A couple of University of Georgia football players were involved in a bar fight, yada yada yada . . .
A University of Georgia football player was arrested for public intoxication, yada yada yada.
By now you've had a chance to read not only the repetitive news coverage but also the well-reasoned analysis of Paul Westerdawg and his commenters on this weekend's rash of behavior ripped straight from The Program.
I hate doing these kind of posts. Really, it just puts me in a bad mood. But if we're going to be serious about this blogging business, we've got to keep it intellectually honest. So here goes.
No doubt about it, this is frustrating. As Georgia alumni and boosters, we get tired of the young men who represent our school doing things that are embarrassing and stupid. I hear ya. But embarrassing and stupid is pretty much a way of life for 50% or more of college aged males, so I hope you aren't holding your breath on that. As for the several situations at hand, in no particular order:
Jeff Henson: The area where he was arrested is not exactly an untravelled back alley. He basically whipped it out in public, which one would assume is attributable to the copious amounts of beer it would take to get a guy that big not only drunk, but epicly wasted. Following on the heels of his DUI arrest this winter, and judging from Coach Richt's comments, methinks you have seen the last of Jeff Henson in a football uniform. From a team standpoint, I don't think Bo Folwer is much of a downgrade at longsnapper, so I'm not worried going into the season. Final analysis: More beer for us, one more scholarship for 2009.
Donavon Baldwin: This is not the kind of thing you want to do when you are a little used junior defensive back looking for more playing time. Again, I sense you've seen the last of Donavon Baldwin for the time being. He's already used his redshirt, and theoretically could serve a one year suspension and have one season of eligibility remaining. But that's unlikely, he's probably worn out his welcome on the team. And even if he did return, that one year away will absolutely bury him even further on the depth chart.
A corollary to this is the one silver lining out of this whole thing. The one starter involved in any of these incidents was Akeem Dent, who appears to have witnessed the incident involving Dowtin and Baldwin at The Library and was noted by the police for having been respectful and cooperative. Knock on wood, our team leaders like Jeff Owens, C.J. Byrd, Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno are not out getting in trouble. I can't prove it, but as an outside observer, I would speculate that one reason Baldwin is where he is on the depth chart is that he was where he was Friday night, i.e., drunk and fighting. Final analysis: more beer for us, two more scholarships for 2009.
Darius Dewberry: Suspended two games for the type of dumb, juvenile behavior that a 22 year old college junior ought to be too mature for, but rarely is. Again, why is it that the guys who are already struggling to get on the field and/or stay there are the most likely to do things detrimental to their ability to get/stay on the field? As Steve Patterson of Rivals noted recently, Dewberry is running out of time to distance himself from the slew of talented linebacker recruits nipping at his heels. This doesn't help. Final analysis: Some people, no matter how talented, have trouble getting out of their own way in life. This would be a good example of that.
Michael Lemon: This one really pains me. As I've said before, by way of full disclosure, Lemon's high school is right around the corner from my house and I serve as a community coach there (not in football). Michael has universally been viewed as a good kid around here, and the people in Macon who know him still love him. I suspect that Mark Richt does as well. But right now he strikes me as a young man in need of some serious help and direction. I think he'll ultimately get that. Or at least I really hope so. But right now I think the best thing for him may be to get the hell out of Athens, Georgia before something worse happens. Again, just as outside observation from a person who's seen people self-destruct before, and seen other people narrowly avoid self-destruction. Final analysis: Not sure yet, but let's hope this is as bad as it gets for a guy who's been though a lot of problems, both of his own making and otherwise.
Bar Fights: They happen. I remember in college having several friends/fraternity brothers who you knew you just shouldn't go out with, because if you did you would end up shoulder-to-shoulder in a bad situation. I imagine the University of Georgia football team, and all college football teams, have a similar dynamic and similar characters. I also remember from my college days that more fights and general recklessness seemed to happen during early August than at any other time. I think it's the volatile mix of freshmen who haven't learned any better yet, the feeling of excitement tinged with illusions of invincibility unique to teenagers, and the fact that nobody has anything better to do yet. Final analysis: As Mama always said "nothing good ever happens in a town this size after midnight." Mama was right.
Distractions: This is an unneeded distraction, no doubt about it. But Coach Richt has already taken the necessary step of making downtown off limits to the players for the time being. I also think that the best thing for all of these guys is to start practice today. The silly season is finally over, and now the coaches can get focused on getting better. That helps keep the players focused. Final analysis: This team doesn't have time to be distracted, or at least they won't by the time you read this. That's a good thing.
Positives? There are a few, actually. One, nobody who is absolutely integral to this team's success is in jail or dead in a ditch. Sometimes in life you have to savor the small victories.
Two, with the exception of Lemon's conduct, our legal run-ins have been for relatively minor things that 84% of DawgSports readers also did in college, or for regulatory offenses that aren't even actual offenses anymore (I'm looking at you, Jeremy Lomax). While the sheer number of headlines over the summer was distressing, in the final analysis, nobody discharged an assault rifle in an apartment complex, nobody took part in a cocaine distribution ring, nobody committed armed robbery, and no one has pulled a knife on anyone in the dining hall, earning Mark Richt an interview on Outside The Lines.
Painting this football program as "out of control" (as I'm sure Terrance Moore will after he finishes rifling through Barnhart and Bisher's desks in search of office supplies) would be a bit unfair. The University and Athens-Clarke County Police Chiefs has gone on record praising Coach Richt's discipline and saying that football players are not more of a problem than other students.
Final analysis: If anything, one would hope that this serves as a wakeup call, a chance for the coaches to remind players, especially the new guys just reporting, that everything they've worked for can disappear in a hurry if they do something stupid, or even if they are in the general vicinity of others doing something stupid. If this team is going to get a wakeup call, as a fan, I'd prefer for it to come the weekend before practice starts, not in the 4th quarter of the South Carolina game.
Practice starts this afternoon at approximately 3:20. Thankfully. We'll be back tomorrow with practice reports and reports on other people's practice reports. Until then, stay out of the bars, hold it until you can get to the nearest gas station, and, for the love of God: put. the. potted. plant. down! Oh yeah, and . . .