I’m too tired and dispirited to summarize all of the facts known to us at this time. Read the links above. I’m too bored with it all to dissect what may have happened from what we know, and from it all predict the future in a game of scenario building. You know: what it might mean to the team this year; what if Da’Rick Rogers is given special treatment; what if the NCAA views the bar’s handing out “VIP status” to the players as some sort of infraction; etc., etc., etc.
There comes a time in many threads of life when you realize that enough is enough. “Why bother?” you ask yourself.
The University of Tennessee is an academic institution with multiple colleges and departments, including an athletic department. One of the characteristics that makes the athletic department different from the others is the level of public awareness it brings upon the University. And, within the athletic department, some sports create more visibility than others.
At UT, it should come as no surprise, at least to anyone reading this, that the football team is the most visible of all within the athletic department, and on a national scale, in many quarters, it is the symbol of the University, for better or worse.
The football team has brought great pride to the University – great players, teams, and coaches. It has a glorious history. It has also brought great pride to the State of Tennessee: many who did not attend UT nonetheless identify with the football team as a symbol of their state. To many, part of being a citizen of the Volunteer State is being a Tennessee Vol.
Whatever the circumstances, the events that occurred at 1820 Cumberland Avenue in the wee hours of Friday July 9, 2010 have brought a stain to the University and the State.
If it were a group of UT math majors beating up some guy in a bar, and that fracas spilled out into the street where an off-duty police officer was repeatedly kicked while on the ground, ending up in serious condition in hospital, that might make the local news. But because it was a group of UT football players, it has national visibility. And guess what – the name of the University and the name of the State are implicated, too.
The kids on the UT football team (which is what they are, no matter how big and fast they are) have a significant role as ambassadors of the State and the University. This is a fact, whether they like it or not, whether the coaches like it or not, whether Vol fans like it or not, and whether the citizens of the State like it or not.
Some are simply not up to the task.
Why would they be?
“Don’t they understand?” you ask.
Why would they?
In today’s world, I would hazard the guess that most of them growing up (not that they’ve finished) didn’t have two parents, if one. They are in Knoxville because they are very talented and skilled athletes. And, because of that, they have been glamorized in high school by their peers and the outside world, with most completely incapable of handling such praise. Worse, they have effective methods to glamorize themselves with social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter. They invite glamour, receiving more and more of it when they want it – a fuel-efficient machine.
And, who can blame them for watching the narcissicistic-tinged coming-out party of LeBron James this past week?
No excuses are being made here. I’m also not rendering judgement – I will leave that to the folks in charge and the people with the facts (having sat on a jury was one of the most valuable experiences of my life).
Just remember that when you heap praise on a player – especially a freshman or sophomore – you are adding fuel to the fire, making them more susceptible to being incapable of serving their responsibility as an ambassador of the team, the University, and the State.
They are already ill-equipped for the job as it is.
Why do I bother to care anymore? Because, it is my University and my native State.
The team is really important only as a symbol of both.