Hey, Matt, it’s time to grow up

Found this on azcentral.com

For all the criticism he’s about to endure, Matt Leinart is a lucky guy.
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Take that young girl apparently guzzling beer from a funnel device (beer bong) held by Leinart in a party picture posted on thedirty.com. What if she never made it home that night? What if she plowed through a red light after leaving the bash at Leinart’s house, taking out a family in the process?

Imagine the repercussions.

Now take that picture of Leinart and four young girls cuddling in a hot tub. What if one of them woke up and decided to accuse Leinart of improper conduct? What of the headlines then?

No matter where you fall on the latest round of nocturnal pictures racing around the Internet and centering on the Cardinals’ frat-boy quarterback, the bottom line is always the same:

Grow up, Matt. You’re not in college any more. You’ve had enough breaks.

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with Leinart hosting a party at his home. He probably felt like he was doing the smart thing by staying out of the nightclubs on the weekend, thus honoring his pledge to the Cardinals to keep a lower profile. And without carding at the front door, it would be nearly impossible to tell whether some of the female attendants were underage, as posted on the aforementioned Web site.

But Leinart is a single father about to turn 25. He is a starting quarterback in the NFL and the face of an entire franchise. He should not be in the same vicinity as a beer bong, much less holding one for a young girl.

The NFL is for men. Beer bongs are for drunk, stupid college kids.

You might think that good pal Nick Lachey – former boy-band sensation who will be 35 in November – might be able to lend his friend some elderly guidance in situations like this. But in the latest round of pictures, Lachey is still wearing his hat cocked sideways, like he’s a child. Together, these two have become the male equivalent of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, somewhat laughable and always in search of the next party.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with a good party. But to be the unquestioned leader of a football team, a quarterback needs to project authority, maturity, commitment and sound judgment. Fair or not, these new pictures reinforce old stereotypes regarding Leinart and his misguided Hollywood tendencies. They raise questions about his off-the-field priorities and decision-making abilities. They put the Cardinals in an awkward situation, again.

The organization already has taken much heat for simply handing him the starting job for the 2008 season. On more than one occasion since he was drafted, it has been forced to talk with Leinart about perceptions, nightclubs and life inside the TMZ fishbowl. Even before he reached the NFL, Leinart knew he was an easy target and subject of the ball-hawking paparazzi, those filthy birds who once snapped him leaving Hilton’s house early in the morning.

Of all people, you would think this guy would know better. You would think Leinart would be smart enough to hire handlers and screeners and keen-eyed security folk smart enough to confiscate cellphone cameras when they enter Leinart’s realm. Or maybe Leinart could do something really revolutionary, like just stop partying until he had one really good season under his belt.

It’s stupid, all of this. Leinart is a good kid, and nowhere near some of the scum that has inhabited the NFL. But this latest episode has to make his weary coaches wonder when the party-boy snapshots are going to end. After all, a quarterback is ultimately defined by his judgment, and nobody in red had to wonder what Kurt Warner was doing Saturday night.

So, Matt, do yourself, your career and your team a really big favor:

Find yourself a stay-at-home supermodel.

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