Although, by all appearances, this was harmless college fun, it also was foolish, juvenile, and embarrassing. Mark Richt should, and most likely will, read his top two quarterbacks the riot act (if he has not already) and have them running stadium steps for their poor judgment and lapse of leadership at the very time that Georgia's head football coach is calling upon his team to be on its best behavior.
That having been said, a couple of points spring to mind:
- I think what makes me most mad at Stafford is that these were Auburn girls. Son, you're the Georgia quarterback. I don't care how good they look to you, you stay away from the Auburn girls. Those Auburn people are nothing but trouble. Besides, you can throw a rock in Athens and hit a better-looking woman than that any day of the week.
- In a way, though, we were lucky these were Auburn girls. Had they been, say, Vanderbilt girls, they'd have been smart enough to have gotten some pictures that were truly incriminating and potentially subject to meaningful sanctions. As it is, they're just the sort of thing that will get you chewed out by your coaches and ragged on by your buddies, but nothing more than that. It was our good fortune that these girls came from the league's most idiotic fan base.
- These sorts of incidents cause concerned adults to wonder whether athletes commit more crimes. While the photographs of Stafford appear to fall far short of anything that might cause him to run afoul of the criminal law, I believe the more pertinent question raised by incidents such as this is one thoughtfully considered by Dr. Robert Epstein in the latest issue of Scientific American Mind; namely, whether it is appropriate for us to continue treating teenagers as children. While I am no advocate of mixing football and alcohol, the fact is that Matthew Stafford is 19 years old. He is a legal adult; he can vote; he can get married; he can serve in the military. In short, Matthew Stafford is a man. Last weekend, in Talladega, he acted like a stupid man---albeit probably no more stupid a man than most of us would have been at his age and in his circumstances---but one of the reasons teenagers act like kids is that we treat them like kids long after they're not.
- Finally, there may be a silver lining for the men in silver britches. Coach Richt is apt to be spitting mad about the embarrassing conduct of his team leaders . . . which reminds me of another such incident in University of Georgia football lore. To hear Frank Ros tell it, Vince Dooley was furious with his players over the hog-shooting incident, but Erk Russell saw in it the seeds of team unity and predicted good things would come from it. That was in the spring of 1980. Does anybody remember how the 'Dawgs did that fall?