Chris Janes screwed up last week.
The vice president of the Evergreen Park Baseball Association got drunk in the early morning hours March 3 and “had a tough time getting home,” he told me.
Janes mistook another house in the neighborhood for his own, banged on the door and threatened the owners, who called police. A woman who lives in the house told police that Janes was standing in the street when she arrived home shortly after 1 a.m. and chased her to the door.
After a struggle with police, Janes was charged with disorderly conduct and assault as well as resisting and obstructing a peace officer, public intoxication and using vulgar and threatening language toward police and paramedics.
This kind of incident normally would be a small item in the police blotter or a brief story that warranted two or three paragraphs.
Not in Janes’ case.
Janes is a public figure. He probably never expected to be in the public eye—to be talked about on talk radio or be the topic of endless television news stories. Just Google “Chris Janes” and you’ll get the idea.
Janes, as many of you know, is the guy who blew the whistle on Jackie Robinson West Little League Baseball. He told Little League officials last summer that JRW recruited outside its neighborhood boundaries in order to create an all-star team.
The team won the U.S. championship in the Little League World Series but was stripped of its title recently when Little League International officials took a closer look at the allegations Janes made in the summer.
His reward was accusations of racism and intimidating calls to his home, including death threats. But Janes never complained, never regretted his decision to make public allegations about the JRW that had been whispered in youth baseball circles for years.
The story, it seemed, had just about run it course. But then Janes went out drinking. I have no details about that night—where he was, who he was with, how much he drank or if he was driving before he was spotted standing on Utica Avenue. His car was located down the street. He denies driving it.
I do know that Janes surprised me last Tuesday when he agreed to talk about his actions. Before I picked up the phone, my editor and I were pretty certain Janes wouldn’t answer or would decline comment. He’d be too embarrassed to talk, or maybe a lawyer told him to keep his mouth shut.
We were wrong.
Janes sounded a little confused as I summarized for him the details of the police report. He did his best to tell me what he remembered and put up with all my questions.
Janes was all over the television news that night repeating again and again that he made serious mistake, regretted his actions, took full responsibility and intended to apologize to everyone involved, including the folks he shook up in the middle of the night.
I admire Janes and the way he handled himself. He made a really bad decision, acted like a jerk, and embarrassed his family and the baseball association. Despite it all, he manned up and talked to reporters at a time when others would have disappeared.
When Janes and I talked about the JRW scandal several weeks ago, he told me that he hoped his actions as a whistle blower taught the kids in Evergreen Park Little League a few lessons about doing the right thing, playing fair and good sportsmanship.
A few weeks later, he goes out and sets the worst possible example for the neighborhood boys and girls, who look to coaches as teachers and role models.
Janes could face league sanctions. Maybe he deserves them. It might be hard argue that JRW deserved to lose their title for cheating and not penalize Janes for his irresponsible actions.
Regardless of what happens, Janes took the appropriate first step. He, as the crisis management folks would say, “got out in front of the problem.” That’s not to say I believe Janes had a plan in place when he met the media last week. No, he sounded too sincere to be in “damage-control” mode. At least I hope so.
Some people will look differently at Janes than they did before this regrettable incident. Cast judgments, point fingers. Don’t do that. It’s bad enough. He knows what he did and wishes he hadn’t.
In at a time when so many people deflect blame, refuse to accept responsibility or take ownership of their problems, Janes did. For that he deserves some credit.