By William Qualkinbush.
By William Qualkinbush.
Even the people who live under a rock have heard the news about Jameis Winston this week. None of us can escape, though we may try.
Football season has yet to hit the one-month mark and we’re already so inundated with off-field nonsense that we can’t seem to find the time to focus on the games. It’s the sad reality of this TMZ society that thrives on rumor and innuendo.
But nevertheless, we’ll continue to do it because these things have an impact on the field of play. When someone like Winston does something stupid off the field, it affects games.
Well, it should anyway. More on that later.
Winston’s latest incident feels like something a high school prankster would do on a dare for a couple of dollars. Standing on a table and shouting anything ever remotely questionable is sophomoric, but yelling the things he did, the way he did, given his checkered past in matters of intercourse with females, was simply ignorant.
It was a vile, disgusting, horrible thing to do. College students do those things from time to time. I’m not sure anyone wants a gossip columnist going over his or her college experience with a fine-toothed comb—even those of us who didn’t do anything “that bad” when we were off at school.
That’s the difference between Winston and most of the rest of us. None of us asked for the spotlight. None of us asked to be placed under a microscope. Winston was, and is currently, and that makes him different from you and me.
Last season, Winston endeared himself to many because of how he handled himself in front of a camera as a youngster. He was good at basking in his own glory. Grady Jarrett basically said as much on Tuesday when he called Winston “somebody that wants to make it about him”.
All of that is fine. But then that pesky “responsibility” element comes into play. In a matter of months, this college kid has moved from naïve to tone-deaf on the societal scale because of one simple fact: Winston has never accepted that responsibility.
In fact, he has completely abdicated it on multiple occasions. He is the ultimate “have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too” athlete, seeking out attention from anyone who will give it while ignoring the burden of fame. He likes it when he is lauded and praised but refuses to understand the gravity of both his position on Florida State’s campus and in the national college football landscape.
There’s a higher standard for Heisman winners, at least in theory. There’s a higher standard for quarterbacks, at least in theory. Pairing the fun side of fame with “just being a kid” seems ideal, but we know that’s just not possible.
Jameis Winston doesn’t.
I get all of this, and it speaks to who Winston is as a person. When you have to apologize publicly a handful of different times in a little more than a year, there’s something off about your approach to life. In an image-conscious age, he’s done nothing lately to endear himself to NFL scouts by exhibiting more of the same behavioral elements that have bothered us in the past.
But you can only blame Winston so much. After all, an addict is only as good as his most persistent supplier.
Florida State has abdicated its responsibility too. In fact, I think our outrage should be pointed there first. Adults are supposed to teach children how to behave, not enable them. That university made this mess worse by not cleaning up any of Winston’s previous spills.
Stealing soda from a fast food joint, firing BB guns in an apartment complex? Merely a case of boys being boys. Stealing crab legs? Just a misunderstanding.
Then there’s that rape allegation that keeps popping up at times like this, mostly because Winston just yelled about doing things to a female he was accused of doing on the night in question. That case is proof positive that the good ol’ boy network is still active at Florida State, as the school and athletic department hid behind a police investigation that was plagued with either incompetence or corruption, or possibly both.
Florida State had a chance to set Winston straight, but instead, they have continued to put the bottle in his hand. If I can do whatever I want, get a stern talking-to from whoever might be in charge, and walk away unscathed, I have carte blanche to continue that practice.
Not punishing misdeeds communicates acceptability. That has been Florida State’s stance on Winston’s antics.
Now, the school wants to get high and mighty and suspend Winston for his language. As filthy as it is, it’s not any worse than these other examples of misbehavior that have gone unpunished—save the sham “community service” Winston was able to complete at an impossible rate.
The president and AD put out a statement yesterday suspending Winston from the Clemson game, at least for a half. While the punishment is more harsh than anything so far, it still screams “slap on the wrist”. For one thing, now Clemson has to prepare for two quarterbacks, disrupting game preparation after ten days of doing it a different way. Winston can become the hero if he comes in and rescues the Seminoles. This is far from an acceptable punishment.
But one question hit me as I read the joint statement released by FSU: Where is Jimbo Fisher? Where is the head coach? Did the university and athletic department disagree with his prescribed punishment, putting out an official statement that doesn’t include support from the person most responsible for the very thing being taken away?
If it were up to Fisher, I believe Winston would have played every snap this weekend. Alleged rape, BB guns, stealing—all valid reasons to impeach Winston’s character, and yet he still played every snap, every week.
Florida State is like any parents who failed to discipline a child and are now trying to make up for lost time. It’s too late at that point. The precedent has already been set.
Who is really running the show at Florida State? It looks like the inmates—really, just one in particular—and that’s not a good look. But the time has passed to curtail Jameis Winston’s bad behavior.
They’re stuck with it now. There’s no turning back, and it’s a shame because Florida State is better than that. The players are better and the adults in charge should be, as well.
Part of me doesn’t blame Jameis Winston for this. After all, he’s done far worse and gotten away with it.
Shame on Florida State. Shame on Jimbo Fisher. Shame on the Criminoles.