It could be that professional football and the media that covers the sport might be breathing a collective sigh of relief that 1) Adrian Peterson, Vikings running back, seems to have pulled through his "private matter" and can play ball today and, 2) the sports media doesn't have to report that it was one of the NFL's own being charged with beating his 2-year old son to death.
Peterson recently learned that he was the father of a little boy in Sioux Falls, Minnesota and he was planning to go out and visit his newly-discovered son when the child met a violent end at the hands of his mother's boyfriend. Most of the news coverage is about the boyfriend and his past history of domestic and child abuse. Some of the news is about the fact the two year-old who died on Friday is not Peterson's other two-year old son, Adrian Jr. Some of the news mentions that Peterson also has a daughter. Not much of the media mentions that Peterson isn't married but a while back they did report that Peterson enjoyed reading about marriage while at training camp this summer. Some reports comment on the "world of pain" Peterson is experiencing.
Peterson himself is tweeting blessings to his fans and expressing his thanks to his "fraternity of brothers" in the NFL. He's thanking the Vikings organization. He has explained that he's always used sports to get through the tough times. Peterson says that he'll play today because God "wants good" to come from his son's death. (Good like a Vikings football game maybe.) Peterson says that he's at peace because his son got the "baddest" welcoming party in heaven. Peterson feels "joy" because his loved ones are in a "better place." Peterson, it looks like, has decided that everything is okay. Whew. Back to being a pro athlete.
But in Peterson's "private matter," there is a dead child to think of. Or ignore. There's also the fact that at 28, Peterson is the father of three children, one of whom he didn't know existed until a few months ago, and that he is apparently married to neither or none of the mothers whoever those women might be. What do the fans, the Vikings organization, the media and all Peterson's fraternity brothers think about that part of Peterson's private matter.
Quite obviously they think it's not worth mentioning and they have the tacit consent of the popular culture to go on thinking that. Peterson's children are among the 40% of children born to unmarried mothers--make that 72% in the black community as of 2008. Since Peterson probably makes a hefty salary his children will most likely not have to worry about joining the ranks of those 70% of poor families headed by single-parents. That is, if his children know who their father is and live long enough. And, as for the stability and continuity afforded by marriage, Peterson is no different from a majority of Americans for whom marriage is important, but not a priority.
The Sioux Falls Police Department is quoted here as saying that the identity of the dead toddler's father is not important. But perhaps if Peterson had been married to the mother of the little boy, living with her and his son, being a father and husband to his family, things would be different. The identity of the father does matter and in this case it's Adrian Peterson. Can't help but wonder if Peterson and his NFL frat brothers ever stop to think about that. That's where I think God wants the good to come out of this tragedy.