Friday, June 6, 2014

Who Controls the Heat on College Football?

In case you haven’t heard, Darian Claiborne and Isaiah Golden were kicked off of the A&M Football team this week after being arrested for aggravated assault. The two former players are being charged with robbing three men at gun-point in a drug deal that went sour. One can only hope this is a turning point for the two boys who drastically excel in one area of their lives, football, but drastically fall short in another, ethics. The compounding nature of the event (drugs, guns, assault, and theft) tell a pretty grim story-line and lead you to deduce this is not likely to have been the first time the two have dabbled in these activities. Should the two have known better? Absolutely. Who’s fault is it that these boys didn’t? Largely debatable.

Andre Ware, ESPN personality and former run-and-gun star at the University of Houston, would have you believe this is just another sign that Kevin Sumlin has no control over his football team. Meanwhile, the average A&M fan is applauding Sumlin for making an example out of the two. So which is right?

Here’s my take. We, as fans, get what we deserve.

We’ve built a society where only the exceptional stand out. If you’re the top 1%, you get 90% of the recognition and scrutiny. In football terms, this works just fine! If you’re the best player on the team, then you should get plenty of attention for being really good at something you are constantly working to improve. But what about the other areas of your life? The non-football aspects? Kyle Allen was the #1 rated QB in the nation in last year’s recruiting class, but how well does he treat his younger siblings? Does Kyle Allen even have any younger siblings? What about his driving skills? It doesn’t matter, he is really good at throwing a football so we’ll prop him up as a well intentioned young man with good leadership skills and a welcoming smile. We’ll fill in the rest of the story for you until something in life happens that makes us admit he may have faults. Is Speedy Noil good at following through on promises? Does Speedy cook a fancy dinner for his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day? Do we care? Not one bit. No, we only start caring when they see success on the field. THEN we care about every little detail (just Google “Johnny Football TMZ”). Why is this? Because we care about WINNING. Anyone who has proven to be successful on the field now becomes a potential liability if they let something else in their lives interfere with their dedication to helping our team WIN. We DRIVE our most successful members of society into neglecting the other areas of their development until they trip up and then we either cover-up for them so as to not alarm anyone else that there may be an issue or we cut ties with them and cast them off to be crucified by the media.

This is not a football concept. This is the same process that happens with other child stars (i.e. Lindsey Lohan, Justin Bieber, or the Olsen Twins). It absolutely baffles me when people expect Justin Bieber to be a good role model just because he is excellent at entertaining a crowd with music. If anything, we should be EXPECTING these highly specialized individuals to be missing key components of their development due to the amount of dedication they have committed to their specialized area of expertise.

So this is the world we have created, one where we gorge on every little piece of information that may help our team WIN, but distance ourselves from the negative result of our empowerment. So why then is everyone so surprised when these mini-stars that we have created go haywire? Would Lindsey Lohan have gone so crazy had she not been the subject of this massive media scrutiny for years upon years? Perhaps. It’s impossible to say one way or the other, but she certainly isn’t done any favors by the millions of adoring fans she had showering her with money just to turn on her when she was no longer the flavor of the week. Build them up just to tear them down. Same song stuck on repeat.

So to my point, Golden and Claiborne are far from the first punks to decide to bring a gun to a drug dispute, but we only care about this incident because it impacts our ability to WIN. Let’s not be na├»ve enough to think that Sumlin is getting paid $5 million a year to turn our team into shining examples of community servants. In fact, he’s paid to turn them into obsessive work-aholics with largely unrealistic dreams and living in a highly visible and sterile “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the fire” environment. We can all pretend that having a coach who builds strong, honest young men is vital. But let's not kid ourselves, if Ghandi groomed stellar young men, but never won an SEC game he would be canned in two years. 

This is the environment we have created. And Sumlin is currently inhabiting it. Certainly, keeping his players out of trouble is ultimately beneficial to his ability to win, but that’s just it, he’s ONLY paid to WIN.

And we’re the ones paying him.