In the wake of Jeff Long’s firing of Arkansas Razorbacks’ former coach Bobby Petrino, column after column has crossed my Feedly page, castigating that portion of hog fans who rose up in support of the disgraced offensive genius and the program on the cusp of a legitimate challenge for Southeastern Conference and national championship honors.
The worst was from FOXSports’ Thayer Evans, which you can read right here.
Evans—among others—wants Arkansas fans who thought Petrino should be retained to be ashamed of themselves.
People who write garbage like this don’t deserve your clicks because they either (1) fail to understand the passion of the college football fan bases or (2) understand it all quite well and are simply trolling for traffic.
That is intellectually dishonesty, ladies and gentlemen. And don’t let them tell you that they aren’t really fans of any program, any conference, or any sport. People who don’t cop to their biases have no business earning your business.
If that was their school whose coach was facing a crisis threatening his job and their aspirations for championships, there’s a 50/50 chance that they’d fall into the lunatic camp they want to ridicule. There is absolutely no difference between the folks who showed up at last night’s pro-Petrino rally and the sanctimonious writers who pointed and laughed, and they know it. But for the Grace of God, there they go.
In 2003, when Alabama was set to fire Mike Price for his little Arety’s Angels sexcapade, the Bama Nation was divided straight through the middle on whether to keep him or fire him.
In 2004, when Ron Zook was set to be fired at Florida for failing to live up to the expectations set by legendary predecessor Steve Spurrier, the Gator Nation was divided about halfway.
In 2007, when Alabama was set to fire Mike Shula (the man who replaced Mike Price), how was the fan base divided? About half.
In 2008, when Auburn was set to fire Tommy Tuberville? About half.
In 2011, when Ohio State was set to fire Jim Tressel? Half again.
Penn State’s fan base on keeping or firing Joe Paterno? A little less than half wanted him gone.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
To this day, there are about two percent of the fans of the schools listed above who think the programs made the wrong decisions. Those fans deserve to be ridiculed and they are, but they’re ridiculed by the people who count—their friends, relatives and fellow message board posters. On an Ohio State message board, I saw a post not long ago from an old schooler who thinks Woody Hayes’ sideline altercation was no big deal.
People like that are a miniscule portion of college sports’ fan bases. No amount of factual basis or logical reasoning ever gets through to them. But the majority of the fans recognize why the decision-makers fell the way they did. They accept the facts, they accept the consequences and they move on even if they disagree with the ultimate outcome.
Arkansas fans are no different and the vast majority of them will have moved on as soon as Petrino’s replacement is named by Long and/or his search committee.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a winning program, and there will always be people willing to rationalize even the worst behavior if it means keeping the program on a winning trajectory. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting stability even if the trajectory of the program is not quite as vertical as they’d expected. Rationalizing again, they fear the devil they don’t know worse than the devil they do. It’s human nature.
Who could be worse than Mike Shula? Houston Nutt? Tommy Tuberville? Ron Zook? Joe Paterno or Bobby Petrino? The other side asks, who couldn’t be better?
I was one of those who thought Long would at least try to find a way to keep Petrino as the coach. Saddle him with debilitating penalties and pledge to reevaluate the situation at the end of the 2012 season. A lot of Arkansas fans agreed with me. A lot didn’t.
The split was about half.
The difference between me and the knuckleheads who ridiculed those who disagreed is that I knew that but for the Grace of God, there go I.
Would that the Thayer Evans’ of the world ever learn such wisdom.