Monday, May 21, 2012

Jon "Bones" Jones vs Internet Ignorance

As I am sure you aware by now, UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones was arrested this past weekend for suspicion of DUI after crashing his Bentley in Binghamton, NY.  Sitting back the last few days and reading various comments via Twitter and message boards, it is extremely disheartening to read the vicious attacks on Jones’ character and, on multiple occasions, his religious beliefs.  How did we get to the point where as a society, we can “verbally” assault someone without any repercussions whatsoever?

                Let me start by saying I do not condone what Jones is being charged with.  Driving an automobile while under the influence is an extremely dangerous action, and one not to be taken lightly.  I’m not trying to make light of it, but the reaction does not match the crime.  If we could sit back as individuals for just one moment and realize how hypocritical we sound.  How many of us have been in that exact same situation, made that exact same mistake or known/been related to someone who has been in that situation.  I’m not perfect and have made that awful decision.  I wasn’t caught.  I’ve had friends who made that mistake and were caught.  It’s a mistake of youth.  We all look back and thank the good Lord that we didn’t hurt ourselves, or worse yet, someone else.  Let’s be honest, though.  He didn’t hurt anyone other than himself.  This is likely going to delay sponsorships and a continued elevation to the mainstream, thus hurting potential deals for him and his family.  The thing is he’s the one that will face this head on and own up to his mistake.  Who are any of us to attack that?  Why should any of judge him for a mistake that will be learned from?  Just when did we become an internet society that allows us to anonymously attack others, while pretending to be what we wish we were?

He apologized to his friends, family and loyal fans for ”embarrassing” himself.  Personally, raising a 3 year old who loves Jones, I’m happy he made a mistake like this.  We’re going to either validate our belief in his character or we’ll learn that he isn’t what we thought he was.  Either way, when my son grows up and learns about this, I can tell him that no matter who you are in this world, you’re going to make mistakes.  We’re not defined by our mistakes, but how we react to those mistakes.  If you own up to that mistake, do what you can to make it right and not repeat it, then you’ve done a great thing.  I have no doubt in my mind that Jon Jones is a good kid (he’s only 24, making mistakes 24 year old kids make), and that he’ll handle this with grace and honor.

The real issue here isn’t about Jon Jones, though.  The real issue is the lack of responsibility and common sense out in the digital world.  I watched a war of words on Twitter between UFC president Dana White and an individual who kept blasting him for employing guys who are “boozers”, on drugs or steroids.  Here’s the interesting part of that conversation, though.  His Twitter name is glorifying the late Chris Farley…who passed away from a well-documented battle with drugs and alcohol.  Can you really be taken seriously when pointing the accusatory finger, while glorifying the same thing you are condemning?

Then, of course, comments started coming in calling Jones fake and stating he should stop the religious “act”.  I don’t know if I can ever understand how someone making a bad decision means they can no longer have faith in the Lord.  Without jumping on a religion soap box, one of the core beliefs in religion is that ability to make mistakes and be forgiven, to be given the strength to get through tough times.  Yes, the Bible is a guide to living life the right way, but at no point do I recall hearing that you must live a perfect life.  Mankind was not created to live perfectly.  We are all fallible, but faith allows us to be forgiven and learn from those mistakes.  Stating that Jones should quit with the religious “act” is one of the most offensive things I read this weekend because no one but Jones knows what he believes.  Emblazoned across his chest is Philippians 4:13 which read: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.  That could not be truer for Jones right now as he will need strength to get through this storm he created.  However, none of us are in a position to make his struggle harder.

We are a forgiving society.  We vilified Michael Vick when it was convenient for us, yet loved him the second he started playing for our fantasy team.  We despised Kobe Bryant while he had issues in Colorado, but once that next championship ring appeared on his finger, all was forgotten.  Before we lump Jones into a category of “athletes gone wrong”, let’s let it play out and see how he responds.  He may have gotten knocked down for the first time in his career, but he’s not out.  He’s just getting back on his feet.

All I’m really asking for in this time of 24/7 social media is caution and intelligence.  If you want to post your opinion, post it.  Heck, I’m doing that right now.  However, I simply ask you to use caution and look in the mirror before attacking someone you don’t really know.  If you don’t like Jon Jones as a fighter, then don’t like him as a fighter.  However, before attacking his character and beliefs, step back and realize you don’t know who he is.  Just because Rashad Evans said he was “fake”, it doesn’t mean he’s right.  Maybe he is.  Maybe he isn’t.  I’d be willing to bet none of us will ever truly know Jones as a person.

Regardless, I’ll still cheer for him and happily let my 3 year old cheer for “Bones Jones”.  An outside the Octagon fight just started, and I’d bet anything it ends the same way the other fights did, with Jon Jones as the victor.

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