Sprinter Marion Jones, sentenced in January to six months in prison for doing what practically everyone involved in the BALCO and Major League Baseball doping scandals continues to do (i.e., lie to investigators), turned herself in to a facility in Fort Worth, Texas on Friday to start her term. She should consider herself lucky; because she’s in the pokey, she’ll be insulated from the general citizenry of Fort Worth.
The AP article, though as desultory as most wire-service stories, contains a few curious elements. One is this:
Although the prison specializes in medical and mental health services, it also has inmates who do not require such care. Billingsley said she could not comment on whether Jones was receiving specialized care.
I don’t know what the reporter is getting at here. Jones is famous, but she’s not Paris Hilton. She may have fucked up and used drugs, but she’s not apt to go into DTs on her second day behind the walls or require a coterie of blithering shrinks to analyze her every move for the benefit of an eagerly empty-headed public. She has no chronic medical that I’m aware of.
Then there’s this:
Jones won three gold and two bronze medals in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, becoming perhaps the most famous and marketable female athlete in the world.
Perhaps. I never really thought about this, since track and field has such a chronically low profile in the U.S. that its most successful male athletes in recent decades in marquee events (Carl Lewis, Dan O’Brien, Michael Johnson, Mo Greene) never held a candle to the commercial draw of top league-sport American stars. Women’s pro leagues, however, are basically under the radar, meaning that standouts in individuals sports can garner attention their male counterparts cannot.
However, while the notion of a black track athlete becoming the most prominent lady-jock face in the world is alluring, I’ll have a hard time being convinced that women like Anna Kournikova, who was never truly exceptional as a tennis player but looked good beside a much older hockey player, were not far more marketable than the not-unattractive Jones. I’d be surprised if a skater like Nancy Kerrigan (who I remember seeing in Pepsi commercials when not being caught on tape ripping Disney, always a good addition to any party) didn’t pull in more endorsement dough than Jones did, although their public careers did not effectively overlap. And soccer’s Mia Hamm had a nice shampoo run there for a while. Who knows.
She was sentenced to six months on the steroids case and two months on the check fraud case, but was permitted to serve those sentences concurrently.
Okay, I’m not complaining about Jones’ sentence in particular, but what’s with this “serving sentences concurrently” bullshit? Prison terms are not electrical circuits, where elements really can be arranged either or in series or in parallel. What do they make people serving eighteen different 10-year terms concurrently do? Make 36 license plates a day instead of two? Be the “bitch” of twenty-seven sodomites instead of three? No wonder people think our corrections system is a mess. Even the terminology needs corrections.