Ben Wallace deserves a less-flattering image, jail time

Think about Ben Wallace the basketball player: quiet, hard-working, tough, smart, disciplined.

Think about Ben Wallace the person: …

As is the case with most professional athletes, we don’t really know Ben Wallace. We think we do, and we make our assessment of his whole based on a snippet of his life.

I know that’s foolish, and you probably do, too. That doesn’t make any easier to stop ourselves from superimposing the side of Wallace we see onto the Wallace we don’t.

Of course, the singular image Wallace I created in my mind was torn apart yesterday when he was arrested for drunken driving and illegally possessing a firearm.

If the allegations are true, Wallace should – and will – go to jail.

He drew the same judge who sentenced Jalen Rose to 20 days in jail for first-offense drunken driving, according to Mike Martindale and Santiago Esparza of The Detroit News. District Judge Kimberly Small – rightly – treats drunken driving as a serious offense and sentences virtually every, if not every, offender to jail time.

Drunk-driving laws have flaws. Breathalyzers can be unreliable, and a .08 blood alcohol count is an arbitrary.

But if the allegations are true, and Wallace couldn’t stay in his lane, none of that matters. He was unfit to drive.

The gun charges are equally troubling. Martindale and Esparza:

Smyly said he noticed several rounds of large caliber ammunition in the closed middle console of the front seat and saw a backpack in the rear seat. He took Wallace into custody and advised another officer to look for a gun, subsequently found in the backpack.

In an interview room, Wallace told police the handgun belonged to his wife, was registered only to her, and he had placed it in the backpack for protection before driving from Virginia back to Michigan the day before.

He said he had “completely forgot the gun was in his backpack and when he got back to Michigan went out with his buddy and had some drinks …,” according to a police report written by Lt. Mark Paquin, who said Wallace said “if he had known tonight was going to end up this way, he would have done things differently.”

Forgetting about a backpack in a car is forgivable, but gun owners have a responsibility to ensure their weapons aren’t used inappropriately. Wallace, if the allegations are true, didn’t take proper care of the gun.

Nobody was hurt because of either of those two alleged mistakes, but the risk posed by both was substantially high. Wallace should, and does, know better. He told a police officer during the incident that he was a criminal justice major in college, according to Martindale and Esparza. I didn’t know that.

Like I said, we don’t know much about Wallace. But I know this: he is a role model. He has no choice in the matter. Thousands in Michigan and elsewhere look up to him.

His plans of becoming a lawyer after his basketball career were inspirational. His arrest will affect them, but I hope it won’t deter them. A night of mistakes doesn’t have to define him. A message that educational pursuits can be just as rewarding as playing sports could be his lasting legacy, but first, we must all deal with the consequences of his arrest, learn from it and admit our mistakes.

I thought Wallace was better than this. That’s my fault.

He’s not. That’s his fault.

Tags: Ben Wallace