Admit It: You Don't Really Care About Football Players Being Arrested
Much of the nation, among them the Florida fan base, collectively shrugged their shoulders. Unless, that is, you happened to be a rival of Florida's who has lost to them on the field in the past few years. Then you were outraged. That's how it goes with college football arrests; we're all a bunch of hypocrites. If our team wins we don't care if the entire team gets sent up the river together, as long as they're back by Saturday. Any amount of off-field incidents can be brushed aside, so long as you're successful enough on the field.
Urban Meyer knows this. It's why he said the Gators would only recruit "the top one percent of the top one percent" which is, I guess, a tricky way of saying ".01 percent." (Although it would be interesting to hypothesize what percentage of Gator players could correctly come up with the above number. Hell, I'm not even completely sure my math is correct.) Gator fans chomped to their heart's content when they heard the statement, Tim Tebow probably circumcised an indigent child, meanwhile the top .01 percent were out terrorizing students on University Avenue. Turns out The Swamp is not just a field, it's where Gator ethics go to die.
But don't fool yourself, your program could do the same. How? By following a handy three-part recipe: 1. Recruit God's gift to football and play him at quarterback 2. Win 3. Pillage, rob and loot to your heart's content.
As for No. 1, Tebow can't be overlooked. He's a saint. If you're a man, you wish you were Tebow. If you're a father, you wish Tebow would marry your daughter. If you're a woman, you wish Tebow would impregnate you instead of your husband. Everything that Tebow touches turns to gold. Even his teammates' mugshots. Because here's the deal, 99 percent of all national media and sports fans equate Florida football with Tebow. Period. It doesn't matter what anyone else does, Tebow is perfection on and off the field. So the program is perfect as well. Sure it's a lazy and harebrained way to judge a team, by projecting Tebow's moral code onto the rest of the team, but clearly it's happened. Tebow is a stand-in for the entire Gator team.
You have to wonder whether Tebow ever looks around the locker room, shakes his head, and thinks, "Man, an awful lot of these guys are going straight to hell."
Step two, Florida has won. And won big. One SEC athletic director told me, "Urban Meyer changed everything when he won his second national title in four years. Everything." Including, evidently, all normal standards for off-field behavior.
Three, let your players turn Gainesville into the wild west. Let them use the credit cards of dead woman (Jamar Hornsby), let them fire an AK-47 into the sky after a traffic dispute with a fellow student (Ronnie Wilson), let them steal a laptop and then throw it out the window when suspected of theft (Cam Newton, allegedly), let them choke a girlfriend (Jacques Rickerson). That's just boys being boys. Gator chomp. Yep, winning cures everything in the mind of fans.
Look deep within your fan's soul, you feel the same way. The only time you're really outraged by anything off the field is when a rival program has a player who commits a felony and he doesn't get suspended for the game against your team. Otherwise you talk a big game about how you want your guys to be good citizens, but you'd much rather win a rivalry game than avoid every player being arrested for a weekend.
For example, Tennessee hasn't had a football player arrested in a year. But guess what, we lost seven games last season and our coach got fired. Most Tennessee fans would gladly send a half-dozen players to the local Knoxville precinct if it meant we were going to win a single national championship in the next decade. Much less two.
My point isn't to pile on the Gators, successful football teams always have an awful lot of arrests. Because guess what ... they can. Most college kids do whatever they can get away with. See enough of your gridiron compatriots back on the field after a booking, and you start to think you're bullet proof. Back when Colorado won the national championship in 1990, the Boulder police kept the football media guide on hand so they'd know who they were arresting. Seriously.
Almost 20 years later, nothing's changed.
Why? Because deep down none of us really care about the arrest records of our favorite teams. At least not anywhere near as much as we care about the won-loss record. Coaches like Meyer know this. It's why they pay lip service to the alums with their bogus top one percent of one percent lines. Coaches know if they say the right things publicly while shaking their heads every time a player gets arrested that fans will forgive them. And they're right.
I'm asking this question with all honesty, how many player arrests would it take for you to say, "You know, I don't think this championship is really worth it?"
I can't think of a school that has ever hit that number. Chances are you can't either. But, man, that team that beats your team all the time, boy, they sure are a bunch of thugs, right?