It’s a radio talk show host taking almost daily shots at the rival of the school where he once played. It’s columnists and bloggers who have appointed themselves guardians of the rulebook and attach their own ominous spin to words of people they’ve never met. It’s anonymous message board posters spewing venom.
Together, they have created an unprecedented atmosphere of anger and vitriol in college football. Valid criticism has been replaced by ridicule and worse.
The offseason was once dominated by talk of recruiting and the season to come. Now, instead of celebrating accomplishments, too many fans in too many places spend their time fervently hoping for disaster to hit someone else’s program, someone else’s player.
Even the Southeastern Conference’s own athletic directors recently joined the pettiness by denying Cam Newton an award he clearly earned.
I find it sad what has happened or soon will happen to Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, North Carolina and others. I see nothing worth celebrating for anybody. I find it especially sad when good people make bad decisions that cost them dearly.
I wish Terrelle Pryor was still Ohio State’s quarterback. I wish Jim Tressel had not lied. I hope it turns out that Oregon really did do nothing wrong. I take no joy in bad things happening to people, even when those bad things happen because of their own bad decisions.
It is amazing to me that grown men who consider themselves spiritual people, who go to church on Sundays and are good friends and neighbors seemingly believe it’s OK to literally hate college students who happen to play football for a team they don’t like. They go to football games and carry signs taunting college football players. They curl their lips and hurl insults. If that’s not hate, I don’t know what is.
Most who coach and play college football are good people. They are exceptionally dedicated. Some of those good people make mistakes. Some of them make those mistakes worse by panicking and lying when confronted. They frequently pay a severe price for their actions.
It’s not unlike politics. Civil debate has been replaced by the seeming desire to destroy the other guy if that’s what it takes to win. If his politics aren’t like your politics, he must be a bad person. It goes across party lines and across the political spectrum. And the careers and lives of some good people are, in fact, destroyed.
I know I’m old, but I don’t think I’m old-fashioned. I don’t believe compassion and treating others the way you’d like to be treated has gone out of style. At least, I hope not.
On the field, college football has never been better.
Off the field, I’m not sure it’s ever been worse.