Friday, July 30, 2010

A Wayward Duck Goes to the Spin Doctor and Flies Southeast

Holy Masoli! Will it ever end?

The mess halls of every minimum and maximum security prison in the country are filled with innocent men, guys with a story or an alibi, guys who were framed or got caught up in a situation.

All of them had a right to a trial and an attorney, and all of them were convicted or copped a plea.

Jeremiah Masoli launched a website yesterday and scheduled a trip to Oxford Mississippi in pursuit of another second chance. The story is he was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong guys. All three times. The drugs weren't his. He never stole no laptop. The DA pressured him into taking the deal.

Jeremiah Masoli is the latest in a long line of talented athletes with no sense. Todd Marinovich. Art Schlichter. Mike Tyson. Maurice Clarett. Tonya Harding. Ben Roethlisberger. Onterrio Smith. Joe Don Looney. Denny McClain. Lawrence Taylor. Some of their stories are tragic and some are comical. I remember Billy Joe Hobart, an infamous wayward quarterback from the Washington Huskies, who once said, "Half the money I spent on guns and beer and the other half I just wasted." These are men and women (mostly men) with million dollar bodies and ten-cent heads, fueled by arrogance and testosterone, men blessed with prodigious ability but a terrible knack for getting into scrapes and getting in their own way.

The spin piece at notwithstanding, Jeremiah Masoli has a track record he can't explain away. He lied to the police, his coach and his teammates. He let down the most devoted fan base West of Alabama. He was supposed to be the leader, the example, the one who said, "Dude, what are you doing? Put that back. We could blow our scholarships and a chance at the National Championship, all for a lousy laptop and a guitar. Are you nuts?" Drunk and stupid and in the wrong place with the wrong people. Again. Jeremiah Masoli is done at Oregon, and should be.

The thing every minority athlete has to know is, the cops and the prosecutors are not your friends. You don't want to get in the system. You don't want to attract their attention. You're in college, you're expected to have a good time, raise a little hell and chase girls, but you have to stay out of trouble. Trouble finds some guys. And when it does, they turn the wrong way and choose the wrong way out. Jeremiah Masoli would have been just fine if he'd stayed at the frat and answered questions. Jeremiah Masoli would have been fine if he told his coach the truth.

All that said, I wish him well at Old Miss. It could be an incredible story. Maybe he could be the guy from the list above who proves his critics wrong and achieves redemption. Maybe, with his family behind him and a fresh start, Jeremiah Masoli can find his way. It would be incredibly interesting to watch him take on the SEC with an undermanned team, scramble around in the backfield and pull off a couple of upsets. It will be fun to see what he does to Les Miles and Bobby Petrino and Lou Saban and the vaunted defenses of the SEC.

On the field he was amazing to watch. If he had stayed out of trouble and stayed at Oregon, he could have completed a Hall of Fame career and possibly a Cinderella season, maybe even the stiff-arm trophy. Experienced senior quarterbacks blossom in the PAC-10, and down the stretch of his junior year Masoli was amazing. He ran for 165 yards against USC. He accounted for six touchdowns in the overtime win on the road at Arizona on a Thursday on national tv. He was the catalyst, the triggerman, unstoppable and unflappable. Fourth and season in the Civil War and he runs over a Beaver defensive back for the championship-clinching first down. He was tough, resourceful and determined.

Off the field, he threw it all away. Now he wants one more second chance, and I hope he gets it. Just not at Oregon. The Ducks have moved on.

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