Lately a lot of the draft experts have moved Marcus Mariota ahead of Jameis Winston on their boards, leaving the Titans staring at Winston in the second slot. Previously I hadn't really entertained the thought of the controversial figure as the face of the team I am a fan of. But as draft day approaches, let's play the hypothetical and pretend that's how it's going to shake out.
What do I do?
For the sake of this conversation, let's separate the on-the-field from the off-the-field. Strictly looking at skill set and on the field evaluation, I still say you take your shot. This is your rare opportunity to land a franchise quarterback for the next decade and you need to take that chance while you have it. But I digress as that's not what we are talking about here.
Everyone views different societal infractions through different glasses and with a different level of condemnation. Some may view drunk driving as a stupid mistake, while others, perhaps who have been closely touched by an incident, may view it as much more egregious. I believe we also tend to make excuses and "allow" forgiveness for those closest to us, maybe more so than for others we aren't close to.
Without even knowing all the facts I noticed my mind already beginning to make excuses for Winston in case he was a Titan. And that worried me.
So what are Winston's infractions? Stolen crab legs? Yelling profane lyrics in a crowded student center? These are not desirable traits by any means, but are more a sign of immaturity than capital offenses. Immature enough that maybe I don't want him quarterbacking my team? I don't know, probably. I have the feeling, right or wrong, that whoever has Winston as their quarterback will have streaky on the field play accompanied by a relatively constant barrage of distraction and off the field issues. But as a fan it's definitely not enough to make me not root for the guy. Most people grow up eventually, right?
And then there's the big one. The rape allegation.
I've read enough news stories and reports to know that I have no idea what happened that night in Tallahassee. It's a he said/she said case that we may never know the truth of. Winston's other actions don't shine a brilliant light on him, but neither do they tip the scales towards something as egregious as rape. So where does that leave me now? I have no earthly idea.
The gray area that leaves us all the moral wiggle room is that many of the most heinous accusations end up being only that, accusations. Winston and countless others have been accused of horrible actions, but they are rarely admitted to or proven. It seems that only the lesser crimes are acknowledged and moved on from. The Titans current quarterback pled guilty to a misdemeanor sexual battery charge when he was in college. His current left tackle and the team's first round pick from last year allegedly said some pretty horrible things to a girl that was accusing his friend of rape. But that's not that bad, right?
We may not know what happened with Winston that night, but there are others that have performed horrible acts. Acts that have proof such as Ray Rice and Michael Vick. Do I believe people deserve second chances? Absolutely. Do I want to cheer for these people? No. Am I a bad person for rooting for these men? Am I just rooting for my team, or does this in some way imply I condone their past behavior and actions?
It's amazing where the line of ethics and moral guides that people set for themselves begin to erode. We begin to make slight exceptions to our own rules due to certain circumstances and we rationalize our way into immoral behavior. Or in this case, rooting for others that have shown the immoral behavior. I don't think good people turn bad overnight, but rather over time, and I'm not talking about the players here, but rather the fans. Allowing this detachment and reconciliation in our own minds could be a dangerous thing. If I make an excuse because it's my team, what's the next excuse?
So where are we allowed to draw the line?
It may be easy to to approve or disapprove of a single individual, but it becomes much harder with a collection of 53. Does one bad egg mean I can no longer root for my team? I mean, he won't play forever. Does the approval of the front office provide myself a moral disconnect or buffer? They are the ones that made the decision, not me. I'm just rooting for the team.
Do not get me wrong. I am not trying to insinuate that I know who people should root for, nor am I casting judgement. I am far from perfect nor do I have a clean slate. I am not telling people they should be better for I too live in a glass house. This is more of an offering of my own weakness. I'm laying out my own mind's instant reaction and excuse making for a young man that might be on my team, even without knowing all the facts.
Everyone deserves a second chance...people change...people can grow...especially if they play for my team.