Now I may be off target on this post so please cut me a little slack as I explore my thoughts (or perhaps they are better framed as questions). For those not in the loop, the 9th Bengal in just over a year (Jonathan Joseph) was arrested for possession of MaryJane and will be arraigned on Feb. 5, the day after the SuperBowl.
The Bengals have been the butt-end of jokes for the last year due to the bone-headed behavior of some of their younger players, which has included drunken driving and illegal possession of fire arms. I'm not sympathetic to their behaviors individually at all. I want to say that "up front." And I totally understand the fabulous source material for tsk-tsking the team that these arrests provide to radio show hosts, sports journalists and the water cooler Monday morning bag-fest.
Still, I can't shake a nagging suspicion.
Are the Bengals really the only team in the NFL with a bunch of obscenely paid, immature athletes who get drunk and smoke weed? Really?
Somehow our fair city got all the bad apples out of the barrel of NFL draft picks? They all rolled down the chute to Cincinnati and missed Tampa Bay or Miami or even San Diego (drug dealer haven of "Traffic" fame)?
I can't believe that. So I've been wondering why the Bengals are getting caught. I mean, I'm glad drunk drivers are being pulled over and dragged from their vehicles... I really am. But are all the other superstar athletes in every other city and sport just that much better at hiding their dope? At staying out of vehicles while under the influence?
Or is it just possible that in Cincinnati, a higher number of blacks get pulled over while driving than in other cities? I'm just sayin'. I do know that the arms arrest happened outside of Cincinnati so I will exclude that one from my discussion.
Still, I have to know. Is it possible that "Driving While Black" is part of what's going on here? I've heard anecdotal reports and I've read some studies that suggest that Cincinnati is more zealous about stopping black drivers than other cities. Could that be what's going on here, partly?
It's not that I hope that drunks will be overlooked on the road. I want to make that clear. But I still can't quite shake the question of whether or not the style of police work in Cincinnati is partly responsible for the much higher number of arrests than we see in other cities with equally high profile athletes.
In 2002, a bill was passed intending to reform the Cincinnati police department's mistreatment of African Americans in arrests and particularly in pulling them over while driving.
Yet in 2005, (scroll down) Cincinnati was still in violation of that agreement. You have to wonder. Old habits die hard? Hard to catch the police when they side step clear instructions? What IS the deal?
As I was thinking about all this today, I heard Keith Olberman on Dan Patrick's show jokingly suggest that instead of seeing Joseph's arrest and the other 8 as examples of "bad Bengals" we could reframe the description of these nine arrests by saying that they are examples of "good police work." Dan laughed and then the two of them riffed about the "crack job" that the Cincinnati police are doing, that they are better at finding and arresting drunken athletes than other cities, etc.
So in a way, Dan and Keith had stumbled onto my own question, but without seeing that it may also have a potentially insidious meaning as well.
It gave me pause.
The seed has been planted in all our minds here, that in Cincinnati, blacks get "preferential" treatment while driving... to the Bengals peril.