, at all.

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