For athletes, choosing friends is serious business
When will athletes learn that it's always the ones around you that cause drama?
I have interviewed Brandon Banks and talked with him on several occasions. He strikes me as a solid young man who wants to do and say the right things. Here's what's so unfortunate about the stabbing incident in which Banks was injured Friday night: He was outside of a club minding his own business and was placed in a compromising position because of a buddy. Chances are anything a person is arguing about at that hour isn't even worth discussing.
I wasn't there, so I don't know the details. But to me, when danger shows its ugly face, getting your famous friend out of harm's way should be the only priority for a true friend.
This may offend a few people. I understand Brandon's friend was hurt bad, but if the situation wasn't unavoidable, then I'm thinking the argument never should have had the chance to escalate to the point of violence.
I'm speaking from experience. I used to go to clubs in the early parts of my career, and I followed certain golden rules for going out:
>> First, if I bought a table, I paid for the bottles on the table, and that was it. I always told the person who took care of my table, "If you don't hear me order it, I'm not paying for it." There are always people who abuse friendships and go overboard when the tab is on someone else.
>> Second, once I went through a few incidents with my boys leaving the club after it had closed, I never stayed until closing time. I never got drunk, so I didn't worry about me. It's that other person that is that you have to account for. I would leave during that period when a person goes from almost still being in control to totally out of it.
>> Third -- and this one is real important -- before we went out, I made it very clear that my way of protecting who went out with me was to always be in tune to me. So if I didn't feel comfortable at a place 10 minutes after getting there, we were leaving, no questions asked. If we were on the same page, we could roll; if we weren't, then I will meet you out.
>> My last lesson, which comes easy to me, was just be a cool dude. I used to say, "What's up," to everyone, whether the person had hate in their heart for me or not. I just always felt like keeping things light-hearted showed people that I didn't think I was better. Keeping it real is what it's commonly referred to.
I'm glad Brandon Banks and his friend are okay, and I hope he comes away from this having learned some valuable lessons. A person's brand is like credit: Once it's messed up, it is very difficult to fix. So public figures must always be aware of whom they have around them and why they are around. Do they truly have your best interest in mind and are they capable of maintaining it in any given situation?
If they check out, great. But if they don't, then they have to go, because the inability to maintain that conscious thought led to a stabbing that could have ended much worse than it did.
Again, I'm not certain of the details of the Brandon Banks situation. I wasn't there. But as a general rule of thumb, a professional athlete must think in these terms if he is to steer clear of these situations.
| February 14, 2011; 10:11 AM ET
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