Out of Bounds
Jeff Benedict
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Buy *Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA's Culture of Rape, Violence, and Crime* online

Out of Bounds: Inside the NBA's Culture of Rape, Violence, and Crime
Jeff Benedict
HarperCollins
Hardcover
272 pages
June 2004
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Okay, I admit it. Basketball is not my sport. Watching players run back and forth across a gym in baggy clothes and squeaky shoes makes my eyes glaze over. There are many things I donít understand about round ball. Like why is the ability to jump and run and wheel considered talents in world where we have trains and planes and automobiles? Why would a game so strategically simple be attractive to such vast audiences? Mostly, I donít get why bouncing a ball makes a tall guy with a bad attitude a role model. Jeff Benedictís book about the permissive culture of college and professional basketball adds to my incredulity.

Out of Bounds is a sad tale about the criminal activities of professional basketball players. Given the flurry of famous sports figures facing criminal charges over the last few years, Benedictís book both exploits the situation and explains it. The book is well-researched -- a thick section of notes and a bibliography document the facts if one cares to check them out. Although I am skeptical about some of his statistics, the author is upfront about his techniques, and the reader can accept their validity or not. Regardless of my quibbling about numbers, the results donít significantly alter the magnitude of the problem.

Benedict doesnít go into cases that are currently playing out in the courts such as Jayson Williams and Kobe Bryant. What he does do is present a long list of other NBA players who have had brushes with the law, from minor drug offenses to assault to rape to murder. Although these misdeeds are of a personal nature, they reflect the priorities of an industry fueled by arrogance, testosterone and money.

The problems lie in the industryís enormous financial investment in players who may not be able to handle the sudden fame and fortune bestowed upon them. In the final analysis, basketball is entertainment. Teams make money when their stars play. Therefore, management does what is necessary to ensure that they do play -- even to the point of excusing or even encouraging crude, immoral and self-destructive behavior.

This creates a culture of irresponsibility and entitlement. Many of these young men used college as an excuse to play sports and never really got the education their facility for the game might have provided. Unable to deal with their personal business effectively, they rely on lawyers, wives and business managers to handle money matters. They live in a extended permissive childhood where anything they want is theirs for the taking. Worshiped by fans and enabled by management, they erupt into rages when thwarted leading to spousal abuse, sexual assault and other forms of violence. Victims of these crimes are loath to file charges fearing that well-paid lawyers will drag them through embarrassing and emotionally draining inquisitions into their private lives. Fans refuse to believe that their on-court heroes are guilty, often accusing victims of being gold diggers.

Out of Bounds chronicles many of these cases. Itís a disheartening and sad book even if you like basketball. In fact, Benedict offers few answers to the situation -- perhaps he feels outing the problem will solve it.


© 2004 by Joyce Faulkner for Curled Up With a Good Book

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