Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Day of Suspension, But Not Disbelief

There's a lot of suspension happening in Ann Arbor and East Lansing lately, but one thing that's not suspended is my disbelief. Nothing surprises me anymore about the things some college athletes, in this case football players, will do to put dents in their futures. We see it far too often all over the country. Alcohol and drug violations. Violence. Weapons. Theft. Some get a slap on the wrist and are on the field again as soon as the coach can swing it. Others pay more of a price - loss of their positions on the team, legal battles, and tarnished reputations in the eyes of an increasingly wary potential employer - the NFL.

Maybe if I was a better person (with a less medieval take on crime and punishment) I could feel more compassion for them than I do. For the most part, I can't say that I do. I guess my time on Earth has hardened me a bit when it comes to the antics of people who are being handed opportunity on a silver platter and don't seem to care enough about their own futures to seize it. (I also believe that the vast majority of student athletes are cognizant of the opportunities they have and behave in ways that honor themselves, their families, and their schools.) 

The events of the last couple days just add to my irritation with athletes who squander their futures with bad decision-making, thug behavior, and what looks sometimes like "The Untouchable Big Man on Campus" syndrome.

I'll start with Michigan State, who just suspended RB Delton Williams indefinitely for brandishing a firearm in the sight of a driver he'd just cut off after that person honked at him. (The nerve of some people to honk, really.) Williams has a concealed carry permit, but I'm fairly certain that replacing the traditional middle finger with a gun when gesturing angrily at another driver is NOT something they teach as acceptable gun owner behavior in CCW classes. I'm all for having a CCW. I would actually like to get one. I'm not for putting weapons in the hands of people who are unstable enough to think it's okay to wave a gun at others while driving down the road, regardless of their legal right to carry it.

Last I heard, Williams is now at the Ingham County Jail. My guess is that he'll be chastised "severely" by Dantonio right up until the first really big game when his thug ass is needed back in the lineup. I can almost guarantee he'll be playing in Ann Arbor. What should happen, after the immediate revocation of his CCW, is to cut him from the team. This behavior is unacceptable when representing a university (or anything for that matter). If the gun lobby is trying to promote the safety of people legally toting guns in public, then this guy is not a poster child for the movement. Maybe Dantonio will shock me and do the right thing. His track record suggests otherwise.

One person I'm not sure will be playing in Ann Arbor much, if at all, is Graham Glasgow, the senior red shirt offensive lineman who was likely to assume the starting spot vacated after the departure of Jack Miller. Glasgow was suspended by Coach Harbaugh on Monday after blowing a .086 blood alcohol level on Sunday morning, violating the terms of his probation for an April 2014 drunk driving charge. I'm very supportive of Glasgow getting help and getting his life together off the field. I don't know that it should include ongoing involvement with our football team. Harbaugh's done the right thing so far and no doubt is concerned for the young man. With the meritocracy Harbaugh is putting in place for starting positions, though, repetitive violations like this won't bode well for any player. I can't see our coach putting up with anything less than total commitment to the team and being the best. Blowing .086 in the morning isn't winning merit points.

When it comes down to it, a student-athlete can choose how they want their college career to go. Yes, it's hard not to act like a campus star when you've likely been fawned over by colleges and media types since you were in 9th grade. And it's hard to be sensible about the freedom college affords you to have fun and party the nights away like everyone else. (It explains my 2.8 GPA freshman year.) When a school chooses you and you reciprocate, you're getting an education, experiencing elite coaching, and receiving almost everything you need to be successful at something in life. You need to be more responsible with your decisions and your behavior. There are dozens of kids with talent who don't get the chance to go to or play at Michigan, MSU or any other high profile institution. They would happily take someone's place and run (or pass or block) with it. 

I know this is not a new thing. Technology just puts it in our faces with an immediacy that wasn't available when Bo was coaching. Did it happen then? Undoubtedly. But I don't think with the regularity or severity that it seems now. I know some of Bo's players drank to excess because I witnessed some Bacchanalian football parties while I was a student. (I mean Roman emperors would be envious types of parties.) If they ever got in trouble it was behind closed doors. I don't recall so many instances of assault, drugs, weapons, and other heavier issues in those days. Perhaps we were all blissfully unaware. Perhaps today's society is creating more kids with these problems.

What other coaches do to discipline their team is up for grabs and I already have a skeptical view of Mark Dantonio and Urban Meyer. I hope that Jim Harbaugh is the man I think he is and will have a low tolerance for trouble in general and zero tolerance for real crime in his ranks. I don't think I'll be disappointed in that hope. Every word from the man's mouth impresses me with the feeling that there's some excruciatingly hard work, both physical and mental, going on in Schembechler Hall. I don't see him recruiting troublemakers regardless of their skills. And if a troublemaker arises, he'll be straightened out or shipped out with a speed unknown to mankind. Or at least to other coaches.

And that's okay by old school, hard-assed, mean ol' me. 

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