Yesterday, amongst the talk surrounding Adrian Peterson and his potential return to the field for the Minnesota Vikings, a very interesting question surfaced. Why does one controversial Minnesota sports hero have a statue erected outside of Target Field while the other spent the last six months as an outcast? In what seemingly has become somewhat of a forgotten subject, Kirby Puckett the person had his demons too, but the course of history has played out so differently for him.
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While Twins fans remember Kirby Puckett for his wall climbing theatrics, and his hustle around the basepaths, there was plenty of darkness after he stepped off of the field. The man was revealed as a pretty significant womanizer, while also having been connected to sexual assault. A fall that started with glaucoma taking away the game he loved, saw Puckett go from the common man to the one nobody wanted to emulate.
Part of the biggest allure for Kirby Puckett amongst baseball fans is that he represented so much on the diamond. He was the short, chubby guy, the proved not all athletes have muscles bulging from every oraface of their body. He outworked and outhustled many on the diamond, and he eventually sat at the pinnacle of the game while being inducted into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Despite all the negative Kirby found himself tied to off of the field, his on the field accomplishments, and the persona many believed him to carry, seemingly overshadowed it all. In the context of today, that seems like an extreme oversight. But maybe it really wasn’t at all.
When the family man that was, became revealed as the womanizing assailant that is, Kirby Puckett had some significant demons to answer to. The perception that Twins Territory, and probably even the country, had painted Kirby into had come crashing down. It led to a crossroads, and one that would prove integral in how opinions would be voiced going forward.
As Adrian Peterson stands awaiting what happens with his playing future for the Vikings, he too has demons to face. Whether or not you agree with the punishment, or even consider the weight of the transgression, we are seeing Peterson handle his crossroads right in front of our eyes.
At the very least, what Peterson participated in was ignorant parenting. While it may have not seemed wrong in context, the misunderstanding and blurring of reality is something that he had to atone for. In the fallout since, and especially the most recent comments in regards to feeling “ambushed” by the media and the state, Peterson suggests he probably still doesn’t understand. The ignorance that led him to the predicament he eventually found himself in, is a concept that is still not fully grasped. Herein lies the separating difference.
Kirby Puckett watched as his dirty laundry was strewn across the floor of public opinion. Gone was the charming smile of a stocky man who slugged himself into the Hall of Fame, and in its place was an abuser that allowed his latest conquest to always triumph over his realest responsibilities. When things came to a head, Kirby had the same decision that Peterson faces, and he chose acknowledgement and contrition.
The mistakes Kirby Puckett made would cost him relationships with former teammates, the marriage of now ex-wife Tonya, and his position as Twins executive vice president. In all of it however, Puckett never played ignorance, he never was confused, and the demons he allowed into his life would not haunt them. As he did many times in his career, he would overcome that which was stacked against him.
While mistakes, and especially those holding the amount of significance in which Puckett faced, are often times something anyone wants to atone for, doing so generally will set you free. Living in the public spotlight is a double-edged sword, with significant amount of outside noise an individual must deal with. Kirby heard the noise, owned it, and moved on with his life. Despite significant weight gain, and relocation forcing him away from what he once knew, he lived with the choices he had made.
At the end of the day, the understanding that every action causes a reaction is of the utmost importance. Weighing the reaction, and realizing how to deal with it generally sets legacies apart. Kirby Puckett the human being was not at all who Minnesota once thought he was. Because of what he did on the field, the state of Minnesota and the Twins organization commemorates a player that brought joy to so many. Peterson has made a mistake and not yet understood how to move past it, making the celebration of what he is as an athlete that much harder to accept.
Unfortunately, Kirby Puckett didn’t have much time left to reverse the damage he had done, and ended up leaving us torn on where we stood. The perception was dulled enough to celebrate the player, but complete forgiveness was probably never achieved. Adrian Peterson has the opportunity, and taking a hold of perception, while reversing the swing of emotion is something he can still be in control of.
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