If you haven't yet, do yourself a favor and check out the video of Urban Meyer scolding an Orlando Sentinel reporter after practice yesterday, then ask yourself: Why do so many NFL players seem to treat society as their own personal Wet-Nap?
For a coach that is supposed to be such a great teacher of men, Meyer sure whiffed on what could have been the Division I equivalent of an After School Special for Gators wide receiver Deonte Thompson. Thompson, a senior, was quoted by reporters as calling new Florida quarterback John Brantley "a real quarterback." This comparison came in relation to former quarterback Tim Tebow, who is just an untimely death away from beatification in Gainesville. Several media outlets quoted Thompson, who obviously intended to use the phrase "pure quarterback" or "real passer." It isn't clear why Meyer singled out the Orlando Sentinel. What's clear is that instead of using the moment to teach his player -- who is 21 years old and legally able to purchase alcohol, firearms and small farm animals -- the importance of choosing one's words, he instead went nuclear.
Nuclear, in this case, meaning "irrational suburban soccer mom." Instead of pulling Thompson aside and teaching him a lesson about what, for a future NFL player, is a life skill, he decided to project blame on a third party for the inconvenience endured by his child.
All that was missing was the mini-van in the background and the lasagna in the oven back home.
"If that was my son," Meyer told the writer, "we'd be going at it right now."
Of course, Meyer's actions suggest that if Thompson were his son, he'd grow up to be a coddled, mal-adjusted cry-baby with a helicopter father and a warped sense of reality. Instead of teaching Thompson an important lesson about the power of words and an athlete's responsiblity to acknowledge that power, one of the highest paid public officials in the state of Florida threatened to throw down on a practice field. God forbid what might happen if any body ever decides to call one of his players a Big Jerk.
Meyer's irritation with the media is understandable, to a certain extent. If everything I said when I was 21-years old was re-printed in a newspaper without a reporter's painstaking attempt to put it into context, I'd probably be living in exile somewhere.
On the other hand, if I had a handler who put everything I said when I was 21 years old into context, I'd have avoided plenty of difficult situations in my life.
Regardless,the proper way to handle the situation is not to turn the practice field into a bully pulpit, where an outsider has no choice but to stand at attention and take his or her verbal flogging. The adult thing to do would have been to pull the reporter aside and explain exactly why he was upset with the way the situation was handled. Who knows, maybe the result would have been a mutual understanding that positively affected coverage in the future.
Problem is, many coaches do not look at the relationship between athletics and society as a mutual one. Not only is it "us against them" on the football field, it is "us against them" in real life.
Which, as players like Ryan Leaf and Pac Man Jones have shown, creates a mind-set of entitlement and irresponsibility that can be both dangerous and destructive.
For us. And for them.