Its hard to dislike Charles Barkley. He is refreshingly different from any other celebrity. What makes him unique is that he never seems to be afraid to speak his mind. He will say just about anything. And say it usually without the typical PR/BS filter that most sports stars and entertainers employ. Often what the man sometimes called Sir Charles says is powerfully insightful, with no worries about who he might offend or what endorsements he might lose. Other times what he says can be foolish and stupid. But I’ll take the occasional stupid stuff, because I’ve never gotten the impression that he was maliciously trying to hurt the targets of his barbs. Most times Charles is funny and charming while speaking his truth. Which is also unlike most celebrities.
But not so funny is the fact that Charles will soon be serving time. News outlets are reporting that Charles has now pleaded guilty to drunk-driving charges in Scottsdale, Arizona and will spend five days in jail, sometime next month. Charles was driving drunk last December and had a blood alcohol level nearly double the legal limit. Look, a DUI is no laughing matter. The consequences of getting behind the wheel intoxicated can be deadly. And while there was no accident and no one was injured, a man of Charles Barkley’s stature had to be taken down a peg, if only for the message that it sends. The thing about Barkley is, he understands that. When he was arrested and charged he immediately took responsibility for his mistake and agreed to a six week leave of absence from his TV job at TNT.
Upon his return to the air the other day Barkley apologized by saying, “I think that a DUI is unacceptable. That can’t happen and I’ve got to challenge other people, not just celebrities or jocks. You have to really think before getting behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking.” That is the straight, no chaser, Charles Barkley. Right now you can believe, that he believes, he is telling the truth.
So yes, even with a DUI now on his record, along with all the other ”mistakes“ he’s admitted to, like multi-million dollar gambling losses, I am going to cut Chuck yet another break. I will not judge Charles Barkley because I like him and I feel like I know him. No, I’ve never met him. But he’s nonetheless been part of my life for a long time. Which in fact he has for more than 20 years. He was the one-time fat-boy who overcame his weight to become one of the greatest basketball players in history. I root for a guy like that. A guy once known as the Round Mound of Rebound. I feel that way because Charles has never employed a filter, which allows us to see Him – even if we are uncomfortable with what we see.
I know some of you may call Charles Barkley a fool. A fool who doesn’t deserve second, third and fourth chances. And you may be right. And yes, I know he is 45 years old and should know better. But the way I see it Charles is like a lot of folks we actually know and care about in our own lives who’ve slipped up. Slipped up big time. People who have disappointed us terribly. People we know who are trying but could slip up again any minute. Still you root for them anyway and pray for them to finally get it together. Because when they are okay, when they are on their game, as Charles Barkley often is, they are capable of saying and doing some really remarkable things. That’s why I will continue to root for Charles Barkley, pinstripes and all.