We’re a forgiving sort, us Americans. We love a good redemption story. (Note: I would assume this is true for many, many cultures around the world, but only ever having lived in this one, I can only speak for us.) People overcoming their mistakes, their demons, and reaching great heights? We love it. It’s inspiring. It makes us feel like nothing is impossible. The authors of such redemption stories? They’re heroes to us. Josh Hamilton might get a movie made about him.
Yes, we love these inspirational figures… but before we love them, we’d better see them suffer first.
Look at Tiger Woods. The talk at the beginning of basically every major is all Tiger, all the time. People want him to win – but not before he did that press conference and that creepy Nike ad. Hamilton? The guy still has to hold a self-flagellating press conference every time he screws up. And today, we welcomed our newest pupil to the “the road to recovery begins with telling all of America what an asshole you were” school: disgraced former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino.
If you’ve forgotten, Petrino was dismissed from his position in April after a motorcycle crash led to revelations he was having an affair… with a woman who’d been hired for a job in the football office on Petrino’s recommendation. Even though I said at the time Arkansas shouldn’t have fired Petrino, I can still see that that’s about as sleazy as it gets. “Get a guy who just went 21-5 over the last two years”-level sleazy is something to behold, and wisely, Petrino went underground for a while after all this broke.
But now he’s back, looking to start making amends in the public eye – a process he began today with an interview that aired on SportsCenter. I do understand that owning your actions is an important step in bettering yourself for the future, and that doing so in front of a large audience is one way to make sure you’re held to account, but there’s still a definitely schadenfreude-shame-porn element to the whole thing. Granted, if there were ever a guy who’s earned every last bit of a public shaming and is really, really hard to feel sorry for, it’s Petrino, but it’s something to keep in mind if he keeps giving more of these “Boy, I was sure the worst, wasn’t I?” (and again: yes, he was) interviews. Check it out below:
And any doubt as to whether this was an audition for future coaching jobs was erased right around the time Petrino said “I really feel like I’ll be a better coach” at the 2:23 mark. Of course, to get hired again somewhere down the line, Petrino probably didn’t even have to do this – he just would have had to wait a few years, point to his 75-26 career college record and then be like, “Oh, also, learned a lot, totally different guy now, all that stuff,” and accept the job. Not that he doesn’t have a point – he can relate to recruits’ parents by telling them how much he’s learned from his journey and how much he can teach their children because of it.
Also, again: 75-26. Because of that record, it’s a virtual guarantee some school somewhere will give him a shot again after his public penance is paid. And he’s a good coach, so he’ll probably win. And we’ll all love it. Look how he bounced back, we’ll say, as stories are written about what a changed man he is and how his priorities in life are so different, just like he talked about them being in the interview above. And if he’s really different, it will be inspiring. But until that happens (if it even does), Petrino gets to ride the shame train. And even though Petrino is so, so easy to hate, it probably won’t be much fun for anyone.