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NBC firing of Albert rare in day when misconduct is norm

Marv Albert ended his trial on charges of various sexual crimes and his career in one fell swoop. The former was a result of the surprise testimony of yet another woman who confirmed a pattern in Albert's hotel room antics and affinity for female undergarments which then caused Albert's lawyer to counsel, "Throw yourself on the mercy of the court. Plead for your life! Let me know how it goes."

It is the latter ending, NBC's sacking of Albert, that is perhaps more surprising than Albert's fiancee, Paula Barbieri II, still standing by her man.NBC, home of the "American Institute for Adultery Is OK by Us," apparently realized that while philandering should not preclude someone from being the leader of the free world, it most certainly does disqualify someone from shouting "YES!!!!" at Knicks games.

NBC was perhaps motivated more by concerns about credibility because their sportscaster would leave home viewers wondering, "Is Marv wearing a Victoria's Secret satin peach pastel thong with eyelet lace?"

In these days of Hugh Grant, Eddie Murphy, our boy president and Frank Gifford, it seemed the virtuous life was a zero-sum game in which the tolerable life of the cad could be had with no consequences. Lecturing a child on the virtuous life and its rewards will earn you a blank stare.

It's a tough sell when children realize the rich, famous and powerful have done well without so much as a tip of the cap to the good. Parents face the constant battle of low expectations and the rewards that seem to accompany them.

In a world of Dick Morris comebacks, parents looking for role models find themselves frustrated as they look for someone to point to and say, "Why can't you be more like . . . ?" There is the disconcerting realization that there is no one with whom they can fill in the blank. But children can fill in that blank with examples of those who would once have been classified as the very essence of punk and then go on to add a list of that punk's rewards.

As if the role model problem is not difficult enough for parents, the public school system functions effectively to add to the proliferation of punks. Our public schools are proof of the Churchillian observation that all men are created equal and the job of socialists is to make sure they stay that way.

Schools have actually developed systems that make certain all students, including the punks, are recognized for achievement. When it comes to awards and award ceremonies, the public school systems make the Oscars look like ribbon day at the 4H Club.

I have witnessed three awards ceremonies at the junior high school level. There is a home ec award. They don't call it home ec any longer, but that's what it is and there is a reward for this bonehead course. There were numerous P.E. awards: "Let's hear it for Nelson who always wore shower shoes."

There were awards for being helpful to other students. In between there were a few academic awards tossed out for good measure, such as the awards for good GPAs, which receive polite applause.

But the grand finale of the two-hour ceremony comes when a young man and young lady are chosen for an award, which, as near as I could tell, are the Miss Congeniality prizes. These award recipients received standing ovations from their teachers and many members of the audience.

The recipients had received none of the academic awards but were recognized last with a full profile and a spotlight on stage. One year a recipient left the stage flashing a gang sign.

The academic achievers had their names called, received a certificate and then returned to their seats to witness the biggest winners of the evening who, despite trying life circumstances, still showed up for school.

And so the academic achievers left that auditorium with this important lesson in life: If you want recognition, don't worry about grades, find a troubling life and just show up for school. In other words, the punks got more recognition.

Parents who tell their children that excellence in school is important play the role of court jesters when those children witness administrators and teachers fawning over the nonachievers for adversity. Schools still struggling to figure out how to teach math are now measuring and rewarding personal trials. Mediocrity becomes stellar because misconduct is glossed over to avoid even the appearance of self-righteousness. Every man and woman a role model.

The convicted murderer is welcomed into law school. Junk bond king Michael Milkin who does some time gets to keep his wealth, continue to do deals and teach business ethics at UCLA. From the Twinkie defense to the troubled childhood excuse, punks not only walk, they enjoy adulation for their victimhood. Children glean quickly that the rules don't matter if you have a good story.

But NBC gave new hope. It sanctioned a punk. Misconduct does matter. For the first time in years, an employer showed zero tolerance and gumption. NBC issued a rebuke stunning not in its harshness, only in its rarity.