5 Simple Rules for Keeping Athletes Out of Trouble

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Washington Wizards player Gilbert Arenas was sentenced today for a felony gun conviction that stems from a locker room confrontation with a teammate. It's just the latest in the seemingly endless stream of athlete brushes with the law. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are five rules to help keep sports stars out of trouble.

Rule #1: You are a millionaire. Act like it.
The DUI is far and away the nation's number-one overall cause of annoying sports stories. It's also the most preventable. It is an absolute mystery why so many well-paid athletes, like their movie star counterparts, continually endanger lives and livelihoods by refusing to let someone else drive when they're drunk. Is it machismo? A misdirected sense of self-reliance? Raw, hard stupidity?

Athletes, you have money. One of the biggest differences between the rich and everyone else is that the wealthy are comfortable hiring people to do dangerous or distasteful work. Please, take advantage of your wealth and spare us the mug shots. Call a cab.

Rule #2: You are not a millionaire. Stop acting like it.
Okay, technically you might be a millionaire, but that doesn't mean as much as it used to. Suppose you make $1 million per year. After taxes, agents, and managers, you've got maybe $500,000 left. That's not rich. It's barely upper-middle class. A lot of dentists make more. And dentists, you will note, don't buy gold-plated toilet seats and fill swimming pools with champagne. They spend money on very dull things like real estate and T-bills.

There is no such thing as "set for life." No matter how much you have, you can always blow it—on houses, cars, bling, divorce, drugs, possibly a Bernie Madoff-type scam. Stories of well-paid athletes who go broke after retiring are common enough to become clichéd. Don't be that guy. Then we won't have to feel sorry for you.

Rule #3: Date your own kind
Sports stars are targets for unscrupulous women. Also, the sky is blue. The groupies, floozies, and gold-diggers who swarm pro athletes will do anything to get a taste. This includes accusations of wrongdoing that may not be true, which fans are nevertheless compelled to discuss ad nasueum. It's a lose-lose.

There are only two ways to meet people who don't care about your money. You can not have any, which is no fun (see Rule #2). Or you can associate with people that have as much or more than you. For instance, whether or not Ben Roethlisberger is guilty of any wrongdoing, there's no earthly reason for a multimillionaire NFL superstar to be hanging around with a bunch of college kids.

Rule #4 Strip Clubs are Not Healthy
Given how the exceptional athlete is socialized, this may be difficult for you to comprehend. But most Americans do not spend the majority of their free time hanging out at strip clubs. Crazy, right? Perverse as it may seem, some people don't find throwing crumpled up cash at near-naked women to be a wholesome or productive pastime. They stay home at night, where they watch TV, surf the web, or occasionally even talk with family members. To avoid those "wrong place, wrong time" mishaps so common to athletes, simply avoid the wrong places at the wrong times. Namely, last call at any place with drunk men, naked woman, and firearms. Stay home more often. You will be pleasantly surprised how rarely gunfights break out in the living room.

Rule #5 Guns=Trouble
On the subject of gunfights, don't have them. In fact, avoid guns like Kardashians avoid work. Don't buy, sell, rent, or fondle firearms, no matter how much you support the Second Amendment. If you want to feel tough, learn martial arts. If you genuinely need protection, hire a bodyguard. That means a real bodyguard, licensed and bonded, not a friend with big biceps and a good scowl. Just as people of means do not drive drunk, they also do not protect themselves by carrying firearms. They hire people for that. You should too.

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Hampton Stevens is a writer based in Kansas City, Missouri. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, ESPN the Magazine, Playboy, Gawker, Maxim, and many more publications.

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