Winston Suspended For Half (Sigh)
Yesterday, I noted that Jameis Winston needed guidance. Today, Winston was punished. He will sit out the first half of the Clemson game. If that is all we get out of this, it will be disappointing. Indeed, I disagree with this approach, both as it relates to Winston and as it relates to everyone else.
First, Winston deserves a punishment. That is not a debate. But we always do the easy thing in society. If something is broken, throw money at the problem (see Government). If someone breaks the law, throw them in jail. If someone violates social norms, ban them from his or her vocation (or avocation) for a time period. And so on.
While I get that there is a bloodlust that comes with social media, decision-making has gotten equal parts lazy and paranoid. Punishments are designed based on what is perceived that social media/media will deem appropriate. And yet the masses are not qualified to fix society. Why is the mob’s visceral reaction guiding us? For professionals, we can feel less sorry for them for being hurt by this reactionary thinking. For Winston, who is playing for
sneakers/crab legs (sorry FSU fans, couldn’t resist) free and supposedly under the tutelage of other more experienced adults at FSU, we can expect a little more creativity.
Second, the punishment is one that harms the remainder of the Seminoles as much as it harms Winston. The Seminoles are a team. If they win a national championship, it will be as a team. Suspending Winston interferes with the team’s goals. There are better ways to harm the player individually. For example, sit him in a game against an inferior opponent–one that can easily be beaten without Winston, but will deprive Winston of a chance to pad his stats. Stats are individual numbers. Wins are team numbers. Punish the individual, not the team. Of course, how odd is it that we praise Winston for his on-the-field poise, and then use an on-the-field punishment to demonstrate the importance of off-the-field behavior. That just reinforces that football is everything, doesn’t it?
Third, not only does this punishment go beyond Winston within FSU, it extends beyond FSU. The punishment has the potential to harm Clemson and the ACC as much as Winston. Suppose Clemson wins. The playoff committee may have to consider whether a 12-1 Clemson (having beaten FSU only at partial strength) is worthy of one of the final four spots. This tainted win may hurt Clemson and the ACC in that subjective process. Moreover, if no ACC makes the playoff, that slides everyone down a notch bowl-wise. With Penn State back in the mix and everyone but Wake Forest in contention for a bowl game, every bowl spot counts.
Fourth, again, the all or nothing mentality of sports punishments is getting tired. Penn State was punished for transgressions that did not involve any of the players or administrators that ultimately felt the punishment. The same for USC, Miami, and all the other violators. Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice are not being “fixed” and used as something to better society. Instead, they are being removed from their livelihood and left to fend for themselves. Granted, as adults, Peterson and Rice are no worse off than the rest of us. However, it is a missed opportunity to not give our violators a chance to use their transgressions to better society. Michael Vick certainly did more than just go to jail, he has been an animal rights advocate.
So, what type of punishment should Winston have been given if not a suspension? Perhaps having Winston take a Women’s Studies class next semester. And assigning Winston to write and read an essay about respecting women to the team or at high schools. Perhaps some community service somewhere where women who have been abused can be humanized. Surely, a major University can find some way to punish Winston in a way that causes him to think and ultimately contribute to society in something that does not involve football. It would be great for Winston to add value to society off the football field. We may want to give up on the 30-year-old NFL recidivists, but let’s try to do better with our youth.
Again, it is clear that Winston needs guidance. It is clear that he deserves a punishment. It is also clear that the NFL, becoming more paranoid about PR nightmares by the day, is watching. That may hurt Winston considerably.
Winston is old enough to go to war, but he is not mature enough to make smart–heck, not “smart”… we will settle for “not very stupid”–decisions off-the-field. The fact that he is being punished is not enough. The kid needs guidance. And today’s punishment does not change that. And we’ll probably have to discuss another lapse in judgment by Winston soon enough.